I am a huge fan of the Poker Tournament Directors Association and have been since it was formed nearly 20 years ago. Prior to the formation of the TDA, many casino poker rules were materially different from one another and many situations were not even addressed at some poker rooms.
The board has historically done a great job of addressing issues and reaching consensus, often after significant debate. This summer was no different, when the ninth summit of industry professionals resulted in 11 rule changes, 10 rule clarifications, and one new recommended procedure.
There are three new rule changes, however, that I must say I really do not like, but will support nonetheless.
Eliminating The Double Bet On Fourth Street In Stud High
As we know, stud high has always had a rule that when there is an open pair on fourth street, the bettor has the option of a single or double bet. The TDA has voted to eliminate the double bet option.
To me, that is too much usurpation of the game. It is a fundamental rule, and changing that is akin to saying a queen should be ranked higher than a king. It is way different than worrying about seating order, table talk, penalties and the like. It changes the basis of stud strategy. Not good.
My Solution — Go back to the way the game was invented, or change the name of the game entirely, because it is a materially different game. Perhaps TDA Stud?
Dealers Must Announce All Bet Amounts In No-Limit Hold’em
This is certainly the type of situation the TDA ought to be involved in, but I’m not a fan of the rule. The theory is that announcing the bets will speed up the game and cause less confusion.
Believe me, there aren’t too many players worse at making out the chips than me, and I often need to ask and look for myself. The problem, however, is that many dealers will bumble around counting stacks and even then, experienced players often choose to count for themselves.
When many chips go into the pot at once it is a good idea for the dealer to separate colors and spread them on the felt. Dealers should be obligated to say “raise” when one has occurred.
What will happen when, not if, a dealer mistakenly announces 900 instead of 5,400 and a player makes a decision based on the wrong information? I wouldn’t want to be at that table and hear the screaming when the player finds out that he is responsible for the mistake and not the dealer. It will create heartache, arguments, and ill will.
My Solution — When a player puts in an oversized chip, the dealer announces the bet size. Additionally, when many chips go into the pot at once, the dealer announces whether or not a raise has occurred. However, instead of counting out the stacks, they can simply fan the chips out and arrange them by denomination in rows of five. That way, the player can see at a glance the general amount, and ask for a more specific count if need be.
I think it’s a disaster waiting to happen over and over, but hopefully, I am wrong and this won’t be an issue at all. Otherwise, this rule will be gone within the year.
Utilizing The Big Blind Ante When Shorthanded
The big blind ante is the most important change in tournament poker since the advent of the tournament clock. (Yes kids, the clock has only been used in most poker rooms for about 20 years.) It speeds up the game, cuts down arguments, and reduces chip denominations in play.
Unfortunately, sometimes things get a bit off kilter at the very end of a tournament when a table is short-handed. Remember, the big blind ante was invented to allow one player to ante for the entire group. Therefore, when the group is cut in half, the effective ante is twice what it has historically been and takes on too much significance in the event. So, let’s tweak the big blind ante concept and make it even better.
My Solution — When the table has five or more players, utilize the big blind ante. With three or four players, the ante becomes the size of the small blind. When the tournament is heads-up, no ante will be necessary.
It’s an easy fix, fair, and only germane to the end of a tournament when it could become particularly influential on the outcome.
Again, thank you to the TDA for all of your good work.
Barry Shulman is a two-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner, including the 2009 WSOP Europe main event. The Card Player Publisher made two more WSOP final tables this summer, and now has $5.6 million in live career tournament earnings.