The Check Raise That Wasn't

Those of you who follow me on Twitter (and if you don’t, why the heck not?) saw my tweet last night about a questionable interpretation of the rules for raising in No Limit Hold’em that I witnessed at the Aria.  Since it normally takes me 1,000 words to tell a 150-word story, there was no way I could tweet out the issue, but fortunately I have this very blog where no one can limit the amount of words I use to tell a story.

In doing so, I want to make clear that I think Aria is one of the premier poker rooms in Vegas and what I witnessed in no way affected that  opinion.  If, as I suspect, I witnessed an incorrect ruling, I chalk it up to the fact that the ruling was made by a human (well, two, actually, counting the dealer) and that to the best of my knowledge, we have yet to discover the human being who has never made a mistake.

The game at Aria is 1/3 and I had only recently taken my seat.  The player on my immediate right limped in to the pot, and I raised to $15 with Ace-Queen of clubs.  A player behind me called, the blinds both called, and the limper called.

The flop was King-7-3, two spades and a red card.  Not exactly a great flop to me.  I figured I was done with the hand but it checked to me, with only one player who hadn’t acted left.  The manner in which everyone checked—very quickly—made me consider a continuation bet.  Ordinarily with that many players I wouldn’t do it, but it was early, I had my full $300 starting stack, and I have seen such a bet work on occasion…..and if it didn’t work, I’d have time to get it back.  So I put out $40 with nothing more than one overcard and a backdoor straight draw.

The last player folded but one of the blinds, a woman, put all her chips in, but it was $49 total, just nine bucks more than my bet.  The last player left, the guy to my immediate right, asked if he could re-raise.  Note:  At the time, I wasn’t sure if he had asked if he could re-raise or if he was asking if I would be allowed to re-raise if he merely called.  The second question was certainly legitimate—not knowing what he had, he might want to call if he knew it was just $49 but would think twice if the preflop raiser was allowed to bump it up some more.  However, it soon became apparent that he was specifically asking if he could raise the $49 bet he was now facing.

The dealer said no, he couldn’t raise. His explanation was that her raise was not at least 50% of my bet.  It had to be at least half of my bet again in order to re-open the action.

I’ll refrain from my own commentary until I finish the story.  But I said nothing.  Other players insisted that he could raise.  I’m not sure if the player facing the bet questioned it all that much but two other players not in the hand were adamant that he could raise.  The dealer called the floor, and received the full explanation of the situation from the dealer.

The floor said that he couldn’t raise because the bet wasn’t more than half the bet she was facing.  In other words, if she had been able to go all-in for $61, he would have been able to raise.  That’s my own example for illustration, not what the floor said, but that was the clear interpretation of what both the floor and the dealer were saying. The other players pointed out that she hadn’t raised the player facing the bet, she had raised me, and that he hadn’t put any money into the pot at this point on this street.

The floor asked if the player facing the bet had acted at all on this street.  When told he had, but that he had checked, the floor ruled that since he had had a chance to act on this street, and had checked, he couldn’t re-opening the betting because the lady’s all-in was not large enough to re-open the betting.

And so, that was the ruling.  The player to my right could only call.

I swear this is a completely accurate retelling of what occurred at the table last night.

OK, so what do you think of this ruling?  How many mistakes do you see made by the floor and the dealer?

I count two. 

The player to my right was not trying to raise the lady, he was trying to raise me.  The fact that he had initially checked means nothing, unless this is the first poker room I’ve ever played in that doesn’t allow check-raising!  But in fact, the lady herself had checked-raised me!  So, of course he could raise…he could raise me.  The only thing that was a question in my mind was what his minimum bet would have to be.  Would he be allowed to bet only $80 (double my bet) or would he have to bet at least $98 (double the lady’s bet)?  I’m assuming that $98 is the right answer.

But seriously, how could he not be allowed to check-raise there?  How was the fact that he had initially checked the flop relevant to whether or not he could raise?  Check-raising is a key part of poker.  He had obviously checked hoping that I would c-bet and I had totally fallen into his trap.  

Note: clearly if he had just called (as he ended up doing), the betting would be closed to me, I would not have been able to re-raise.  But that brings me to the second mistaken ruling at the table by the dealer and the floor.

Both of them stated that the action could only be re-opened if the lady’s all-in was 50% or more of the bet she was facing.  For the player to my right, that was irrelevant, as I’ve just explained.  But for me, if he had just (voluntarily) called, it was totally incorrect.  The 50% rule applies to limitgames.  In No Limit hold-em, it’s 100%.  Many dealers—and even floor people—get this wrong.  I did a post not long ago covering this very topic.  You can find it here.

Say I had hit the flop, and would have been more than happy to re-raise there.  I couldn’t have because her bet was only $9 more than my bet.  But even if her all-in was $79, not $49, I wouldn’t have been able to raise, because this is No Limit, not limit hold-em.

Note, in that post I just linked, there was some back and forth, and it was determined that there are actually some poker rooms across the country that do have it as a house rule that re-opening of a NL betting is the same as in a limit game.  But I would be totally shocked if Aria was one of the rooms with that particular house rule.

Anyway, to finish off the story with the results of the hand, for those curious, the guy called the $49.  I knew I was badly beat, but for the size of the pot, I couldn’t fold for a measly $9.  The pot was over $200!  So I threw away another nine bucks on a gazillion-to-one chance I still had a shot at the pot.

The turn card was another 7, and the guy on my right shoved all-in for about $200.  I folded like a cheap suit.

Turns out he had flopped a set of 3’s and turned the full house.  The lady had a weak flush draw.

Note….I think the shove was not a great play on his part, but I think because he couldn’t raise the flop he was already in shove mentality (because of the flush draw) and couldn’t stop himself when he turned the boat.  Not that it made any difference, I wouldn’t have put another penny into that pot at that point.

I should point out though, that the error did cost me $9.  If he had been allowed to raise on the flop, a real raise, not just nine bucks, I would never have called it, and saved myself the nine bucks.

After the hand, we were all discussing how absurd it was that the floor ruled the guy couldn’t check-raise.  But I was the only one noting that the 50% interpretation was incorrect as well.

Unless I’m wrong?  So, dealers, floor people, poker room managers…..please let me know.  Have I gotten anything wrong?

Or did I just witness what humans sometimes do….make mistakes?

(Edited to add: a bit of a follow up to this story can be found at the bottom of the post here).
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The Check Raise That Wasn't
The Check Raise That Wasn't
Reviewed by just4u
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Rating : 4.5