Team Poker

Team Poker

Monday, 4 April 2011

By Paul Jackson

A lot of people have an issue with the concept of a “team game” of poker because they see the idea of any kind of team collusion as outrageous. Before I get onto my opinions of team poker, I’d like to share a few opinions about poker players in general (in the UK at least) and their blind, unquestioning trumpeting for certain traditional poker do’s and don’ts.

Now, I have always done my best to stand up for the rights of poker players who all so often take it in the arse from certain casinos that screw us in every way possible to make a profit. I have, however, recently given a lot of thought to the efforts of self-righteous poker players to uphold all elements of the game’s traditional principles.

After much careful consideration, I have come to the conclusion that, all too often, they are small-minded, brainless robots who complain for the sake of it. They uphold principles they don’t understand, even when the reality of the situation is that no harm is done to anyone whatsoever. Most of the time they don’t even know what they are bitching about; they have merely been conditioned like Pavlov’s dogs. Or Pavlov’s bitches.

An example of this might be where one player, having won the pot, shows the player next to him his cards and then folds them face down. Yes, every player is entitled to see those cards and any one player who wishes to can request to do so.

The truth of the matter, however, is that, at least half the time, the person who shouts the loudest doesn’t actually want to see the cards because he’s after information on that opponent; he just wants boorishly to uphold the principle that he is entitled to see the hand. This same player will probably forget the hand quicker than a goldfish, as he goes back to wondering why the art of calling all-in with J-Q suited pre-flop is not profitable, even after 20 years of practicing it.

Another one: in a no limit game, the dealer is not permitted to count the pot for any player, but in a pot limit game he can. I can’t think of a single logical reason for this, and I don’t care to be honest, but I do care about the time wasted in a no limit game when a player asks for a count and the dealer spreads the pot while that person counts. Would the player’s decision be any different if the dealer had just told him the count in the first place and saved us all some time?

Likewise, when a player raises, the dealers are often instructed not to tell the players yet to act what the amount of the raise is. Why not? They are expected to tell them if the player asks, so it’s obviously not confidential, and they are also obliged to count the raise if needed. Again, this just wastes time and it happens on a regular basis all the way through any tournament on every table.

When a player moves all-in and a dealer actually attempts to count the all-in bet without being asked, he could be potentially strung up for an outrageous abuse of poker etiquette. I personally think that is a load of bollox.

It should, of course, be down to the dealer’s discretion – how he reads the flow of the game and whether it’s likely to be time-saving and convenient to count the pot. To never count the pot under any circumstances, unless asked, makes no sense to me and I have yet to hear any logical reason to justify this holy of holies, which is defended by players with such unfathomable passion.

Yes, I know all about Julian Gardner’s epic WSOP hand in 2002, where he shoved all-in for a lot of small denomination chips and his opponent folded for, like, an extra 6,000 chips into a 17 billion pot, although that probably made zero difference to the hand and Julian may well have won it anyway and gone on to produce the same great finish he did.

Other than that, I have literally never seen any situation in 26 years of playing live poker where a player actually folded, despite it only being a small amount extra, because he overestimated the bet when an opponent moved all-in and a dealer’s count would have spared his blushes. Even if that did happen, is it a good enough reason to create delays on every table in every tournament for all time?

The funny thing about the chip counting is that there are always more players playing online at any one time than there are players playing in live venues, and yet no one has a problem with the chip count information clearly displayed on all online sites to players facing a bet, yet this is exactly the principle we should apparently go to war to protect!

So, on to team poker. Poker Encore and Genting Poker recently ran an event where teams of players played in a series of online games and the relative performance of the teams in those online games determined the starting stacks of each team member at a live final at Star City in Birmingham.

The online games were really entertaining and people generally had a great time and enjoyed themselves as teams, and yes, there was a bit of cyber-warriormanship here and there, but hey, who ever got hurt from typing?
When it came to the live final, that communal spirit continued, and even the warriors became human beings. Everyone had a great time, a great night out and a great game of poker with a superb structure and the chance to win a trip to Las Vegas with a group of your mates.

There was a player freeroll for those knocked out of the team event, so, on top of the $34,000 team first prize, there were also about £2,000 of free prizes.

The reason some people are wary of team poker events is that poker is usually an individualistic pursuit. Any type of collusion or soft play is considered (quite rightly) cheating. But some people carry these principles over when it comes to team poker. What they fail to understand is that this is a different concept, albeit one played within familiar surroundings. The aim of the game is to win the team prize. The prize rewards the best team performance and so your strategy and approach to the game should be quite different to games in which prizes are awarded to individuals.

Star City was like a battleground. In the breaks teams broke off into huddles and discussed team tactics and strategies. Should we go for broke? Should we sit tight and ladder up in the hope we can get all of our team through the day? The strategy element to team events is fascinating and the sense of camaraderie really does make for a fun and exciting event.
As this was so popular, successful and fun (despite the overlay), we are running another Team Game with four players per team and $50,000 in guaranteed prizes, with the first two teams getting a Las Vegas Experience package and a European packages each. On top of this, there will be over £4,000 of individual prizes at the live final, as well as a $6,000 Las Vegas package for the individual who performs best over the online and live games.

Anyone who wants to enter a team can go to the Poker Encore website and look under the promotions tab. And anyone who feels this last bit was a blatant advert, please send your complaints to Neil Channing at

Tags: Paul Jackson, Neil Channing, Julian Gardner