Saturday, July 24, 2010

Checking the nuts

It's no secret that I don't really play poker any more. Some of my regular players would say I can't deal either, but that's a whole different topic of conversation. Being that I don't play these days, I admit to possibly being a little out of touch with new rules or different interpretations of rules that may have become common in the poker world. I try to stay current in case I ever decide to do something so insane as to deal a large tournament again ;)

At any rate, I had a conversation at a game the other night about checking the nuts...

I turn over a Queen for the river card, which puts a couple of straight possibilities out there. The board isn't paired and there are no flushes possible, so an Ace-high straight is going to be the stones for this hand.

The player in seat 8 makes a pot-sized bet. The player in seat 1, with three people to act behind him, makes a speech and then makes the call. Everyone else folds.

When the player in seat 1 turns over his Ace-high straight to scoop the pot, another player asks, "Dealer, is there a rule against that in this room?"

Me: "What, winning a pot?"
Player: "No, of checking or calling with the nuts."
Me: "Ummm, no."
Player: "That would be a penalty in a tournament."
Me: "Maybe in Lowball. You can't check a seven or better in Lowball, but I haven't heard of such a rule in Hold'em."
Player: "In the tournament I just dealt this summer at the Rio, that would definitely be against the rules."
Me: "Seems odd. They didn't have that rule the times I've dealt over there, but things could have changed I suppose."

The player in seat 1 had simply called in order to hopefully entice at least one of the players yet to act to add more money to the pot. It's not a play I would have made but I don't see anything wrong with it, either.

I think if you take away someone's ability to check or call when they have the best possible hand, you take away an essential part of the game. If I know for a fact that the maniac yet to act behind me is guaranteed to bet or raise the original bet, but will fold to any two-bet, I would definitely consider checking or calling in order to induce him to add his chips to the pot.

All of that is essentially beside the point. The only reason I bring this up is because I want to know, from those of you who dealt/played/whatever at the Rio this summer, is there a rule in a Hold'em tournament that says you cannot check or call with the nuts, that you are forced to bet, or raise, when the situation arises?


  1. Only if you are the last to act, as it is considered softplaying.

  2. The rule would apply only to the person whose turn would close out the action; i.e., the last one to act after the bettor on the last street. It makes no sense to impose the rule on everybody equally, because the first guy might want to go for a check-raise. Also, as you point out, it doesn't make sense to impose it when there are others left to act behind, as one might reasonably think that one will make more money by inducing other calls behind than by raising.

    This came up in the 2008 WSOP when Jan von Halle checked behind with a royal flush when heads-up in a pot. He was just given a warning. See

    He later admitted that he had misread his hand. In fact, he showed up at a later event with a shirt that he had had made making fun of himself for making that mistake. It read, "Royal flush, checked behind." See

  3. Here's another source for the von Halle story:

    Also, meant to add that I checked the WSOP rulebook for 2010 and for 2008 (I'm missing the 2009 version somehow), and though there are stern anti-collusion warnings, there is no specific rule about being last to act and checking the nuts. However, as the von Halle story indicates, tournament officials will certainly view such action with a suspicious eye, as will the other players. One might well get a penalty for it if any collusion is suspected. Best to come off as just stupid!

  4. SwissPete1:25 AM

    A rule like that would be absolutely idiotic, I dont see any sense in it.

    Especially the 'why' protect the maniac or what? ridiculous...

  5. The rule at the WSOP, which your player was misinterpreting, is that it is illegal to check behind or simply call with the nuts *IF* there are no other players left to act. The rule exists only to prevent collusion and soft-playing in tournaments.

    If, as was the case in your game, there were players left to act, there is nothing wrong with checking or calling a bet with the hope other people will come in the pot.

  6. I played at Rio last summer in cash games during the WSOP Main Event. I never heard of such a rule.

    In a tournament, checking or calling with the nuts when last to act could be construed as soft play. But as you point out, there was possible action behind, so that wouldn't apply in this situation.

    As usual, some player takes a rule out of context and now believes there is an actual "you can never check the nuts" rule. Which of course makes life ... interesting ... for dealers and floors.

  7. JT88Keys11:42 AM

    So what if the original raiser also held the A-high straight? If it gets heads up between two players with the nuts are they required to continue raising until whichever of them has less chips is all in?

  8. How about a situation where is the board has 10-J-Q-K, and it may be obvious that the other player has the Ace. Isnt it just a waste of time in this situation to raise with the nuts? In a tournament I want to see as many hands a possible so I dont want to waste time by betting. If you have the nuts with both cards and you are last to act, then I think you should bet. Should it be a penalty if you dont,? I think it should be a warning the first time at least unless like in the case of the Royal Flush you just misread your hand.

  9. >It's no secret that I don't really play poker any more.

    Winning can get so tiresome!

  10. Anonymous12:14 AM

    I'm just now catching up on about 3 months worth of your blogs - "Is there a rule against that in your room?" - What, winning a pot? ROFL... :P


  11. 3 months?!? Dude! You gotta keep up ;)

  12. Darwin Moon, runner up in 2009, during the Main Event 2009 or 2010, got a penalty for checking the nuts (flush). I'm almost sure he was last to act. ;)
    Saluti dall'Italia :)


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