This past week the Tournament Directors Association (TDA) held meetings at the Venetian Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. The TDA was founded by Matt Savage, David Lamb, Linda Johnson and Jan Fisher in 2001. The organization meets annually to discuss the addition of new rules and to amend, restructure or eliminate current rules. Over one hundred directors from properties and poker tours throughout the world convened to continue the TDA mission of adopting "basic standards, rules and procedures that will positively impact the Poker Industry." The discussions this week involved both the potential addition of new rules as well as an evauation of how the current set of thirty-eight TDA rules have worked since their adoption.
In an interesting twist on what would seem tradition logic, as more and more industry members join and participate in the TDA discussions, the process appears to be coming less rather than more contentious. Most tournament directors have come to recognize that "local rules" are counter-productive to the continued spread of tournament poker. This recognition has led to more compromise and flexibility in the writing and implementation of a standard set of tournament rules.
The previous set of 38 rules has growth by only two to the new 40 TDA rules but the changes have been significant. Several rules have been combined to avoid potentially confusing or conflicting interpretations. The wording (or rewording) of many of the rules has come as the result of the close observation by hundreds of floor staff on just how the current set of guidelines have played out in the field through literally thousands of tournament events.
The most significant change in the TDA rules are the penalties available for infractions. Gone from all TDA events are the "time penalties." In the past a player could be given 5, 10 or more minutes "away" from the table for a whole range of infractions. In the field or on the felt these time penalites have proven to be less than effective. Players seated at the table could stall to minimize what they felt was an unfair application of the rules or players could hurry play to the point of simply folding hands to blind out a severely short-stacked player on a penalty.
Under the new rules, penalties will be given out based on hands played. At the full ten player table, the minimum penalty will be one round of play or ten hands. At the short-handed table the hands out penalty would be fewer hands, basically one hand for each seated player at the time of the infraction. Penalties can go up to four full circuits of the table for severe or repeated violations and, of course, the rules still include potential disqualification.
Forty rules will make up the 2007 Tournament Directors Association list, TDA compliance houses will begin using these rules by March 15th.
1 Floor People- Floor people are to consider the best interest of the game and fairness as the top priority in the decision-making process. Unusual circumstances can on occasion dictate that decisions in the interest of fairness take priority over the technical rules. The floor person's decision is final.
2 Chip Race- When it is time to color-up chips they will be raced off with a maximum of one chip going to any player. The chip race will always start in the No.1 seat. A player cannot be raced out of a tournament: Players are encouraged to witness the chip race.
3 Odd Chips- The odd chip(s) will go to the high hand. In flop games when there are two or more high hands or two or more low hands the odd chip(s) will go to the left of the button. In stud games the odd chip will go to the high card by suit. However when hands have identical value (e.g., a wheel in Omaha/8) the pot will be split as evenly as possible.
4 Side Pots- Each side pot will be split separately
5 Calling For a Clock- Once a reasonable amount of time has passed and a clock is called for, a player will be given a maximum of one minute to make a decision. If action has not been taken before time expires, there will be a 10-second countdown. If a player has not acted by the time the countdown is over, the player's hand will be dead.
6 Dead Button- Tournament play will use a dead button.
7 Penalties and Disqualification- A penalty MAY be invoked if a player exposes any card with action pending, throws a card off the table, violates the one-player-to-a-hand rule, or similar incidents take place. Penalties WILL be invoked in cases of soft play, abuse, or disruptive behavior. Penalties available to the TD include verbal warnings and "missed hand" penalties. A missed hand penalty will be assessed as follows: The offender will miss one hand for every player, including the offender, who is at the table when the penalty is given multiplied by the number of rounds specified in the penalty; for the period of the penalty the offender shall remain away from the table. Tournament staff can assess one-, two-, three-, or four-round penalties or disqualification. A player who is disqualified shall have his or her chips removed from play. Repeat infractions are subject to escalating penalties.
8 At Your Seat- 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. Players must be at their seat to call time.
9 Face Up- All cards will be turned face up once a player is all-in and all betting action is complete.
10 Raise Requirements- If a player puts in a raise of 50% or more of the previous bet but less than the minimum raise, he or she will be required to make a full raise. The raise will be exactly the minimum raise allowed. In no-limit and pot limit an all-in bet of less than a full raise does not reopen the betting to a player who has already acted.
11 Oversized Chip- A single oversized chip will be considered a call if the player does not announce a raise. If a player puts an oversized chip into the pot and states raise but does not state the amount, the raise will be the maximum allowable up to the size of that chip. After the flop an initial bet of a single oversized chip without comment will constitute the size of the bet. To make a raise with a single oversized chip a verbal declaration must be made before the chip hits the table surface.
