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Possible Collusion at Borgata Poker Open

Earlier today, Allen “Chainsaw/doublejoker” Kessler relayed a possible case of collusion that happened toward the end of the night at the Borgata Poker Open. In the hand relayed, three players agreed prior to the hand to go all-in blind. All of them did so with one player even calling with 3-2 offsuit. The hand was won by a player holding Kx and managing to fade the outs of his opponents, though the final board is not known. According to Kessler, all of the players were going to re-enter regardless of the outcome. The interesting question becomes if this is collusion, and if it should be frowned upon.

The ironic and potentially unknown fact to note about this situation is that it actually is –EV for the players involved and does help everyone else at the tournament from an ICM standpoint. That’s what makes this case so interesting, because with normal rules players can point to being specifically hurt by an action, or for it to create an unfair advantage, but this rule actually does the opposite, and stops players from doing something to themselves that actually helps everyone else at the tournament. ICM stands for Independent Chip Modeling and is used by players to assess what they can expect to make from a tournament based on chip counts, level and payouts. The reason it is –EV according to ICM is that the chips gained early in a tournament aren’t worth that much and having three separate players with less chips would give them a better chance to actually win the tournament.

The reason this story matters to the average player is that no one can seem to come to a consensus whether this is a bad thing overall and if it should be allowed. Agreeing to play a hand a certain way before the hand is played is technically collusion by the letter of the rule, however, some argue that since it hurts only the players involved it shouldn’t be penalized. Of course, this opens up even more debate on gray area situations that don’t have mathematical support to back them up. It also creates scenarios when rules have to be decided on the spot and it becomes a judgment call, which introduces yet another variable into situations.

It’s questions like these that have been cropping up a lot lately in the poker world. There was the David “Doc” Sands situation from the WSOP that no one can seem to agree on. In that situation, some people want to blame Sands, some the TD, and others the player who did the dumping. The problem with all of those, though, is saying that players are supposed to be acting in a way that isn’t directly laid out in the rules, or at least rules they are aware of. David Sands didn’t break any rules, but people think he should have acted differently. The TD wasn’t enforcing the rules consistently because there doesn’t appear to be bright lines for some of the rules and the unnamed player was probably not aware of the rules. Most amateurs are not, and arguably shouldn’t be expected to.

With what happened last night, a TD should have been involved and a ruling should have been made. Kessler doesn’t specify if that happened, but if it didn’t then that’s a huge mistake. Getting consistent rulings is something that needs to be strived for in the poker world and this latest issue just further proves that point. Players should know the basic rules, but it is up to the dealer and the TD to be on the lookout for situations that are questionable or are against rules that might not be as well known. It’s the same as in any baseball or basketball game where players don’t have to be self-policing, but instead referees and umpires are in charge of that duty. This makes the game more accessible to all players and cuts down on situations that are questionable.

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Andrew Schupick

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