Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open: The War Against Wandering
On one of the first hands of the day on Friday in the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open $10 Million Guarantee Championship Event, Randy Ohel was standing up and talking with a tournament director. When he returned to the table, the dealer was mid-pitch, and when she was finished dealing the cards she went to muck Ohel’s hand.
“I was standing right there,” he said, pointing in the direction of the tournament director.
Begrudgingly, the tournament director ruled that the hand was dead because Ohel wasn’t at his seat when the first card came off of the deck.
This summer, the Tournament Director Association held their sixth summit in Las Vegas, Nevada, where they added nine new rules and gave clarifications to 25 others. Among the new rules was No. 29: At Your Seat.
A player must be at his seat when the first card is dealt on the initial deal or he will have a dead hand. A player not then at his seat is dealt in, he may not look at his cards, and the hand is immediately killed after the initial deal. His blinds and antes are posted and if dealt the bring-in card in a stud-type game he will post the bring-in*. A player must be at his seat to call time. “At your seat” means within reach of your chair. This rule is not intended to condone players being out of their seats while involved in a hand. [*Note: In stud, house rules may require additional card(s) be dealt to the killed hand in certain situations.]
The TDA handbook is used to govern several tournament stops across the globe and this rule change sparked some debate within the community.
PokerStars-sponsored events, most notably the European Poker Tour, are governed by their own rules and have enforced the “first card off the deck” rule for two years. Neil Johnson, the Live Poker Specialist for PokerStars and a new member of the Board of the TDA, offered his opinion regarding the rule on the PokerStars Blog.
Johnson argues for the rule because it protects the integrity of the game, keeps players in their seats during the bubble, clears out spaces within the tournament room, and prevents players from sprinting back to the table mid-pitch.
Team PokerStars Pro Daniel Negreanu disagrees with the rule, and he promptly ranted about it after the TDA adjusted their handbook.
Fellow Team Pro Jason Mercier echoes Negreanu’s sentiments.
“Are you ready for me to rip on it?” asks Mercier. “It’s terrible.”
Mercier is one of the more sociable players in tournament poker, and can usually be found wandering around the room, talking with friends. For new tournament reporters, a great way to find Mercier is to simply listen. At some point, his loud, distinct, jolly laughter will fill the air, and will soon be followed by him scurrying back to his table to catch the next hand.
Another chronic Can’t Sit Down and Play Poker For More Than 10 Seconds guy is 2013 Global Poker Index Player of the Year leader Paul Volpe. When he’s not engaged in a conversation or a game of open-face Chinese poker with a neighbor, Volpe tends to make the rounds, talking to anybody and everybody. Even when he’s sitting at the table, Volpe frequently sits on one leg so he can quickly pop up and move away from the table after he tosses his cards into the muck.
When we asked him about the new rule, he frowned.
“It’s unbearable,” Volpe said without thought.
1. Not able to be endured or tolerated.
That’s a strong word choice, so we followed up to make sure Volpe wasn’t be overdramatic.
“Unbearable,” he echoed. “That’s the right word. I can’t sit still.”
Naturally, any search for an opinion regarding poker rules leads you to Allen Kessler. While Volpe and Mercier were upset with the negative affects the rule has on the sociality of the game, Kessler understands the importance of guarding the integrity.
“It’s alright,” Kessler said of rule 29. “If you’re standing, you could potentially see other people’s cards. As long as everybody knows the rule and every dealer is enforcing it the same, it’s fine.”
Terrence Chan had one of his hands killed on Day 1a, and tweeted that he was going to enforce it from there on out.
It’s a dark day in poker for the habitual wanderers who struggle to get through the countless dead periods during a live tournament, but it is something that players will just have to get used to. With both the TDA and PokerStars enforcing the rule, there are very few tournaments outside of the World Series of Poker where players will be free to float until the last card comes off of the deck.
The wanderlust-stricken grinders will simply have to keep a closer eye on their dealer, and quick feet to take them home.