Monday, March 21, 2005

Posted by Johnnymac 3:36 PM
RJ asks in the post below if I will explain the "see the hand" rule that is so abused at Harrah's in New Orleans. Sure thing. This rule is not unique to New Orleans - just about any legal or (illegal) cardroom has this rule - my point is that it's really really abused by the local players in New Orleans.

The rule itself is pretty simple to explain. If, at the conclusion of a poker hand, a bet or a raise has been called by at least one other player (or if the betting has checked around with no action), then nearly all casinos allow any player at the table the privilege of seeing all of the hands held by the players that called the action. In other words, if on 5th Street Player A checks and Player B also checks, and then Player A shows his hand and Player B acknowledges that he is beat and releases his cards without showing, any player at the table may request to pull B's cards out of the muck and see what he just threw away. (

which reminds me of another Harrah's story that I will post later)

The purpose of this rule is to guard against collusion. Say that in addition to the action in my example above, Player A and Player B had both continually raised and reraised one another and another player, Player C, had called all of the raises but finally decided to just go ahead and fold to the final raise on the turn. But then, after all of that action, once Player C is out all of a sudden there is no more action between A and B and B just throws his hand away and lets A have the big pot, now that would appear to the other players to be pretty suspicious and is the whole reason for the rule.

Now, what I just described would be a classic example of "sandwiching" and it rarely works itself out so obviously, but in light of that, the rule makes sense. What if the cards are shown and neither player has a particularly strong hand, especially in light of the action they had been giving when Player C was in the pot, and now Player A has won a very large pot? Who's to say that Player A and Player B aren't going to get together later and split all of the money? This rule is a step towards preventing those circumstances from happening.

In that sense, I don't mind the rule itself, but it becomes pretty clear to just about anyone that there is a huge edge to be gained by always seeing someone else's cards at the end of a hand, especially if he gave a lot of action or otherwise put a lot of pressure on some of the other players at the table. Once you see another players cards you can begin to form a strategy and learn quite a bit about his tendencies whenever he bets or raises in a certain situation. It's a huge edge, and thus, the "see the hand" can very easily be abused, which is exactly what happens at Harrah's in New Orleans.

Every dozen hands or so at that casino, or usually whenever a grizzled old timer sits down in a game or a Tough Guy wins a large pot, the grizzled old guy will just flat out declare, "I want to see both of the hands." In fact, I was once in a game there where there had been so much action on the flop that the token old guy said, "I wanna see all the hands when we're done" and we weren't even through betting the flop! As far as that old man was concerned he had just been raised out of the pot and thus if someone is going to do that then he damn sure was going to see what cards he was holding to act in such a manner! Crazy! I mean, to me at least, isn't that one of the whole ideas of poker? To have to pay to find out? It's one thing to want to see the cards because you think you are being scammed - it's quite another to see the cards because you want an edge on your opponent.

What's most outrageous about this is that they all expect it. If you ask these players if they're worried about cheating, they'll then immediately come after you and start demanding to see all of your hands, even if they win the pot, or they'll just use that Louisiana charm to tell you to "Mind your own fuggin business, bud!"

Complaining to the management doesn't help either. Most casinos are very judicious in enforcing the rule and quite often will remind players that it's a "privilege" to see the cards and after the first time management will start disallowing the privilege if it suspects that a player is abusing the privilege. But not Harrah's.

All cardrooms need their regular players, and that's why you see things like free food and free drinks and televisions and frequent player cards - anything to keep people coming back. But generally as with everything in life, people begin to see privileges as rights, and once they do you cannot take them away. The management at Harrah's has done such a poor job of reminding people of the difference that the regulars there now believe that they have the right to see other players cards soley for the purpose of strategic advantage. It's terrible, and it's so widespread that it's pretty much just an accepted part of that cardroom. If you are going to play there, especially during daylight or early evening hours when the locals are out, you can expect it to happen to you. Management can't risk upsetting the locals and I am afraid that it's here to stay. In fact I wrote a letter to the cardroom manager after my last trip in May of last year and I never got a response and I doubt it's gotten any better since.

A google search revealed this article which pretty much sums it all up, and has a good suggestion. Worth a read.

Nonetheless, I don't mean to be too grim. Harrah's New Orleans is still a great place to play cards, even with the locals, because the action is still so great from the high proportion of tough guys and the ready availability of liquor for them.

For what it's worth.

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