Author Topic: Soft play rule/just calling with the nuts  (Read 18743 times)

RiverVadas

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Soft play rule/just calling with the nuts
« on: September 08, 2013, 03:45:54 PM »
So, everywhere I go I here tournament players saying "if you just call in position with the best possible hand you will incur a penalty and that is a TDA rule". First, the TDA rules do not specifically state that you must raise in position with the best possible hand. It states that soft play is not allowed. Second, the three times I've seen this rule invoked was with older players that really hadn't realized that they had the best possible hands against players they had never met. The chance that any of these incidents involved soft play are zero. So Td's are enforcing a rule that is not in the TDA rule book and by doing so we are electing to force players to understand the strength of the hands they are holding. Poker is game where players make and lose money based on the knowledge of their holdings against the holdings of their opponents. So why would we, as industry experts, ever want to influence even remotely the action of players if this so called TDA rule does absolutely nothing to prevent soft play and collusion? 

Nick C

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Re: Soft play rule/just calling with the nuts
« Reply #1 on: September 09, 2013, 06:54:09 AM »
Welcome Rivers,

 First you must understand the difference between the "nuts" and the "exclusive nuts." There is nothing wrong with checking a hand that can't be beat but, could be "tied."
In Hold'em; Holding an Ace, with a board of 9, 10, J, Q, K rainbow is a good example. The rule is intended for players holding the EXCLUSIVE nut hand and LAST to act. A player holding the Ace of spades with a board of: 2, 3, 7, 9, Q of spades has the exclusive nut hand. This player is not in any violation of the TDA rule if he checks with other players still to act. However, if he is last to act; he must bet if the action is checked to him, or he must raise if he is facing a bet.

Stuart Murray

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Re: Soft play rule/just calling with the nuts
« Reply #2 on: September 09, 2013, 11:16:14 AM »
As Nick states it is the Exclusive Nuts which,when you call or check causing the hand to goto showdown is defined as soft play, there's no real need for it to be in the TDA rules I feel, as softplay is already covered and the occurrence of it is rare and further as you pointed out, primarily in error.

However, that being said it is a valid case that it should be penalised, even when in error, as it is not play which is compatible with the best interests of a poker tournament.  There is more value in extracting more chips from a player than calling or checking to see their opponents hand etc.

K-Lo

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Re: Soft play rule/just calling with the nuts
« Reply #3 on: September 09, 2013, 04:19:56 PM »
Agreed with Stuart.  In contrast to a cash game, we have to protect everyone else in the tournament as well -- and they have an interest in seeing people eliminated. 

Suppose that you are called to the table, and one player has made a large bet with the second nut straight, and another player with the nut straight (which cannot be beat on the board) and who has the first player covered merely called.  To an objective observer, this would certainly appear to be soft play on its face. Also, had the player with the nuts raised, there is a good chance that he may even had eliminated the first player, which puts each and every other remaining player in the tournament closer to the money.

Now the player holding the nuts could always argue "oh I didn't intend to just call, I didn't know I had a straight" or "why would i intend to play softly against this opponent, I don't know him"... But once we start delving into intent, and we attempt to determine whether the person is feigning ignorance or truly did not understand what he was holding, the situation becomes very tricky. Practically, it is easier to focus on the objective evidence, as we rarely have enough information at our disposal to know for a fact that there was no soft play going on.  Do we really ever know that there is a zero chance of soft play? Furthermore, the people who are set to lose money by this action are not limited to the players in the hand (as it would be in a cash game) but they include everyone else who would have been one step closer to (or higher) in the money and they deserve protection.

In any case, while I believe it is important to penalize what appears to be incidents of soft play (it really is not that much different from "best efforts" provisions in the rule sets governing tournament play of many sports), as a TD you can certainly use your discretion in determining the appropriate penalty.  If you are convinced that the chance of soft play are truly "zero" in a particular situation, you can always choose to give a warning or a nominal one hand penalty if you think that is most appropriate.

Tristan

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Re: Soft play rule/just calling with the nuts
« Reply #4 on: September 09, 2013, 04:27:22 PM »
I agree as well.  I compare it to players pocketing chips.  Most of the time it is innocent, but you have to enforce it across the board or else you open it up for people to abuse it.
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Nick C

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Re: Soft play rule/just calling with the nuts
« Reply #5 on: September 09, 2013, 04:46:25 PM »
Ken,

 Are you saying with this statement, that you expect this player to raise, even though he could be tied?  You said. "Suppose that you are called to the table, and one player has made a large bet with the second nut straight, and another player with the nut straight (which cannot be beat on the board) and who has the first player covered merely called.  To an objective observer, this would certainly appear to be soft play on its face. Also, had the player with the nuts raised, there is a good chance that he may even had eliminated the first player, which puts each and every other remaining player in the tournament closer to the money."

K-Lo

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Re: Soft play rule/just calling with the nuts
« Reply #6 on: September 09, 2013, 05:20:33 PM »
I don't penalize situations where it is clear that more than one player could have the nuts, such as a nut straight showing on board, or where it is possible to be quartered (or worse) as in a split pot game.

