String-bet Nazis must die!!

String-bet Nazis must die!!

Friday, 27 November 2009

What a wonderful word “jobsy” is. It’s a peculiarly British word. Not because being jobsy is a peculiarly British thing to be, but because only the British would actually come up with a word to slag someone off who was being so.

Jobsy, for those who don’t know, is short for “jobsworth”, and describes someone who adheres to a rule because it is more than their job’s worth not to. It applies to the kind of intransigent idiot whose following of rules is so literal that you want to throttle them. You want to throttle them with the delicate gold piping which drapes over their shiny, quasi-military uniform as they refuse to stamp your passport for safe passage to Backofbeyondistan because you forgot to fill in an “exemption from walking on a Friday” form in triplicate.

OK, I’m accustomed to accepting such short-sightedness from Third World bureaucrats. After all, they wouldn’t have got to where they are today if it weren’t for such mindless following of rules for rules’ sake. But in our own fair casinos? God dammit!

I’m talking of the string bet rule. First, let’s establish what the rule is and why it’s there. When a player wants to raise, they cannot do anything which involves more than one action where the first action could be construed as a call. For example, one thing which is common in poker novices (and seemingly prevalent in old poker movies) is declaring, “I call your bet and raise you.”

Similarly, you cannot put chips in the pot to call a bet, then reach back to your stack for more chips in order to make a raise. The reason for the rule is to stop players from gaining an unfair advantage by gauging the reaction (to the call) of those either in front or behind them before they go ahead and raise.

That’s the important element of the rule here: the unfair advantage is gained by observing others’ reactions to your first action (the call) before executing your second (the raise). Not complicated, right? But evidently, it is complicated for some people.

Consider case number one. It’s a £2/£5 PLO game. CD raises under the gun, gets a couple of callers and, because he’s been quite active, I start ribbing him about whether he’s going to get re-raised. On cue, another active player in the small blind repots it and the whole table falls into hullaballoo, saying, “Aa ha! What you going to do now, huh?”

CD, unfazed, edges a pile of £100 chips towards the line, playing to the audience by saying, “What am I going to do…?”

He gently knocks the pile over so that at least six of the chips fall into the pot – well over the line. If you were being realistic about this, you’d say that virtually the entire stack ended up over the line; either way, definitely enough to put the re-raiser all in.

The dealer declares that this is a string bet and thus is only a call. CD asks for the Floor and when it arrives, the dealer claims (bizarrely) that only a few chips fell off the top of the pile, one by one, over the line. One player present concurs with her and the rest of us swear blind that we saw almost the whole pile topple over the line. Admittedly, CD did subsequently put the entire stack over the line, but that’s not the point – whichever way you look at it, enough chips went in initially to put the other guy all in.

Thankfully, the Floor sides with CD, who promptly turns over aces, a hand which, in Omaha, it is near enough 100% likely CD meant to four-bet all in and was not thinking of trying anything else on.

Case two: the middle stages of the 2009 Unibet Open in London. A player makes it 2,000 to go and gets a flat caller before it comes around to me on the button. I decide that with 29,000 in my stack this is a perfect opportunity for a squeeze play and make it 9,200 to go. In so doing, I carefully put together 9,200 chips, declare “raise”, move my hand across the line and put down two piles of chips – one of 2,000 for the call, and one of 7,200 for the raise. A Romanian whizz-kid in the small blind who is yet to act immediately rips off his headphones and declares that I have string bet. The Floor is called and they take my side in the matter – given that I declared “raise” before chips crossed the line, this is basically a no-brainer. Perhaps he wanted to enter the pot cheaply from the blind; perhaps he wanted to protect his Romanian friend who was the original raiser; either way, it was a bit of a bum-clencher given that I was attempting a squeeze play.

Thankfully, justice was done on both occasions, but in general some players and dealers are going over the top with the interpretation of the string bet rule. The reason not to be jobsy about these things is simply this: it’s the spirit of the law that’s important, not the law itself. We create rules to make sure that certain institutions aren’t violated, that people’s interests are protected. If you believe for one second that in either of the above cases the player accused of string-betting was actually attempting to gain information from the field in the microseconds between one action and the next, you’re absolutely out of your mind.

The problem is that people sometimes don’t operate by the spirit of the law, but by the letter of it. They see that a rule might be broken and cry “foul!” before even considering the logic of the situation. If players do that, you might accept is as an attempt to gain an edge. It’s unseemly, but understandable. When dealers do it, it’s ridiculous.

Tags: Pickleman, Alex Rousso, Strategy