Being at your poker seat means just that



Each month Ante Up Poker Room manager Jody Russell answers your questions about rulings in your poker room.

I was playing in a $65 NLHE tournament in Atlantic City when a man in Seat 9 went all-in with three players left to act. Player 1 folded, and as Player 2 folded, it was announced the 10-minute break would start at the end of the hand. Upon hearing this the guy in Seat 9 stood and moved to the back of his chair and put on his jacket.

The player in Seat 8, last to act, asked the dealer if his hand was folded. The dealer called the floor. The situation was explained and the floor said if this were a cash game his hand would be dead, but she was not going to eliminate a player from the tournament for standing to put his jacket on before the break. The guy pressed her, asking if that was the official rule. Is it? — Tony from New Jersey, via email

JODY: That floor person was 100 percent correct. Obviously there’s a house rule they follow in cash games that doesn’t apply in tournaments. Great call. Tournament Director 101 teaches us to never allow an all-in hand be killed. It must remain live and must be given an opportunity to win. If we don’t follow this procedure, maybe you get all-in with your brother, father, neighbor, etc. and stand up so they’ll kill your hand and give your colluding partner all of your chips.

TDA Rule No. 22 states: “A player must be at his or her seat by the time all players have been dealt complete initial hands in order to have a live hand.”

Notice it does not say IN your seat; it says AT your seat. Is standing behind your chair at your seat? Sure. Do we want to take cheap shots at players and kill a hand simply because the player stood up? Absolutely not. Some places do have a “meat in the seat” rule, but that one should be ignored in this situation. Players like to prepare when the break rolls around. That’s understandable.

They also need to stand and stretch sometimes. If they’re doing so next to their chair they should be dealt in and have a live hand. Remember, we do what’s in the best interest of fairness. The “at your seat” rule is to prevent people from running across the tournament floor screaming, “TIME!” trying to get to their cards, which causes accidents. The rule isn’t in place to unfairly knock a player out of a tournament.

Correct doesn’t always mean right

Blinds are 50-100 in a no-limit tournament. Seat 10 bets 250 and Seat 1 asks, “How much?” The dealer looks back at the bet and stares for a couple of seconds. Seat 1 does his own count and puts out 250. The dealer then says to Seat 10, “Wait a minute, you’re the big blind,” and pushes back 150. Seat 1 pulls back 150 and says, “Call.” The dealer then says, “No sir, you raised, your 250 stays out.” The player says, “I didn’t say raise; I only called and only want to call.” Dealer says, “It doesn’t matter; your bet was a raise.” What’s the official ruling on this? — digerati, via

JODY: I would say the following while making this ruling:

“It’s every players’ responsibility to protect his or her own hand, chips, and right to act. The technical interpretation of the rules would dictate the money stay in the pot, however, Rule No. 1 of the TDA says I can ignore that technical interpretation and do what is in the best interest of fairness. We have no significant action behind the bet. We are going to correct the blinds and allow you to call.”

The problem here is poker is a game with a lot of human interaction. Any time humans are involved, so is human error. In the poker industry we like to think we train and hire top-notch professional dealers. Even so, they do make mistakes sometimes.

The dealer here technically was correct, but since there’s no action behind and the player didn’t say raise, I would have allowed the player to simply call. The only way that can happen is if the floor is called over to make a ruling. Dealers are taught to call the floor any time something out of the ordinary happens. Apparently this dealer didn’t follow his training or was improperly trained.

So, the mistakes made here were:

1. Dealer didn’t make the blinds right before pitching the cards, a bad habit that’s common among less professional dealers.

2. Seat 1 didn’t make sure the action to him was correct. He should have noticed the position of the button and the blinds, realized the 10 seat should be the big blind, and asked the dealer to correct it before he acted.

3. The dealer didn’t call for a decision. He decided to make a floor decision from the box.

4. This is the big one… NONE of the players at the table asked for a decision.

TDA Rule No. 41 states: “Players are obligated to protect the other players in the tournament at all times.”

Each player has a vested interest where every chip goes in the tournament. Those extra chips in the pot could create a much bigger pot than it would have been, change the winner of the chips, and change the entire outcome of the tournament.

Speak up when you see irregularities at your table.

It doesn’t matter in tournaments if you have folded or weren’t even dealt in. If you are actively in the tournament, it is your business what it happening at every table. There are a lot of players who think they are being a bad person by asking for decisions. That simply isn’t true. There are a lot of dealers who think it reflects badly on them for calling for decisions. That isn’t true, either.

Tournament directors get to a point during an event that everything slows down and they start looking forward to having something to do. Help them fight the boredom and earn their pay. Insist on a decision any time things aren’t normal.

— Jody Russell is a veteran poker room manager who also runs the Ante Up Poker Room. Email questions to

Ante Up Magazine

Ante Up Magazine