Has the TDA gone too far with new rules?
During the early stages of the PokerStars European Poker Tour (EPT) Barcelona High-Roller tournament Team PokerStars Pro Daniel Negreanu created a brouhaha when he challenged the “First Card off the Deck”rule that states any player not “at their seat” when the first card is dealt will have their hand ruled dead [PokerNews has the complete incident report].
Negreanu is well aware of the rule, which has been a staple on the EPT for a number of years, but only recently gained attention when the Tournament Directors Association (TDA) adopted it earlier this year —Negreanu publicly criticized it when the TDA adopted the rule.
Now you might be thinking that this was a premeditated move by Daniel, to highlight the issues with the rule. But in this instance Negreanu feels he followed the rule to the letter, and that the subsequent ruling against him was wrong.
The problem is that we are dealing with a rule that uses an arbitrary distance to determine how far away is too far, which quickly turned the argument between Negreanu and the floor into one of semantics.
The real discussion that needs to take place —which Negreanu raised on his FullContactPoker.com forum— is what type of oversight poker needs, and who should be involved in the process? Why is the TDA adopting rules that no player has raised as a concern?
Negreanu, and plenty of other poker players (as you an see in the video below), are of the mindset that tournament staff has far too much control and is trying to control every little nuance of the game in an effort to preemptively eliminate any problems that may arise. They are essentially micro-managing the events and players have no recourse but to abide by the whims of the floor staff.
Is the TDA Too Hands On?
So are Negreanu and company correct in saying that the TDA and tournament staff is acting as some sort of quasi totalitarian poker regime, trying to exercise complete control over their domain and solve problems that really don’t exist? Or is the TDA in the right? Do they need to protect all players even if it means enacting rules that might seem to punish honest poker players?
For the most part I tend to agree with Negreanu. Poker has, for the most part, always been a self-policed game, and to be honest, until a player is victimized by an angle-shooter they will never feel the need to protect themselves –think of it like a person who leaves their house door unlocked until they get robbed, or the person with a simple password for their E-Mail that doesn’t see the need for a more secure password until they are hacked. Having a “father-figure” in the form of an empathetic floor-person holding the TDA rulebook is not going to solve a naive player’s problems, because at some point we have to let our “children” go out into the world on their own.
I get the need to “protect” players, and I get the desire to nip potential issues in the bud, but if the TDA wants to clean up the game I would suggest they start with registration lines and other logistical problems, because as we’ve seen in recent years, some of the in-game rules put in place have had the opposite impact, causing TD’s and floor-staff more headaches, not fewer.
Additionally, some of these rules are so arbitrary that it has made it easier for angle-shooters (knowingly or unknowingly) to victimize people: Gaelle Baumann in 2012 WSOP is just one example.
No Harm No Foul
The current fiasco over the “First off the Deck” rule is clearly a situation of a rule that 99.999% has zero impact on the game and is wholly unneeded. The idea behind the rule is to prevent potential cheating, but if a player were really abusing this “loophole” in order to see an opponent’s cards there are simpler and harsher ways to deal with this problem, considering it would be so blatant that every player would know what the person was doing.
But the new rule –as it was applied to Negreanu– is a clear case of “no harm no foul,” the players don’t care that he is conversing with someone behind him, and the dealer should realize that there is nothing nefarious going on and just carry on, and most players are in agreement with this:
Another explanation for the adoption of the rule was to bring the EPT into the TDA, and while I definitely feel poker rules should be relatively universal, I also feel even more strongly that they should be explicit and easy to understand.
If a rule takes more than the initial explanation and perhaps one or two follow-up questions to clearly explain you are going to end up with a quagmire. In most friendly home games there is a “if you can explain it you can play it rule” and I think the same should apply for rules enacted by the TDA –If you can clearly explain, you can enact it. Rules should be like races where there is a clear winner; not like Diving or Gymnastics where the winner is crowned based on people’s judgments.
This idea that dealers and tournament staff can interpret intent, or eyeball distance from a table is beyond the scope of what they should be doing. I want my dealers to focus on the game-play and not on precisely when a player sits down or how many arm-lengths they are from the chair when the first card is dealt.
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