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I am a newbie and would like clarification on something if that is possible. It relates to a "house SNG".

There were 3 players left and since the first 2 would get paid, it meant we were on the bubble. I was the short stack on the button with less than 3BBs left. I shoved and before the SB acts, the BB looks at his cards and says to the SB:

Well I hope you're gonna call him.

Am I wrong to think that what the BB said has had an effect (has influenced) the decision of the SB ? Can someone with the proper poker knowledge tell me if what was said is in breach of any poker rule ? If so, would you be so kind as to specify the ruling for me ?

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Just to be very clear about a critical aspect: when you say "house SNG", do you mean it was a home game ? It's very important to know this because it completely changes the situation. –  Radu Murzea Aug 24 at 14:21
    
At any standard venue, there is a "one player to a hand" rule which means players cannot discuss strategy of the current hand, so by this, what you describe would be a violation. That said, I've seen it happen lots of times but with nothing more than a warning. –  mah Aug 24 at 18:38
    
Yes by "house SNG" i mean a home game sit & go at my house & non of us had much knowledge of any kind as to what can & cant be said at a poker table. And ty 4 taking the time to reply 2 my query. –  John Proctor Aug 24 at 21:24
    
Ty again for your very informative answers, which have advanced my awareness of the poker etiquette towards talking at the poker table considerably. I have also read up on what Daniel Negreanu is saying on the subject of table talk, & I can see that there are grey areas which he believes even the tournament directors wouldn't agree on. In conclusion, I have decided to invoke the "pistols at dawn" rule to settle all future disputes at my home games (only kidding folks). –  John Aug 26 at 7:56
    
Please use comments instead of answers to add notes or clarifications to your question. –  Radu Murzea Aug 26 at 20:36

3 Answers 3

I am angered enough at the other two answers here to move my comments to an actual attempt at an answer. I think they really miss the point. In short:

This behavior from the big blind is illegal collusion and deserving of a penalty.

The intent of the BB here is obviously to signal to the SB that he is no threat in the hand. That's a big deal. This is a tournament right at the cash bubble, and this all-in from the short stack is a pivotal point in the game. Communicating like this at this time in the game is 100% collusion, and that should result in some kind of penalty from the hosts.

The BB and SB gain tremendously from this behavior if it's allowed.

When the short stack shoves all-in from the button, here are the possible outcomes (I'm assuming approximately equal SB and BB stacks, that they both cover the short stack by a reasonable margin, and that any reraise from SB or BB will be an all-in raise here. I'm also assuming a really low stack-to-pot ratio, since that's how these small tourneys work at the end.):

  1. Both SB and BB fold, and short stack gets the blinds, about a 50% increase to the all-in's stack here. Potentially also a reasonable hit to the SB and BB stacks.
  2. SB folds and BB calls.
  3. SB calls and BB folds.
  4. SB calls and BB and goes all-in. SB is faced with a stack decision and possible elimination.
  5. SB goes all in. BB is faced with a stack decision and possible elimination.

SB is next to act, so he's faced with a decision. He has two threats: the all-in short stack and the BB to his left. Even if he thinks he will fare well against the short stack, he must still fear the potential of a shove from the BB to his left. This is potentially a huge threat and may tip the scales toward outcome 1 or 2, and might also reduce the likelihood of outcome 5. Before the BB's comment, the lack of information protects the short stack somewhat. In fact, good short stacked tournament players will often rely on this very effect to enable more effective short stack play.

Now, let's inject BB's mouthy comment. What happens now? BB is saying effectively that he's choosing not to play this pot, and he wants to give SB information that will help him make the best decision about whether to try to eliminate the all-in. With this info, the SB now has no care in the world about the BB. He need not fear for his own stack. He can concentrate solely on the all-in's shoving range and his own cards and the stack sizes as if he's last to act. This will allow him to call with a wider range and attempt to eliminate the short stack. The short stack's shoving range is likely really wide here too, so calling with a more marginal hand might still be a good idea. The fact that the BB is no longer an issue is a huge deal.

