Why won’t the floor do more?

By Bernard Harris

In a prior article I discussed the dealer’s role in facilitating an honest game, but they are not alone in this duty; the floor shares this responsibility as well. Most of the floor people I encounter are hardworking professionals that do a good job and should be tipped more (yes you can/should tip the floor). Unfortunately, there are enough weak floor people out there to warrant the writing of this article.

Whether they are uncomfortable with confrontation or actually wield little real power; their failure to protect the integrity of the game hurts the poker community as a whole. I recently witnessed two travesties that could have been prevented had the floor been more assertive.

The first one occurred at a $2/5 no-limit game. It was a dream table except for one donk who kept announcing actions: I call, I raise, I’m all-in, etc., when he was not in the hand. Throughout the session, two different dealers told him to stop, with the last dealer calling the floor. A floor person came over and administered a warning, so altogether this player was warned three times.

Fifteen minutes later seat 1 raises $25 from under the gun (UTG). It folds around to the donk, who calls from seat 8. The big blind (BB) also calls from seat 9.

The pot contains $75 and the flop ­comes Js-9c-10h. Donk checks, BB checks, UTG bets $50. Donk then folds and BB calls.

The pot is now $175 and turn is the 9 of spades. BB bets $100, UTG raises to $200, and then the donk says, “all-in.”

UTG, thinking that BB said “all-in,” instacalls and tables pocket nines for quads. This happened so fast that BB didn’t even have a chance to react.

BB says, “Sorry, I didn’t say anything,” pointing to seat 8. “This jerk said ‘all-in’ which sucks for you because I’ve yet to act.” He then tables pocket jacks for the full house and says, “I can’t call now” as he mucks his hand.

UTG rightly goes ballistic and the floor is called again. The donk is pulled from the table and given another lecture and his fourth warning of the day before being allowed to return to the game.

Another reprehensible situation occurred between two guys at a $1/2 no-limit game. The two hated each other and their insults progressed into a full-on shouting death match. Three times within an hour the floor would come over and talk to each of them.

Unfortunately, their animosity was well beyond being quelled by a 30 second counseling session. Over the course of an hour, the situation kept escalating to the point where they were threatening each other with violence. It wasn’t until punches were nearly thrown that security got involved and escorted them both out of the casino.

As a player, both situations tarnished my gaming experience. Who wants to go to the casino to be cheated out of a big pot or immersed in a hostile, threatening environment? I’ve confronted floor people when these or similar situations occur and I’m often given excuses of the “well, what I can do about it?” variety.

In the case of the player declaring actions while not in the hand, I would love it if his chips were forced into the pot despite his lack of cards-–verbal is binding right? Barring that fantasy (I know, most casinos would never go for that) he should have been warned immediately that calling actions while not in the hand is not allowed nor will it be tolerated. Upon his second offense, he should have been picked up and forced to sit out for 30 minutes. Upon his third offense he should have been temporarily banned from the casino. Finally, if he continues this behavior, then he should be permanently banned.

As for the shouters, both players should have received a warning and instruction to just ignore each other. Once it becomes apparent that the players were beyond reconciliation, the players should have been moved to separate tables. If either player caused a major disruption at another table then that player should be ejected from the casino for the night. If either player is prone to causing severe disruptions on a regular basis, then that player should be temporarily banned every night he or she causes a disruption. If temporary bans do not correct the problem then the player should be permanently banned.

A floor that fails to protect the integrity of the game hurts us all. I am not advocating that the ban hammer be brought down for the slightest infraction. A warning will generally be enough to correct a problem. However, when it becomes apparent that a warning is insufficient, then it’s the floor’s responsibility to be the heavy and use punitive measures to rectify the situation.

Instituting time outs, separating feuding players, ejecting offenders for one day, and/or temporarily banning repeat offenders are actions floor people should not shy away from. Ultimately, it is their responsibility to ensure that players have a safe and fair gaming experience. When they fail to perform that task, it is to everyone’s detriment.