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I Fold. No No No NoNoNoNo

"I fold." A simple statement, really. According to Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary, definition number 7a, fold means "to concede defeat by withdrawing (one's cards) from play (as in poker)."

"I fold." A refrain we have all heard and said many times in our poker lives.

"I fold." A declarative statement that is binding in the game of poker.

"I fold." It really means so many things, but at the poker table, it carries just one meaning. Defeat. Worse, surrender.

It was with this understanding of the words, "I fold" that I entered last night's Wall Street Game. The agenda included two single-table tournaments for the usual $30 buy-in. My goal was to win money, to both break my losing streak and remind myself that winning is possible.

Prior to the game, I was reading the manuscript of an upcoming poker book sent to me via the Intertubes. The book emphasized aggression, and I began to reconsider my recent play. Sure, I am known as an overly aggressive player, but was I actually playing that way. The book seemed to emphasize the importance of aggression as a means to build a stack and avoid busting out when the inevitable bad beat arises.

I am not 100% in agreement with the principles in the book, but regardless, reading anything affects the way I act. When I read Rumpole books, about a satirical, anti-establishment British barrister (lawyer), I find myself taking on his satirical ways. When I read Dhali Lama books, I tend to feel a greater sense of peace and compassion. When I read the Anne Rice vampire books, I used to feel vampiric (I shit you not). I wouldn't throw on a barrister's gown, buddhist frock or vampire teeth, but those books definitely affected the way I saw the world, if only for a short while after reading.

With this in mind, I entered the Wall Street Game with plans to play aggressively and shed all fear of bad results. Sadly, at least in reference to the first tournament, bad results did come. I can sum up that game into one hand, since it was the only significant hand I played. I had about the starting stack of 2500 chips. The blinds were up to 50/100, and there were a couple of UTG limpers before host Jamie raised to 600. I was not paying close attention so when it got to me, Jamie's bet surprised me. "Wait, you raised to 600?" It was an uncharacteristically high raise. "Yeah," he replied, "with all of those limpers its about right." True enough, I suppose, but the oversized bet relative to the blinds and stacks made me question Jamie's strength. The JJ in my hand screamed for a raise, as a simple call would leave me with no information and an overcard would hit the flop a good 65% of the time. "I raise," I took my time contemplating my move. "1200." The action folded around to Jamie, who looked disturbed by the turn of events. "How much do you have left?" he asked in a manner that suggested that he was going to push or fold. I had about 1000 left and told him so. "Ah, hell, I'm all in." I had the sense that he did not like his situation, but when I called, he showed QQ and after five community cards, I was out.

I went to the couch to watch some Diggstown and mull about my play. I still don't hate the play with Jacks, but I'm not married to it either.

When Game 2 started, I was raring to go. Once again, I chose to be selectively aggressive. Since I was card dead, that meant folding and folding and folding some more. And then, I got into the "I fold" hand.

I held 99 when Jamie, on my immediate right, made a preflop raise. I considered my hand and decided got aggressive. I pushed all-in. Jamie said, "I fold" as he removed his card cap. I heard, everyone heard it. And then with just a moment's hesitation, he said, "No no no nononono. I meant call. It's obvious I meant call." He flipped over his pocket Kings. "Sorry, buddy. You said 'I fold' and its a binding declaration. Push the pot over here." I beckoned to the pot at the middle of the table with a wry grin. "Come on, its obvious I was calling. I meant call." "You said fold. Binding declaration."

All this while, I had a shit-eating grin on my face. Truth be told, it took a split second for me to decide that he, in fact, did intend to call. As the host of the game, and at a game where friendly vibes are more important than cutthroat gamesmanship, there was no doubt in my mind that I would hold him to the technicality. Would you, my dear reader? It's a decent question, and one for which I would sincerely like responses. If you are playing in a friendly game and someone obviously misspeaks, do you call them on a technicality or do you make nice?

