Prohibited Chat in Tournaments

Example 1

Often when there are more than two people remaining in a poker tournament, a situation can arise where two or more players remaining in a hand have a common interest, but that interest is contrary to the interest of the other players remaining in the tournament.

Our rule #19 exists to prevent the players in the hand from taking advantage of this situation, to the detriment of players not in the hand. Here is a classic example:

Ann, Bob, and Charles are the only three players remaining in a Hold'em tournament. The payouts for the top three places in the tournament are $750 for first, $450 for second, and $300 for third. All three players have exactly the same number of chips. Because all three players have the same number of chips, their chances of taking first, second, or third places are all identical, and each player has equity in the tournament equal to ($750 + $450 + 300)/3 = $500.

On the next hand, Charles is first to act and folds. Ann now moves all-in. Bob is considering calling. Note that if Bob calls, then (ignoring the unlikely event of a tie) either Ann or Bob will be busted out of the tournament in third place. If one of them busts out, then Charles, who is no longer in this hand, will be guaranteed second place money and will have 1/3 of the chips. His equity in the tournament will be $450 (second place money) plus 1/3 of the difference between first and second place. The difference between first and second is $300, so his equity in that amount is 1/3 of $300 = $100. Thus his total equity after either Ann or Bob busts out is $550, $50 more than it was before Ann and Bob got involved in their pot.

In short, Charles has every reason to hope that Bob will call Ann's all-in, and he doesn't really care which one wins (except to the degree that he thinks one of them will be a tougher opponent).

Suppose however, that as Bob is thinking about calling, he says to Ann, "I have ace-king and I'm not sure what I should do." Ann says, "I have pocket eights - you should fold." Remember that Charles is hoping for Ann and Bob to have an all-in confrontation, because his equity will go up by $50, no matter who wins. If that's true, then the joint equity of Ann and Bob must go down by $50 if they have this confrontation. If they discover, between them, that their hands are almost identical in value, then they will know that theyboth lose equity by having an all-in showdown. Bob, therefore, chooses to fold. That is fine for Bob and Ann, but costs Charles the equity increase he was expecting if they had the showdown.

This behaviour, discussing your hand with an opponent when other people remain in a tournament, is prohibited on our platform (and in virtually all other online and brick-and-mortar tournament environments).

Example 2

A player may not initiate any conversation about the strength of his hand in any tournament in which more than two players remain. For instance, in the middle of a large multi-table tourament, Mike bets 1000 and the action is on Nancy. Nancy may not say, "KK any good here?" - Whether she actually has a pair of kings or not, this is prohibited chat. Unfortunately, you hear this sort of comment frequently in televised poker tournaments. However, it is clearly prohibited by rule #41 of the 2009 Poker Tournament Directors Association rules, and by our Tournament Rule #19.

Example 3

Poker is an individual game, not a team sport. Players may not act as a group in any way, nor may a player even suggest or mention such an idea. For instance, in the closing rounds of a multi-table satellite, a player may not say, "Hey - let's all just continuously fold to the blinds. Then people at the other table will bust out and we'll all get seats." In severe cases, such chat may subject the player to penalties, up to and including disqualification from the event.

Example 4

Suppose there are three players left in a tournament: Roberta, Sam, and Thomas. Now Roberta gets disconnected and cannot play. Sam and Thomas may not discuss the possibility of simply exchanging blinds, thus blinding Roberta off while she is unable to defend her blinds.

We understand that this is a fine line, since it is perfectly appropriate for Sam, on the button, to raise more frequently, attacking the blinds; he knows that only one of those blinds is truly being defended. And if Sam folds, it's fine for Thomas, in the small blind, to raise, knowing that Roberta's big blind is undefended. But Sam and Thomas may not implicitly or explicitly agree to simply trade blinds back and forth, blinding Roberta out. Note that any discussion of this may subject Sam and/or Thomas to being disqualified from the event and forfeiting some of their winnings.

Example 5

There are four players left in a knockout tournament; Alex, Michael, Jeff and Steve. Alex is all-in for his final chips, so whichever opponent eliminates him wins his knockout bounty.

Michael, Jeff and Steve may not make any arrangement in which they agree to play differently to increase the chances that Alex is eliminated, nor may they make any comment about doing so.

For example, Michael may not say, ‘We should all call and check it down so we can eliminate Alex’. Nor may Steve say to Jeff ‘Let’s call, and split the bounty between us afterwards’.

Again, this is a fine line, since it is quite reasonable for Michael, Jeff and Steve to play prudently to increase their chances of winning Alex’s bounty. However, they may not make any prior arrangement to do so, or discuss the subject in chat.

In case of disputes, our management’s decision will be final.