Wednesday 2nd December, 2015

Ask the Tournament Director

By Mark Valentine

Ask the Tournament Director - Part 1

Although we would all like there to be a fixed set of rules for poker in every cardroom in the world, unfortunately that is not currently the case. Organisations like FIDPA (Federation Internationale de Poker Association), and the TDA (Tournament Directors Association), are continually working hard to unify the rules of poker.

Obviously it is the responsibility of the players to know the rules which are in place in the cardroom that they are playing in. Preferably before they start playing!

However, cardroom rulings can often be mixed, depending on where you are in the world, who is making the ruling, or at which level you are playing.

It can be difficult to find answers as to whether a ruling is correct, or should have been applied differently.

We have started this series to allow players to ask any questions about rulings situations that they may have experienced whilst playing. To answer the questions submitted, we have invited some of the most respected TDs in the game to give us their opinion.

Here is our panel:

Christian Scalzi – Tournament Director, World Poker Tour Europe – @scalzichris & @TDWPTEurope

Chris Scalzi

Christian started in the Casino business 20 years ago, dealing on cruise ships. He progressed to become American games instructor for Casino Sanremo and Campione Casino, also working in the French Riviera Casinos in Cannes and Menton. In 2006 he moved into poker with his first event in Sanremo. Matt Savage brought Christian into the WPT Family as TD for WPT Europe in 2011.

Chris Gawlik – Planet Hollywood Poker Room Manager – @TDChrisG

Chris Gawlik

Chris moved to Las Vegas in 2008 to pursue his passion for poker and started as a dealer for the World Series of Poker. From there, he moved into a supervisor position at Bally’s for the next three years until he transferred to Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino poker room. He was quickly promoted to Planet Hollywood Poker Room Manager, where he took the opportunity to elevate the room into an industry leader and destination gaming hot spot. In 2012, Chris founded the Phamous Poker Series, one of the biggest poker series in Vegas, and hosts numerous charity events within Planet Hollywood. 

Colin McTaggart – Owner, The Independent Poker Service – @plopkr

Colin MacTaggart

Poker player turned card room manager, Colin broke his teeth in the industry with Genting UK when his first role was Card Room Manager in Queen Square, Liverpool, before moving to a similar role at Genting Star City Birmingham. Instrumental at Genting in managing the introduction of RFID tables and the development of the Genting Rules committee, Colin then became TD for the new Genting Poker Series in 2012. Now running his own business, The Independent Poker Service, Colin offers services on a freelance basis for venues like Genting Edgbaston, Birmingham.

Marcel Luske – President, FIDPA – @MarcelLuske

Marcel Lusk

FIDPA was established in 2007, by professional poker player Marcel Luske, the Founder and President, and Michelle Lau, Co-Founder. In 2002,"as the founding father of the International Poker Federation" (IPF), Marcel successfully created a governing body for the game of Poker in Europe. Marcel started raising standards and bringing awareness to help support ,safeguard, and increase the international growth of the game of poker.




Our first question is based on a situation in which a semi-professional player found himself during a tournament, and felt that he was harshly treated by the ruling given. He told us:

 “During level 1, whilst in the small blind, I checked my cards and found 2 Aces! As the deal continued, the player in the hijack seat was dealt a card that was face up in the deck, the Queen of Clubs. The dealer shouted for the floor who came over to the table and immediately announced that it was a misdeal.
 I was really annoyed about this. Firstly as I had AA, but secondly, I have been to a lot of poker tournaments in Europe and the USA and have seen this situation occur before. It has never been announced as a misdeal before, what is the correct rule here?”

Christian Scalzi - A boxed card (a card discovered face up in the deck during the hand) is not a reason to declare a misdeal (there must be at least 2 boxed cards for that). What we usually do is remove the boxed card from the deck and consider it as a non-existent card. However, some poker rooms internal rules can be always applied. 

 The relevant rule from the TDA is:

 34:  Misdeals

 A: Misdeals include but are not necessarily limited to: 1) 2 or more boxed cards on the initial deal; 2) first card dealt to the wrong seat; 3) cards dealt to a seat not entitled to a hand; 4) a seat entitled to a hand is dealt out; 5) In stud, if any of the first 2 down cards are exposed by dealer error; 6) In flop games, if either of the first 2 cards dealt off the deck or any other 2 down cards are exposed by dealer error.


Chris Gawlik

Just devastating!  Per WSOP rules this should have been treated as a boxed card and the card that was face up should have been replaced with the next card in the deck.  Unfortunately, if the floor ruled that the hand was a misdeal there isn’t much more that could have been done.  If I was playing I would have asked the floor to seek a second opinion prior to calling a misdeal. 

Colin McTaggart

In this spot, I wouldn't have called a misdeal. I think it's pretty standard across the industry that a "boxed card" is treated like a piece of scrap paper and simply set aside and all hands are live.

Saying that, it has caused many an argument as to why two or more cards are boxed then it IS a misdeal, so I can see why some might issue the same ruling here. It's about knowing the rules for each venue you play at, neither one has to be better than the other as long as they are consistent, fair and open to everyone playing.

Marcel Luske

FIDPA have a simpler method of dealing with this situation, where any single exposed card is shown to all player and taken out of play as the next ‘burn’ card. Where two cards are exposed, the hand would be declared a misdeal. The answer is dealt with by FIDPA Poker Rule 68.9


We certainly think that this was a really bad decision by the TD in the competition and all our TD’s agree with that. We would recommend that you follow Chris Gawlik’s advice and ask for a second opinion, but also Christian & Colin who suggest that you refer to each card room’s rules before you play, just in case there are any local variations!


Watch out for our next ‘Ask the TD’ where we finally get the answers on one of the hottest topics in tournament rulings over the last 12 months or so.


If you have a question about a ruling situation in poker, please get in touch and we will get our panel’s opinions for you. 
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