I chose to make nice. "Come on 9!" I called out. I had already resigned myself to losing, but not in a hangdog way. Sometimes, that's just how poker is, and I didn't want a loss to ruin my night. "Come on 9!" The flop was useless to me. I saw that this was the end of the road. "Come on 9!" And then the turn was dealt, a 9. BOOM!

Suddenly, I changed my story. "Hey man, I warned you. I tried to get you to fold, but no, you insisted that you called. You did it to yourself, man. You did it to yourself." I gathered up the chips in the now-significant pot. All in fun, I guess.

From there, I continued my aggression, accumulating chips at a decent pace. In fact, I had so many chips that I joked with my new neighbor to my right, British Matt, that I would carry him to 2nd place since he was new to the game.

Then, the crappy began. I got KJ all-in with his A8 vs. my AK, and he flopped two 8s. I doubled up Alceste when my ATC couldn't beat his ATC (he was ahead with K5 to Q2). I doubled up one or two more people on lost cointosses and suddenly, I was among the shorter stacks near the bubble.

Don't lose focus, I thought to myself. Don't play like a pussy just because you want to make the money. And so, with only 2400 left and blinds of 300/600, I pushed all-in with 73o and took down a pot. I even showed the table, to help establish the idea that I was intentionally setting myself up as a madman. In other words, show the crap cards and they'll assume it is a setup and the next push will be with good cards. In fact, the next push was probably better than 73o, but not much better. Luck finally turned my way when KJ busted, followed by Alceste. That left me and British Matt, who had accumulated more chips than me and busted both of the aforementioned players. Instead of carrying him to 2nd place, he carried me.

I counted my chips and had barely 5k, leaving British Matt with roughly 17k. It would not have been an insurmountable task to take him down, but it was 11pm and I wanted to get home. We worked out a deal in which he tossed me an extra 20$ or so. After saying my goodbyes (and realizing that, hurrah!, I was up for the night), I headed home.

I return to the Wall Street Game on Friday for some 1/2 NLHE. Wish me luck.

Until next time, make mine poker!

posted by Jordan @ 2:16 PM,


At 4:46 PM, Blogger Dawn Summers said...

Look, Jordan, he said fold -- it was obvious by that he was calling. That's how it has always been. Was it your first time playing poker? Heh.

At 5:19 PM, Blogger 23skidoo said...

I wouldn't press it, but if I was the one to say 'I fold' I would fold.

At 5:43 PM, Blogger Alceste said...

Wasn't Jamie running back to the table as he said "Fold"? I thought of it as more of a home-game distraction thing that wouldn't arise in a casino.

But like skidoo says, if I am sitting at my seat and say fold, I'd feel like a moron and then muck my hand.

At 6:07 PM, Blogger Jordan said...

Actually, that's incorrect, Alceste. He was sitting in his seat when he said, "I fold." I don't remember if he was up or not before then, but he was already seated when the action went down.

Whatever the case, I'm less concerned about Jamie's actions than I am about what any given player would do. Since you, me, Skidoo and Dawn all know Jamie, its easier to say we'd all do what is 'right' and allow the call. Jamie is a hard guy to be a dick to. But I wonder if people not in this little cirle of ours would be more inclined to hold a random player to the verbal declaration, even in a homegame setting.

At 6:10 PM, Blogger MattyEbs said...

Honestly, for me it depends on the prejudice as that sounds.

I know angle shooters, and sticklers and if they pulled a move like that I'd hold them to it

ie (You can't announce cards for prop bets)

Otherwise if its a small buyin tournament thats as social as it is poker, I probably concede victory, that kk would if it was a hand that there was any doubt...jj or ak i might say the fold stands but seeing as Jaime would NEVER fold KK to one of your pushes I think I let it slide

At 6:41 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

For someone hard to be a dick to, there's sure a lot of it going around! Not by the gentle writer of this blog, but nonetheless!

Ok, let's clear up just a few things:

1. I had a shorty stack of 1650 in the SB. With blinds at 75/150 and at least 550 already in the pot with a few limpers, I raised to 1000. That left me with a whopping 650 in my stack when you decided to re-raise all in. No one honestly thought I was folding KK here, did they?

