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Obviously verbal declarations using standard language (e.g. "I bet $20") is binding in most casinos. However, sometimes players get a little "cute" with their choice of language. For instance, when one player has another covered, he might say "I'll put you all-in" or "I'll force you all-in" when he intends to bet all that the other player has (the more correct language would be for the big stack to just go all-in himself). Obviously a bettor cannot force another player all-in (the short-stacked player can just fold), so is such a declaration a binding action?

I recently witnessed a different example. A player bet $35 on the flop and was called. On the turn he uttered "same bet" before clumsily grabbing and moving forward 5 red chips. When he went back to add 2 more chips, the dealer indicated that his declaration of "same bet" was not a real bet and that adding chips after the initial bet of $25 would therefore be a string bet. Is this ruling about non-standard language correct, or does it maybe depend on house rules?

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3 Answers 3

This things should be declared in the "house rules". Same for the muck rule, if you can muck losing hands without showing after paying the river. Or if it's allowed to show one of your cards in middle of the game to the opponent. etc. etc.

You should always put all your chips together over the betting line in casinos. Because in the end it doesn't matter if you said what you wanted to bet, if no one hears that exactly. With putting all neccessary chips at once to the right place you are always in a good position regarding any problems of missunderstanding. Then you always have to remove the chips you put in later. For that reason i always say a number i want to bet or raise. So everybody knows whats going on.

All in all I would say it's not allowed to say "same bet", because if someone doesn't remember the exact bet (and the chips from the last bet are of course moved to the middle of the table already) he might only see the first chips going over the betting line and than the person who puts in the chips can see the reaction. And than move another one in. Some people play with earphone and they wont hear always what you say and for them it looks like a string bet, which is not allowed.

to protect yourself, don't do that. People won't like you on the table anymore after you fight for your position in such a situation as well.

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I personally try to avoid ambiguous language like I described, but my opponent at the table might not, so I'd like to know what the rules are :) –  Michael McGowan Oct 29 '13 at 2:25
    
as i said, every casino has house rules. It's a game about big money believe me everything is defined there ;) had much trouble already...(but i was not involved, just saw it) –  RayofCommand Oct 29 '13 at 9:25

The short answer is no, there are no standard phrases that must be used in order for the verbalization of your action to be binding. (this may not be inclusive of all poker venues).

Whenever you make an action in turn it is your burden to make that action in a clear unambiguous manner.

There are is you describe some "cute players", but for the most part, players making unclear comments, are fishing for tells. This in itself is not particularly against the rules, may or may not be good play and may or may not be considered good etiquette.

The answer using your first examples is yes this guy has made in all in bet, assuming he is head up with the guy, if other players are behind his actual bet is the amount the player he is referencing has in his stacks. It is clear to player B what player a meant so that is going to be taken as player A's declaration.

In your second example the dealer may have been in error on a couple of levels. First is that the player did not agree with the dealer so the dealer made a decision that should of been a floor persons decision. The details you gave were not enough for me to speculate about what the correct decision would be, but in a general way I think the dealers decision was likely incorrect.

When I make decisions as a floor person there is information I need. What might surprise most people, is that what the person thought they were saying is totally null data for the decision. Because what the person knew or claimed they were saying was indeed something that was vague and would not be clear to the other player. The primary question I ask is "what do you think he meant? I will also listen to a few other players describe what they heard. If what was said can reasonably mean what was heard, what was heard is going to be what player A is bound to. (As an aside this also applies to hand motions that might cause a player to check).

A few favorites are players in a game were a six dollar bet can be made, say "sex" which can sound like check or six.

In a noisy poker room, a player said quietly said to the player on his left whom had just bet large, "are you" then much louder added "all-in". I asked my question what did you hear, Player B heard all in, the Dealer heard all in , a couple players said all they heard was all in. Player A swears he said "if you were all in", and I believed him, but I ruled against him because he was making a move. The move was simple, trying to be vague so anything he said really did not count. Players really, you say something and something is going to count.

Others are how some players instead of saying did you check? Say "check?" with the question emphasis. It is common for a player to hear check, and really do I have to figure out in a noisy poker room if you mean check or not when you are being vague. Same goes with all-in.

I have never had a problem making rulings like this. Because player A can never deny that the root of the incident at the table was because they were vague, and it seems they are ready to own their vagueness, even if they don't like it. And while my experience is that most of the time these people are being sleazy and taking a shot, I know it, the other players know it, that particular fact really does not need to have context in the decision, thus these decisions go very smoothly.

I would like to add a note, this particular decision making process may not have precedence were you play.

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The floorman will rule in the spirit of the game. Most of the time, that should mean that if a verbal action was in turn, and understood, then it is binding. If it is ambiguous, or denotes an action not possible, clarification may be called for. The precise words don't matter. I once ruled that the words "Back atcha" constituted a re-raise, because in the context of the game at that time it was clear to all that he meant it that way.

I would certainly rule that way for "I put you all in." That's totally clear: it means "I bet whatever amount is in your stack". Heads up, that's the same as "all in", but if there's a third player, it's not. I'd certainly hold a player to it if, for example, he didn't realize there was a third player.

I would also probably rule "same bet" to be binding if everyone agreed what that amount was. If the dealer didn't remember, I might have to fall back on the physical action. It's certainly not the dealer's place to claim that such a declaration is "not a real bet".

As Jon notes above, "intent" is not relevant. It is appearance that matters. If everyone understood the action, and acted on that understanding, it must hold.

As also noted above, the worst common case is the "check?" question. I think it is especially important for dealers to clarify this immediately.

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I like this "spirit of the game" answer and the clarification that "intent" isn't relevant. There are plenty of players who want to angle shoot where their actual intent is to find ways to introduce ambiguity and use it to their advantage. –  Chris Farmer Nov 25 at 2:59

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