In my last column on the subject of showing hands at the end of a deal, I illustrated why there are immense drawbacks to the traditional poker showdown rule that anyone at the table can ask toBob Ciaffone is one of America’s best-known poker players, writers, and teachers. He has numerous poker tournament wins and placings, the most prominent being third place in the 1987 World Championship. He has been a poker teacher since 1995, with his students having earned well over a million dollars in tournament play. Bob's website is www.pokercoach.us have the losing hand shown. In this column, we shall take a closer look at some of the “revisionist” solutions to improving the showdown procedure.
What I call the revisionists are the people who are well aware of the drawbacks to the rule that any remaining hand at the showdown must be shown upon request, and who have proposed and adopted a number of rules to lessen the unpleasantness that the traditional rule creates. The revisionist philosophy includes giving a floorperson the right to restrict the use of the “I want to see that hand” privilege if it is misused, restricting the number of people who can ask to see a losing hand, and providing the penalty of having a new winner arise from the grave if the pot winner asks to see a losing hand.
As of 2005, many poker rooms have showdown rules that depart from the traditional rule. Here are some of the rules suggested by the revisionists that are now used in quite a few cardrooms. The first two are part of my own rulebook, Robert’s Rules of Poker.
1. “Any seated player may request to see any and all active hands at the showdown. However, this is a privilege that may be revoked if abused.” This rule improves upon the simple statement that any called hand can be seen on request, because it recognizes that asking to see another player’s hand is a revocable privilege rather than a right, and sometimes creates tension. But it does not solve the basic problem, because many times, a hand being asked to be shown creates irritation, but not a sufficient amount to call a floorperson, or the irritated person prefers to rely on his own caustic tongue rather than call the law.
2. “If the pot winner asks to see a losing hand that has been folded, the dealer should turn the hand up without killing it, and the hand is live.” It is an etiquette breach for the winner to ask for a losing hand to be shown. Many players believe it is a needle of the loser, since the possibility of the hand-holder — or anyone else — costing the player the pot via collusion is obviously zero. This rule lessens the chance of the poor behavior of the winner asking to see a losing hand, but it will not prevent it. I know some needlers who ask to see a losing hand every time they hold the nuts.
3. “You must be in for the showdown to ask for a losing hand to be shown.” I am going to tell you a story, and then have you guess what I think of this rule. I was playing in a $30-$60 seven-card stud game a couple of decades ago. Three of us were in at the river. The player with the high hand on board, who had a pair showing (not matching his doorcard) and had been carrying the betting since fifth street, bet out on the river. I had a big pair and finally hit two pair on the end. The player on my right looked like he might have a four-flush, since his fourth-street card was on suit. Rightie raised. I folded, wondering if a flush or a full house would win the pot. The bettor called and showed two pair smaller than mine, and the raiser threw his hand in the muck. I, naturally, wanted to see the discarded hand.
“You weren’t in the pot,” said the dealer.
I replied angrily, “Then who the hell’s chips are they that the winner hauled in?”
“You have to be in all the way to the end.”
“I would have been, and won, but the guy whose hand I asked to see raised me out.”
This was my first encounter with the rule that states, “You have to be in to see a losing hand.” I have the same opinion of this rule today that I had after that experience: The rule sucks.
The most extreme view of the revisionist school of thought is that the rule about showing losing hands is a dinosaur left over from poker’s prehistoric times, and should be completely discarded.
The heart and soul of this viewpoint is that the purpose of showing losing hands is to prevent collusion, and it does not do that. The only other thing it does is give others a line on someone’s play, which is of little or no importance. I have to agree that players who are colluding can easily circumvent being detected by throwing their hand away before the last bet. On the other hand, I fervently believe that showing the losing hand is an asset to the game. Here are some reasons that hands other than the winner’s should sometimes be shown, besides for policing the game and revealing information:
1. It helps you analyze whether your own play was correct. In my last column, I told you about asking to see a losing hand in Omaha. The reason was to see how many outs I actually had. I was not trying to get a line on someone’s play, seeing if I was being cheated, or needling anyone.
2. It gives you a chance to appease your curiosity. Being curious is human nature.
3. It increases spectator interest to see all of the hands, especially in big pots. And please remember that an event does not always have to be televised and have holecards shown to draw spectators and increase interest in poker. The mandatory showing of all-in hands in tournament play is a fine rule. It both polices the game and promotes the game.
I think these rules are better than just using the traditional rule, but they do not go to the crux of the problem, which is: There are many situations when a hand is not shown unless someone asks to see it. In order to end the problem, we need to eliminate there being many hands that
are not shown by the player or dealer unless someone asks. Reducing the problem is nice, but the problem will never be eliminated until every showdown hand is classified into two categories: shown by the player (or by dealer request), or not shown at all. As long as there are hands shown by player request, there is a problem. That is what many of the revisionists are saying now, and I agree, but I think other changes are needed to implement this philosophy.
In my last column and this column, I discussed lots of rules that I do not like. I have yet to see a cardroom take the approach that I favor in solving the admittedly difficult problem of, “I want to see that hand.” Be sure to read the next issue of Card Player to see what I will propose as the cure for this situation.
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