  • The BB benefits because he encourages the other two stacks to fight it out and he can win without playing.
  • The SB benefits by having the benefit of virtual position in the hand and can therefore make a much easier decision.
  • The all-in's sole advantage here of putting the SB in the position of fearing a potential shove from the BB is eliminated, leaving him unfairly at even greater risk in this pot.

My point is that this is not just some random jerk talking about his hand during the hand. This is a player trying to put the short stack at an unfair disadvantage by giving extremely valuable and inappropriate information to another player.

I can't find details about specific penalties that have been applied for collusion, and you don't really provide enough info that might point out mitigating circumstances (for example, if the SB had a huge stack and the BB just barely covered the all-in, he doesn't really pose the same existential threat to the SB as he otherwise might), so it's hard to tell how severe the penalty should be. The WSOP rules on collusion (#39-A and E, and #102) include topics like this, though they leave the penalties to the discretion of the tournament director.

All I can say is that I hope the BB at least bought you a beer after this.

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+1 I really like your answer because you look at the situation from the perspective of all 3 players :) . I hope the asker accepts this one. –  Radu Murzea Aug 29 at 7:00

IMHO there is a difference between etiquette, house rules and gamesmanship.

I've yet see a house game, casino game or big tournament that has a rule against what the BB said. However, they might. But that would be a silly rule, IMHO.

You are usually not allowed to talk about the exact cards in your hand, in the same sense that you shouldn't turn your cards up in the table so it influences how your opponent might act or show tells. That rule can be enforced with a time penalty (like you have to sit out for 10 minutes) and I've seen that penalty enforced before at a WSOP event.

You also shouldn't chit chat about your hand (like: "I've got a big hand here, brother - you sure you want to reraise me like that!!") when there are more then two players in the hand. That's usually a house rule, but in general it's a good idea because you don't want to give too much information to too many people during a hand. And perhaps "talking out of turn," like what the BB did is a failure in etiquette, but that's just a matter of opinion.

But, for the sake of gamesmanship, there is no reason why the BB can't say what he said. There is no rule that I know of that prevents gamesmanship. Talking - or not talking - during a hand, especially when you have just pushed all-in and you're waiting for another player to act is an art form.

Does talking (but not specifically about your exact cards) show strength? Feign weakness, perhaps? Are you bluffing and want to look comfortable like you have the absolute nuts so you start a light banter about the weather? Do you sit motionless and speechless (or close up the hoodie like Phil Laak)? To me, that's all part of the game. Daniel Negreanu talks all the time.

The best players I know completely ignore any and all conversation as irrelevant. It doesn't matter what gets said - all that matters is the chips that go in the pot or not go in the pot. That's why some very good players can play with ear phones or online successfully.

One more thing - never look at your cards until it's your turn. Always, always look at other players as they look at their hole cards. It has 3 benefits

  1. you don't become attached to your hand as other players act in front of you (oh, I really want to play these suited connectors - so I'll call that raise even though it's a really bad idea)
  2. it allows you to concentrate on the other players as they see their hold cards (maybe pick up a tell)
  3. it prevents other players from picking up a tell from you until the last possible moment.
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And people that wait for their turn to look at their cards often really slow down the game. If you're quick about it and paying attention, sure, knock yourself out. But you're not Tom Dwan. Just look at your cards when you get them and keep the game moving. I also think you're fooling yourself about the tells. You're just as likely to be the one giving off tells when the action's on you and you're looking at your cards while everyone looks at you. –  Chris Farmer Aug 29 at 3:25

The answer depends on the "house rules". However I would suggest in general:

  • if you are not in the hand, then you should not talk about the hand or what you folded or think someone has
  • you must not collaborate with anyone. You can't make deals with people or help them
  • you should not indicate what you are going to do until it is your turn to act

Having said that, we routinely break these rules when playing low stakes amongst friends and having a few beers. So it's really up to you to decide on the rules under which you want to play.

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