Controversial hands in live tournaments are always fun and you can read that as sarcasm or not, it really all depends on one’s appetite for chaos. The latest hubbub happened over the weekend on Day 1A of the EPT Cyprus $2,200 High Roller event and while it was a situation no dealer wants to be in, it turns out that the floor made the correct ruling and everyone should be content with how things played out.
According to reports, the board in the hand in question read 3♥-2♦-8♥-7♥-J♠ with about 60,000 chips in the pot. Merijn van Rooij went all-in and Maan El Hachem made the call for his last 17,200 chips.
Van Rooij showed two red Kings, good for simply a pair of Kings. El Hachem, saw that he was bested and pushed his cards forward, face down, indicating that he was conceding the hand. The dealer placed his cards on top of the muck.
The problem was that El Hachem did indeed have the best hand. His eyes had deceived him – he thought van Rooij had K♥-J♥ and the second nut flush. Of course van Rooij did not have that and when El Hachem realized it, he said he had pocket Deuces and thus a set of Twos, which beat van Rooij’s Kings.
The dealer retrieved El Hachem’s cards from the top of the muck pile and there they were, two Twos, just like El Hachem said. The floor was called and ruled that because El Hachem’s cards had touched the muck, they were dead. But El Hachem and a few other players thought that was wrong, believing that since it was an all-in and call, the cards should have been flipped over and the dealer should not have allowed El Hachem’s to be mucked.
TD made the right call
Thus, Tournament Director Toby Stone was asked for a definitive ruling. He agreed with El Hachem and the others and overturned the ruling. El Hachem’s hand was live and he doubled up.
“At all-in and call, it is the dealer’s responsibility to protect the player’s cards, so for this reason, the hand is still alive,” Stone said.
Looking at the Tournament Directors Association (TDA) rules, which are the rules that govern EPT events, it appears that Toby Stone was right on with his ruling.
Rule 14, “Live Cards at Showdown,” states: “Discarding non-tabled cards face down does not automatically kill them; players may change their minds and table cards that remain 100% identifiable and retrievable. Cards are killed by the dealer when pushed into the muck or otherwise rendered irretrievable and unidentifiable.”
El Hachem’s cards were obviously identifiable and retrievable, as they were the two on the top of the muck, so according to the rule, he was permitted to change his mind and table his cards.
Additionally, Rule 14, “Face Up for All-ins” supports Stone’s verdict: “All hands will be tabled without delay once a player is all-in and all betting action by all other players in the hand is complete. No player who is either all-in or has called all betting action may muck his or her hand without tabling.”
From all reports, it sounds like nobody had any problem with Toby Stone’s decision.