Wheeling and Dealing

By: Heath "TassieDevil" Chick

The recent ANZPT Perth produced plenty of interesting talking points. Undoubtedly the Jim Collopy controversy grabbed the most media attention, but I think everyone agrees that the local rule needs fixing asap and Jim was very harshly done by.

The issue I want to look further into was on the final table when Dean Blatt and Patrick Mahoney were discussing a deal heads-up.

The two had close to twenty minutes to chat because of a Crown promotion running on a stage adjacent to the poker area that caused play to be halted. In that time, Dean and Patrick seemed to have come to an agreement to divide the entire prize pool. The only problem was that they were informed they had to leave something in the middle to play for.

So they had to decide what amount to put in the middle. $5k? $10k? $20k? I’m sure it was all a little overwhelming for them with staff and media surrounding them by this time, and the blaring music from the promotion making it very hard to have a conversation. .

I couldn’t hear what was being said, but the body language was pretty clear. Patrick had returned to his seat and was sitting pretty quietly, while Dean was standing over him and clearly keen to deal.

 After a few more minutes, Crown Perth Poker Room Manager Deb Wyatt made a decision. She warned the players once that it was time to get on with it. She then gave them another minute to come to a decision. She then counted down from ten seconds before instructing the dealer to deal. Dean didn’t make it back to his seat in time and his cards were mucked.

Dean was clearly irate. Not only did he run out of time to get a deal signed, but his cards were mucked and he was forced to forfeit a small blind. Patrick kindly gave Dean a walk next hand to even the ledger, but Dean was still not amused. The deal discussion broke down due the interruption and the two ended up playing it out with Patrick ultimately grabbing the win.

Dean probably now feels like the decision to restart the tournament cost him a good five figures of equity. I understand his frustration, and I have no problem with him pushing hard to deal, but if both players wanted more time, then all they had to do was walk away from the table. With no players sitting at the table, there’s not much floor staff can do. The fact that Patrick was seated indicated to me and to the floor that he wanted to play, so I believe the decision to restart was firm, but fair.

The decision seems to have upset a lot of people, but if one player wants to play and the other wants to deal, what’s the right thing for a TD to do? Deal making must always be unanimous. When a player is sitting quietly in his seat while the other stands over the top of them, then it’s safe to make a judgement that only one player wants to deal. If that was not the case, both players could have stood away from the table. As it was, one player was sitting ready to play. They were given two warnings that play was to be resumed, and the floor staff were well within their rights to make that judgement. To put it another way, if this tournament was played online on PokerStars, and an agreement couldn’t be reached and one player wanted to sit back in, then the host would’ve restarted the tournament.

The other reason that a tournament director might make this call in a deal situation is if they feel that one player is being bullied into making a deal. That might not be so obvious heads-up, but say we are four-handed and three people put pressure on a fourth to agree. They might have friends on the rail joining in. There might even be verbal or physical intimidation that comes into the negotiation.

Here’s where I have a problem.

Like or not, deal negotiations are part of the game. They happen at the most important time in the tournament, when the most money is up for grabs. Being able to understand and negotiate a good deal for yourself is a skill, and it’s one that is often overlooked by many players. How many players really understand ICM?

You might only get to the last few players on an ANZPT once in your lifetime, so doesn’t it make sense that you understand how deals work so that you don’t cost yourself potentially thousands of dollars due to poor deal making?

Remember that the game doesn’t stop when that clock is paused. I’ve seen poor players make great deals because they are good with people. Conversely I’ve seen good players shrug their shoulders and simply go with the majority as it’s not in their personality to argue.

Not in their personality?  Wait a sec.  This quiet, easy-going guy can’t stand up for himself and negotiate a good deal, yet he can three-bet me from the big blind every freakin’ hand?

It doesn’t make sense to be a good aggressive player on the poker table and a weak passive fish on the deal-making table!

My point is that personality, and physical presence, doesn’t come into consideration when you play a hand at the poker table, so why should it become a factor in deal negotiations? If you’re that nice, easy-going guy, then you need to keep your game face on. If you understand your game and your edge over your opponents, and know what your stack is worth, then fight for it. Fight for even more! It’s just like check-raising your opponent’s bet. Go for as much as you can. Don’t keel over and be the easy victim. You don’t keel over in the big blind, so don’t keel over during a deal.

A tournament director should never have to interfere in a deal if every player takes responsibility for their own ability to be able to handle the deal negotiation process. If you don’t want to deal, just say no and be firm about it. Stay strong under pressure. It’s your right to say no, just as much as it’s your right to play hard ball. You should be prepared to do both.

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