There was another minor hand controversy at the 2019 World Series of Poker this week. I call it “minor,” but I still love it. When I heard about it, especially since it involved a notable poker player, I thought to myself, in my best Montgomery Burns voice, “Excellent.” Mainly because of the result, what happened in the hand involving Maria Ho wasn’t all that big of a deal, but let’s take a look at it anyway.
It was the first day of Event #22: $1,000 Double Stack No-Limit Hold’em and Maria Ho had 130,000 chips, more than tripling her starting stack of 40,000.
According to live reporting at the scene, Ho began the betting with a raise to 105,000 pre-flop, meaning she had just 25,000 left behind. She was effectively all-in, as the big blind was 12,000 with a 12,000 chip ante. “Effectively” is the key word in that sentence. Action folded to the person in the small blind, who asked the dealer to clarify how much the raise was for. After the dealer confirmed the 105,000 bet, the player verbalized the call and both players turned their hole cards over.
At this point, you might be thinking to yourself, “Wait, why did they show their cards if nobody was all-in?”
Don’t get smart with me. Let’s see how it all played out. Maria Ho had A-J, both diamonds, while her opponent showed pocket Queens. The board came J-2-T-A-6 (suits were irrelevant) and Ho won with a pair of Aces.
That’s when the confusion began. Ho assumed that because both players revealed their cards after the raise and call (the term is “tabling” their hands), she was due not only double her bet, but also an extra 25,000 because the action played as if she was all-in. Her opponent also thought she was all-in, not realizing otherwise until the hand was over.
The floor, naturally, was called over, and decided that because the players tabled their hands, the opponent had essentially accepted the action of an all-in, so he owed Ho the additional 25,000 chips.
There doesn’t seem to be as much talk about this hand like there was with the Sam Soverel final table hand from the week before, so it’s not that controversial or important, but there are certainly those who dislike the ruling. Some believe it was an easy way for Ho to angle shoot (not necessarily intentionally, mind you), as if she had lost the hand, she could easily argue that she only bet 105,000, so that’s all she should lose, that it can’t be implied, just because of the hands being tabled, that she was all-in.
One easy alternative ruling that some have suggested would have been to just say that the 105,000 was called and the hand was checked the rest of the way. I, personally, probably would have ruled that way, though I can see why the floor made the decision it did. If the hands weren’t revealed pre-flop, Ho likely would’ve been all-in on the flop and her opponent probably would have called, being pot committed. The decision was that an all-in was implied by both the size of Ho’s bet and the tabling of the hole cards.