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2009 WSOP Tournament Rules Stress Civility, Proper Conduct

2009 WSOP Tournament Rules Stress Civility, Proper Conduct 0001

A new version of the World Series of Poker Tournament Rules was released earlier this week by Harrah's as part of the continuing preparation for the 2009 World Series of Poker. Among the notable additions and changes to the 97 rules are a brand new "Code of Player Conduct," a revision on the rule regarding the use of profane language at the table, and an extension of the restrictions on sponsor logos at televised feature and final tables. Several noteworthy clarifications have also been made to a host of other rules.

First and foremost of the additions to the 17-page rule booklet is a brand new Rule 30, "Code of Player Conduct for the 2009 WSOP". Rule 30(A) requires players to adhere "to the spirit and the letter" of the Tournament Rules and not engage in any illegal or unethical actions, cheating or collusion. The rule goes on to define and give examples of cheating and collusion.

Rule 30(B) codifies the continued expansion of the "civility and courtesy" that are expected at the World Series of Poker. These concepts were first broached in 2008 with the inclusion of Rule 36 (now Rule 37), the so-called "Hevad Khan Rule" that prohibited excessive celebration.

Violations of the Code of Player Conduct will result in a penalty (Rule 30(C)), and any player that acts in a manner that could potentially compromise the "competitive integrity" of the WSOP will be subject to sanctions, including any of: forfeiture of chips; forfeiture of prize money; ejection from the tournament; exclusion from future tournaments; exclusion from the property. Those players will also be subject to having their actions publicly disclosed by Harrah's under Rule 30(E).

The 2009 Tournament Rules feature a lengthy revision of the rule on profane language (Rule 36). In 2008, the only profane language that was prohibited was language directed at, or about, another player, dealer or tournament staff member. The final sentence of the rule noted that Harrah's could "impose at any time a zero-tolerance policy for profane language whether directed at another person or not." Harrah's exercised that option in the 2009 rules by enacting a blanket prohibition on "the use of obscene or foul language in any public area of the casino at any time." The 2009 rules gives wide latitude to the tournament staff to assess penalties, noting that "Any player who uses such language or makes a foul, profane, obscene or vulgar statement, or speaks abusively or in an intimidating manner to another player, a dealer or a Tournament staff member, will be penalized."

Player sponsorship, and the placement of sponsor logo on player apparel, has become a hot topic in poker recently. The 2008 WSOP Tournament Rules were extremely comprehensive regarding the types of sponsor logos that players were and were not allowed to wear. Yet in 2009 the sponsorship rules have been expanded in two significant ways. First, the lead-in to Rule 43 prohibits the wearing of "[t]emporary tattoos, adhesive strips for the skin, and 'band-aids' with logos or promotional language." In addition, a new Rule 43(B) has been introduced which specifies that no more than three players at any television Final Table or feature table will be allowed to wear logos of the same sponsor. In the event that more than three players sport logos of the same entity and cannot agree who should remove or cover them, tournament officials will use a high-card procedure to determine who is allowed to wear the logos.

Harrah's has also promised in Rule 52(E) to "maintain a written log of all penalties issued throughout the duration of the WSOP" and has reminded players that "any conduct deemed penalty-worthy could result in a wide range of discipline for a first offense" (Rule 52(F)). Some new penalties in 2009 that may show up in the Rule 52(E) penalty log include: refusing to show a hand and intentionally mucking it after making the last aggressive action on the final round of betting (Rule 78); and leaving the table before acting on a hand (Rule 79). Penalties for the usage of cell phones at the table (Rule 86) remain in place, but require players merely to "step away from their assigned table". In 2008, players were required to be "at least one table length away".

There have been several minor changes and clarifications in the 2009 rules as well. Clock-calling in 2009 will be subject to a waiting period that has been reduced from "no less than 3 minutes" to "no less than 2 minutes" (Rule 49); Rule 58, regarding discussion of live hands, has been clarified to state that players are allowed to speak freely as to the contents of their hands during heads-up play, but only to the extent that the discussion does not lead to collusion; the only food or beverage allowed on the table at any time is a capped bottle of water (Rule 61); Rule 70 sets forth the re-draw procedures for events with 100 or more participants and those with less than 100; and Rule 72 clarifies what constitutes "substantial action" in the event of a misdeal.

Finally, players can expect a few procedural changes to be implemented at the 2009 WSOP. Any event which starts at 5pm will receive a 60-minute break after the fourth level of play (Rule 91); in 2008, that break was only 30 minutes long. Players in re-started events will also get a 60-minute break after the sixth level of play (Rule 92). Events that will not be broadcast on television or over the internet will not be required to play past 3 a.m. on Day 2. In the event of any such 3 a.m. suspension, play will resume at 1 p.m. the following day (Rule 95). Finally, the WSOP has implemented an anti-stalling measure with its new Rule 96. Ten minutes prior to the end of play for the day, a random player will be asked to draw a random card (ace-nine) to determine the number of additional hands (1-9) to be played at each table before play concludes.

The full list of the 2009 WSOP Tournament Rules can be found at

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