Every once in awhile I witness a tricky tournament situation worth investigating. I examine such situations further not only to familiarize players with various scenarios they may encounter, but also to educate event organizers by giving them the chance to hear what some of the game’s best tournament directors have to say.
This week, I look at a rather innocuous hand from the 2016 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure $100,000 Super High Roller. It happened in Level 4 (1,000/2,000/300) between online star Christoph “Tight-Man1” Vogelsang (pictured above) and 2015 Global Poker Index Player of the Year Byron Kaverman.
It began when Vogelsang raised to 5,200 from the hijack and Kaverman took his time before three-betting to 13,500 from the cutoff. The button and both blinds all folded, Vogelsang thought for nearly two minutes before four-betting to 38,500, and Kaverman thought for an equal amount of time before making the call.
The flop saw Vogelsang think for a while before betting 28,000 and Kaverman tank-called. The time taken for each decision would continue to increase on subsequent streets. For instance, both players checked the turn, but not before taking 90 seconds each to do so.
When the completed the board on the river, Vogelsang waited nearly two minutes before checking, and Kaverman waited the same before betting 107,000. Vogelsang then paused for another minute before stacking all but one of his chips — a single T100 chip capping his cards — and slid them in for an all-in check-raise to 130,400.
The dealer then instructed him to put in the remaining 100, which brought the total up to 130,500. Kaverman thought for a minute before making the call, and Vogelsang tabled . Kaverman shook his head and showed before watching the pot pushed to his opponent.
The hand was fairly standard, but I couldn’t help but wonder about that lone chip. Vogelsang didn’t announce that he was all in, and the amount he pushed forward wasn’t technically enough for a raise. Had Kaverman argued it, could it have been interpreted as just a call?
I asked the tournament director, Luca Vivaldi, and he explained that it was clear Vogelsang intended to go all in, so that was how he would have ruled had Kaverman made a big deal out of it. I’m all for rulings based on “the fairness of the game,” and thought that was indeed the right way to interpret the situation.
That said, I have been in plenty of casinos where they are sticklers for the rules, meaning they have no flexibility when it comes to interpretation (I’ve always hated that). So what if this situation happened elsewhere? Would another tournament director rule otherwise?
“I read that and would have considered it a raise and all-in,” noted tournament director Matt Savage told me when I ran the situation by him. “There is no way I would change the action over a single 100 chip being used as a card cap.”
Likewise, Bill Bruce, tournament director for the Hollywood Poker Open, stated that he would have reached the same conclusion had it taken place on his tour.
“It seems pretty clear that he wants to go all in," Bruce explained. "I wouldn’t let the fact that he kept a chip to cap/protect his hand from accidental mucking factor into any decision. This is something that I do also when I go all in, however I verbalize ‘all in.’ After seeing dealers accidentally kill all-in hands — a scenario where the player has no options once his hand is gone — on multiple occasions through the years, I don’t think it’s unreasonable that he did that. It just seems clear to me that he is going all in.”
I know some players who would’ve made a big stink if they were in Kaverman’s shoes, but doing so, while perhaps technically within the rules, would have been in very poor taste. In this situation, where a lowest-denomination chip is left behind as a card protector while the rest of the all-in isn’t enough to constitute a legal raise, it seems most tournament directors agree — the player should be considered all in.