Edit: "second nut straight" = "second-to-nut straight"
« Last Edit: September 09, 2013, 05:23:58 PM by K-Lo »

Nick C

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Re: Soft play rule/just calling with the nuts
« Reply #7 on: September 09, 2013, 05:42:30 PM »
Interesting, don't you think? Perhaps there should be mention of exceptions for high-low games. Our only TDA rule that remotely covers this subject (TDA 61) needs more, don't you think?

 I also know that it is a tough call to make when you know a player truly misread his own hand.

RiverVadas

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Re: Soft play rule/just calling with the nuts
« Reply #8 on: September 09, 2013, 10:02:54 PM »
OK, lets go over this again because you guys are missing the point.
I understand what you mean by exclusive nuts. My point is that THE RULE DOES NOT STATE THIS. All the rule states is "soft play is not allowed". If the rule stated "You may not check the exclusive nuts in position or else you may be penalized" then fine, I would understand the implementation of the rule, but it is not written that way. So WE ARE JUDGING INTENT by assuming that if a player checks the exclusive nuts in position he is colluding with another player. He may just be unaware of the strength of his holding, which is perfectly fine. In essence we are saying: If you are going to play a tournament you have to know what the best possible hand is or else you may get penalized if you don't bet it.
 Why in earth would we ever want to enforce a rule that requires players to know what they are holding. I want anybody and everybody to play as long as they abide by the basic rules of playing in turn, not exposing a hand prematurely, etc. 
Like I stated earlier I've never seen this be collusion in my opinion, only a mistake by elderly players that have no clue about the strength of their hand or even what the nuts actually are.

So they got penalized for something that, first of all IS NOT IN THE RULES and second of all if it were specifically stated as such, it's a bad rule because ultimately we are influencing the action by stating, you must know the strength and value of your hand. As far as poker goes that is, in my opinion, idiotic. If you really think about it nearly violates the one player per hand rule.


chet

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Re: Soft play rule/just calling with the nuts
« Reply #9 on: September 10, 2013, 07:54:40 AM »
The only thing I am going to add to this discussion is that it is impractical for the TDA rules to include specifics for each and every situation covered by a rule.  The TDA rule covers "soft play".  If you want to include each and every specific situation that could be covered by each and every Poker Rule, TDA or otherwise, you can best do that by a very long, laborious process to develop a set of House Rules.  I think you will soon realize the impracticality of that endeavor.

Chet

Nick C

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Re: Soft play rule/just calling with the nuts
« Reply #10 on: September 10, 2013, 09:25:30 AM »
Chet,

 For the most part, I'm with RiverVadas on this one. I stated on my last post that I thought TDA #61 needed more. As far as Defining exactly what we are referring to when we speak of "soft play" I really don't think it would be too difficult.

RiverVadas,

 With respect for your reference to old people that play the game. I will assume that you are much younger than I, and never misread your hand. Just wondering how you feel about the time that Phil Ivey tossed in his winning flush, not even realizing that he had the best hand.

 I also don't quite understand how this breaks the one player per hand rule.
« Last Edit: September 10, 2013, 09:27:13 AM by Nick C »

K-Lo

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Re: Soft play rule/just calling with the nuts
« Reply #11 on: September 10, 2013, 09:39:39 AM »
The rules specifically indicate that soft play is not allowed.

If you hold the nuts and are last to act, and fail to take an aggressive action, it is likely that either:

A) you are taking it easy on your opponent and are content not to try to milk him for more chips

Or

B) you do not know that you hold the nuts.

Allowing the action to occur for reason A is "soft play" by any definition.  I assume you agree that this is unacceptable in tournament play. B, well, is just probably a product of ignorance or stupidity.

You claim to have only seen elderly players do this, who fall under B. FWIW, I have seen players take it easy on each other for reason A, just to "keep things friendly". Not necessarily because they know each other, but because they just felt sorry for their opponent (the opponent has been whining about getting bad cards, the opponent is attractive, the opponent comes from the same home town, etc.) I have also seen players 'misplaying' the nuts on the bubble - where betting the nuts may have meant a short stack (not in the hand) cashing. Inevitably, the short stack cries 'soft play! Collusion!', while the player with the nuts claims he didn't know he had it. And sometimes, it really is a question of whether the two are strangers or whether they know each other,  Sometimes, the two players in the hand are simply from the same country... And that alone makes people suspicious.

My point is,,, we cannot prove anything. As a third party observer, we can never truly know whether the situation is A or B. We are not mind readers. So we have to draw the line somewhere as a default.  I take your point that the default position might just as well be to assume that B is true, and place the burden in the TDs hands to prove the situation is really A to justify a penalty. But, for better or for worse, the well-accepted custom is to assume that A is true ("if it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck...") and have the player convince you that in fact B is true to avoid a penalty (assuming the TD is even willing to give the player the benefit of the doubt).