2. I was distracted by Diggstown playing behind me and I was thinking about some scene in the movie when I *obviously* mis-spoke my intentions.

3. There was not a 'moment of hesitation' at all. It was pretty instantaneous that I corrected myself.

I guess you had to be there, but if you had held me to my verbal gaffe, I would have been a gentleman about it and folded. I think it would have been a bit of a dick move, though, to hold me to it but I wouldn't have argued. It IS, technically, the rules. Since we are in a friendly environment though and the play was so obvious, I think you did the right thing by allowing me to correct myself and call 650 into a 3000+ pot with my remaining chips with KK pre-flop!

Let's call it karma that a 9 came on the turn. I wasn't upset in the least.

At 6:47 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

And owing to your other point about whether I'd hold a random person to the fold at a home game. The answer is dependent on two things:

1. The length of time between when he said "fold" and when he said, "whoops, I meant call".

2. The hand he showed down and the circumstances of the betting.

The combination of these two things is important to determine intention. If there is any hesitation at all between "fold" and "call", then I would object. Similarly, if the hand is some crap like 89o, I would consider the whole situation.

But, in general, I try to steer clear of these situations in home games if I can. If I feel I'm being cheated, then I won't come back. If I'm not being cheated, then it was an honest mistake.

At 8:15 PM, Blogger BWoP said...

This is where it gets into slippery slope me (in response to Jamie's "dependent on two things" comment). The length or time / hand / betting circumstances can all be very objective determinations. So is Matty's "depends on the player" comment.

To say that Jamie should have been held to his verbal declaration is an easier judgment call to make because the weight of EVERYTHING speaks in favor of the fact that he meant to call instead of fold.

But I am sure that much dicier situations will arise from time to time, where the answer is less than crystal clear.

I may be a rules stickler, which is why I get so pissed off when cards are dealt out of order and stuff like that. The rules give us clearer guidelines that are less subject to contextual interpretation. As my Czech politics professor would say, "It is yes? Or it is no?"

Now we all know the problem with hard and fast rules. Sometimes shit happens.

As the host of the game, Jamie is often put into a situation where his determination is binding, as it's his house rules. But the minute you start throwing subjectivity into the matter, things get blurry, and that's how disagreements erupt.

If I were a new player in that game, I might be even more confused about the rules b/c there are some Wall Street Poker-specific deviations from the "norm"

At 9:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is kind of silly. As long as there isn't security watching the door, any home game you're at is almost certainly held for the fun of the game and cameraderie with likeminded players. It would be a gross violation of the spirit of a friendly game to go into rules nit mode over a a simple misdeclaration when there was clearly no angle intended.

At 11:59 PM, Blogger BWoP said...


I understand where your comment is coming from, but the larger question is what to do in a situation where the "intention" (in Jamie's words) is a bit fuzzy. I don't think anyone who plays in the Wall Street games on a regular basis would act like a complete douchebag and *force* Jamie to muck his hand based on his verbal declaration. But once you start allowing an interpretive element to come into play when it comes to a rule, how do you place boundaries around that in a way that makes sense given the context of everything that comes into play each time a player makes a decision? Jamie and Matty mentioned some of the variables, but there can be tons of others that would affect a decision in this instance. What if the all-in player was the tightest player at the table (only pushes with A-A) and Jamie is in a situation where if he folds to the points or the money, he will win the season championship? What if the all-in player had pushed all-in almost every hand for the past 20 minutes? The myriad complexities that arise is beyond the breadth of anything that one could cover in a simple post comment.

But the question still remains. If the "rules" are subject to interpretation, how do you make sure that they are enforced in a manner that is fair to each player? Rules have been set up so that there is a known consistency to each player that sits at a table. Without that consistency, how can you draw the line?

At 9:49 AM, Blogger MattyEbs said...