12 No Disclosure - No Advice - One Player to a Hand- Players are obligated to protect the other players in the tournament at all times. Therefore, players, whether in the hand or not, may not:
1. Disclose contents of live or folded hands
2. Advise or criticize play before the action is complete
3. Read a hand that hasn't been tabled
The one-player-to-a-hand rule will be enforced.
13 Random Seats- Tournament and satellite seats will be randomly assigned.
14 Official Language- The English-only rule will be enforced in the United States during the play of hands. English will be used in international play along with the local or native language.
15 Communication Devices- A player may not use a cellular phone, text-messaging device, or other communication device at the table.
16 Deck Changes- Deck changes will be on the dealer push or level changes or as prescribed by the house. Players may not ask for deck changes
17 New Limits- When time has elapsed in a round and a new level is announced by a member of the tournament staff, the new level applies to the next hand. A hand begins with the first riffle.
18 Re-buys- A player may not miss a hand. If a player announces the intent to re-buy before a new hand begins, that player is playing chips behind and is obligated to make the re-buy.
19 Higher Denomination Chips Visible - Players must keep their higher denomination chips visible at all times.
20 Declarations- Verbal declarations as to the content of a player's hand are not binding; however any player deliberately miscalling his or her hand may be penalized.
21 Rabbit Hunting- No rabbit-hunting is allowed.
22 Dodging Blinds- A player who intentionally dodges (a) blind(s) when moving from a broken table will incur a penalty.
23 Chips Visible- All chips must be visible at all times. Players may not hold or transport tournament chips in any manner that takes them out of view. A player who does so will forfeit the chips and will face disqualification. The forfeited chips will be taken out of play.
24 Breaking Tables- Players going from a broken table to fill in seats assume the rights and responsibilities of the position. They can get the big blind, the small blind, or the button. The only place they cannot get a hand is between the small blind and the button.
25 Balancing Tables- In flop games when balancing tables players will be moved from the big blind to the worst position (which is never the small blind). The table to which a player is moved will be as specified by a predetermined procedure. Play will halt on any table that is at least three players short. In stud games players will be moved by position (the last seat to open up at the short table is the seat to be filled).
26 Raises- There is no cap on the number of raises in no-limit games. A raise must be at least the size of the previous raise. In limit events there will be a limit to raises even when heads-up until the tournament is down to two players; the house limit will apply.
27 Misdeals - In stud games if any of the players' two down cards are exposed due to dealer error it is a misdeal. In flop games exposure of one of the first two cards dealt is a misdeal. Players may be dealt two consecutive cards on the button.
28 Unprotected Hands- If a dealer kills an unprotected hand the player will have no redress and will not be entitled to a refund of bets. However, if a player had raised and the raise had not yet been called, the raise will be returned to the player.
29 Killing Winning Hand- Dealers cannot kill a winning hand that was tabled and was obviously the winning hand. Players are encouraged to assist in reading tabled hands if it appears that an error is about to be made.
30 Verbal Declarations- Verbal declarations in turn are binding. Action out of turn may be binding and will be binding if the action to that player has not changed. A check, call, or fold is not considered action-changing.
31 Exposing Cards- A player who exposes his cards with action pending may incur a penalty, but will not have a dead hand. The penalty will begin at the end of the hand.
32 Methods of Raising- In no-limit or pot-limit a raise must be made by (1) placing the full amount in the pot in one motion; or (2) verbally declaring the full amount prior to the initial placement of chips into the pot; or (3) verbally declaring "raise" prior to the placement of the amount to call into the pot and then completing the action with one additional motion.
33 Ethical Play- Poker is an individual game. Soft play will result in penalties which may include forfeiture of chips and/or disqualification. Chip dumping will result in disqualification.
34 Pot Size- Players are entitled to be informed of the pot size in pot-limit games only. Dealers will not count the pot in limit and no-limit games.
35 Button in Heads-up- When heads-up the small blind is on the button and acts first. When beginning heads-up play the button may need to be adjusted to ensure that no player takes the big blind twice in a row.
36 Etiquette Violations- Repeated etiquette violations will result in penalties. Examples include unnecessarily touching other players cards or chips, delay of the game, and excessive chatter. Players are required to act in turn.
37 Showdown- At the end of last round of betting the player who made the last aggressive action in that betting round must show first. If there was no bet the player to the left of the button shows first and so on clockwise. In stud games the player with the high board must show first. In razz the lowest board shows first.
38 Action Pending- Players must remain at the table if they still have action pending on a hand.
39 String Raises- Dealers will be responsible for calling string raises.
40 Playing the Board- A player must show both cards when playing the board in order to get part of the pot.