I respect your position that perhaps it should be the other way around, and maybe that is something worth fighting for.  But I expect it will be difficult to convince the majority that this ONLY happens because players are unaware of their hand. While I would like to believe that checking the nuts is always an honest mistake, I just don't believe that is true. I'd rather give your clueless elderly players a warning and penalize the players who ought to know better. Most TDs will argue that we need to consider not only allowing players to make mistakes in misreading their hands, but also their obligation to protect other players in the tournament.  Frankly, the more persuasive argument to me that is sometimes raised is that the person with the nuts is effectively being penalized twice:  once from the penalty for soft play, and once for winning a smaller pot that he may otherwise be entitled to.

As for being in the rules, I don't think it is fair to say that it is not in the rules. Could this situation be presented explicitly as an example?  Maybe. But as Chet suggests, it may be unrealistic to enumerate each and every possibility of what constitutes collusion, what constitutes soft play, what constitutes unsportsmanlike conduct, etc. within the rules.  I don't see anything wrong with grouping actions into categories rather than having lists of specific examples in the rule book. But if people feel strongly about it, we could always try to come up with a non-exhaustive list to aid in interpretation, although I am also ok with the way it is.
« Last Edit: September 10, 2013, 10:40:08 AM by K-Lo »

Nick C

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Re: Soft play rule/just calling with the nuts
« Reply #12 on: September 10, 2013, 10:39:07 AM »
Ken,

 The addition of your simple line: "If you hold the nuts and are last to act, and fail to take an aggressive action"....This will be considered "soft Play." What's so difficult about that. I believe that's all RiverVadas is looking for.

 We currently have "long winded" rules, that are not necessary. The exhaustive examples given for TDA #15 in our Illustration Addendum are a perfect example. Why not add a couple lines to better explain soft play?
« Last Edit: September 13, 2013, 07:49:15 AM by Nick C »

Tristan

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Re: Soft play rule/just calling with the nuts
« Reply #13 on: September 10, 2013, 10:44:54 AM »
OK, lets go over this again because you guys are missing the point.
I understand what you mean by exclusive nuts. My point is that THE RULE DOES NOT STATE THIS. All the rule states is "soft play is not allowed".

With all due respect, I think you are missing the point.  Let's break this down a bit.

What is soft play?

If you do a Google search on "soft play definition", most of the sites listed include checking the nuts when last to act.  If you do a Google search on "check the nuts last to act" and "Soft play" together, you get many results that say that checking the nuts is considered soft play. 

This one even pops up:
Jack Effel:
"Tournament officials have a responsibility to protect the integrity of the tournament at all costs. Checking the “nuts” on the river is considered soft play, which is collusion and against the rules.  Whether or not a player checks the nuts intentionally does not cover up the fact that they did it. This is clearly a case of whether they did or they did not check the nuts, and not their intent to do so. That being said, if a player checks the nuts on the river, they should receive a penalty up to and including disqualification or expulsion for repeated violations."

So I think it is pretty safe to say that checking the nuts on the river is considered soft play.

Is soft play, and by default all forms of soft play, against TDA rules and should it be penalized?

"Penalties will be invoked for soft play, abuse, disruptive behavior, or cheating.

B: Penalty options include verbal warnings, “missed hands”, “missed rounds”, and disqualification. Missed round penalties are assessed as follows: the offender will miss one hand for every player (including the offender) at the table when the penalty is given multiplied by the number of penalty rounds. Staff can assess 1 or more missed-hand penalties; 1-, 2-, 3-, or 4-round penalties, or disqualification. Repeat infractions are subject to escalating penalties."

So yes, I do believe that it is considered soft play, it is covered in TDA rules, and it should be penalized.  With that being said, most of the time the 'penalty' will be a verbal warning for what I deem to be an innocent mistake from a non-repeat offender.

Do I think it needs to be specified in the rules?

No.  You could write an untold amount of paragraphs on what is included in: "soft play, abuse, disruptive behavior, or cheating".  Even if all of those paragraphs were included, there would be situations that occur that would not be specified and tie your hands.  Honestly that is the TD's discretion.
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K-Lo

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Re: Soft play rule/just calling with the nuts
« Reply #14 on: September 10, 2013, 11:08:19 AM »
Nick:

Ha ha.  The TDA rule book is getting longer and longer, I admit.  

Let's assume first that explicitly putting that language in the rule would appease most TDs.  Let us also assume they can accept this as part of the rules, even though not everyone may agree that it should even be a rule to begin with.

Now who is going to take on the job of defining what actions constitute soft play?  Should we even bother trying?

In addition to the "closing out the action by checking or calling with the nuts" soft play scenarios, there are potentially others, and some of those are more controversial:

1.  Folding to an all-in when it is only X to call, where X is a "small" amount.  Different possibilities when there are or are not players left to act.
2.  Refusing to bet with a "good" hand that is not the nuts, when the remaining player only has X chips left, where X is a "small" amount.
3.  The situation in #2, where the player with the bigger stack argues that he'd rather keep the other player in to prolong a bubble, than to eliminate the player and have the bubble end.

Etc.  

As I said though, as long as it is clear that any explicit example(s) mentioned is just that -- an example -- I don't see that much harm in putting the relatively non-contentious ones in the rules or addendum.  (But just to be clear, I am also OK with the way it currently is).
« Last Edit: September 11, 2013, 11:48:52 AM by K-Lo »