Little yellow different,

I think the rules are always the rules but as a player there are times where I choose to enforce them. I think in any situation where there is any confusion the rule stands but in my experience in home games, clubs and casinos alike, rules are often overlooked...a player has two cards and no one knew and the other player mucks after thinking hes won the pot but the original player agrees to fold even though the pot is his.
A player throws in two green chips instead of red chips to a ten dollar bet and isn't held to a raise (rule is overlooked)
A player taps the table indicating check but didn't have that intention and the players allow him to act.

In each of these instances much like the original one if there is a fuss made the reL rule will stand, but there are players you give a break and players you don't

When I worked at oasis there were 2 or 3 players who were constantly taking advantage stretching the rules to abuse newer players...with them I wouldn't let anything fly.

But you know me I'm laid back,

PS I think it is much easier to change a fold into a call then a call into a fold - which to me is interesting.

It is easiest of all to take back an unintentional raise - Why?

At 10:07 AM, Blogger Lucypher said...

I am not at all surprised that Jordan made the right decision for a friendly home game environment. No way I let it go at a card room full of strangers.

At 12:37 PM, Blogger John G. Hartness said...

Similar to a situation the Up for Poker boys experienced a couple weeks ago, my interpretation would be this -

In a home game, let it slide

In a casino, he folds

That's just me, and I don't know Jamie, but from what I've read of him, he wouldn't be an angle-shooter anyway.

At 12:54 PM, Blogger BWoP said...

Based on what I've read so far, it seems that the easiest thing to do in a *home game* situation is to allow the players affected come to a determination as to how to proceed.

You give those players an opportunity to voice their opinion, and at the same time provide for some allowance to *nitty rules following.*

If the players involved can't come to agreement, the host should make the ruling. It's the host's game after all.

At 11:46 AM, Blogger Joaquin "The Rooster" Ochoa said...

I think that word is binding also.

Sure, I am known as an overly aggressive think?

I guess the meat of this is the J's you held. You raised to find out where you were...when he came over the top that had to scream "STRONG" to you. At the very least you have to put him on AK here. Just my take.

At 9:57 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Hey guys sorry to be late to this discussion - I am British Matt. i've played in a lot of different games and the seriousness differs. The problem here is that in probably more than 50% of situations Jamie would have been held - however I think its testament to the home game that I for one would have had no hesitation in letting it stand. It was "obvious" that Jamie meant to call, ergo it stood. Luckily there was no grey area, cos if there would it would have been difficlt not to make him muck.

Meanwhile try this out for size - I got totally bluffed/lied to/robbed at Foxwoods at the weekend. Playing 5/10 I had J9c against a board Qc8c 9hJh3s..there was 6000USD in the pot and I was heads up with a guy I made as KQ...he led out 1200 and isn talking like a banshee - "I have you beat, i have the straight 0 push man, i want it all"...anyway I start counting my chips tio make a call - all of sudden "hey man his chips are in front of his cards - thats a call = I have a straight give me the money" Im like WTF I didn't do anything yet - he's dancing up and down but ahsnt turned over...anyway technically I did have chips in front of my cards but it was marginal - the floor comes over and declares no action. The guy starts spitting "you guys cost me 1200 USD etc etc" Im very straighytforward and say to the floor "I was going to call but hes decalred and has me beat so I won't know - if you think I should be held thats fine" but they stick by no action. I muck my 2 pair and the guy shows....yep you guessed it KQ. THE single most despicable action I have ever seen at a poker table, but all technicaly legal. Guess it just goes to show probably best top stay out of the grey areas.

It also goes to show karmas a bitch, as about an hour later I made a UTG raise with Q9s....flop came QQ8 turn was a 9...anyway this guy made his straight and put me all in. I called, then just looked at him and said "oh wow, you really have it this time" and flipped my boat. the table dissolved in laufghter and I took everything back plus about 2k. lovely

Sorry to take over your blog matt, but wanted to throw my tuppence in and get this off my chest. See ya soon!
british Matt


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