PSA: Don't joke with your chips

Following the infamous Live At The Bike 'joke' hand, Barry Carter reminds new live players why you should avoid ambiguity at the poker table.

I love jokes at inappropriate times more than most, but there really are some moments you simply do not joke in if you want to avoid a world of pain. Saying your vows down the wedding aisle is one of them, walking through airport security is another, and finally any type of joke that could interpreted as a bet, fold or call at a live poker table is a third.

Last week the most talked about hand in poker was not at the World Series of Poker, it was on the Live At The Bike streamed cash game. A player called 'Armenian Mike' appeared to push a tray of chips over the line and say ‘all-in’, only to take them back when he was snap called by Ryan Feldman, then he claimed it was a joke.

To be clear, I think this was an angle shoot of the most obvious proportions, especially because this player is said to have done it several times before. However, let’s be charitable for a moment and give him the benefit of the doubt. I hope this hand goes viral because it is a welcome reminder about how important it is to remove any ambiguity in your actions at the live poker table.

Whenever I give advice to people playing live for the first time, I always say the same thing - Wait for the dealer to indicate it is your turn before you do anything, then verbally declare what you want to do.

I believe this will eliminate 95% of problems for new live players if they establish a clear rapport with the dealer and use them as a mediator at the table. Issues arise when there is no clarity in what you are doing, for example if you make a vague motion that could be deemed a fold or a shove, or if you make a ambiguous verbal commitment like saying “OK” which could be interpreted in several ways.

Poker tables are sometimes some of the funniest places in the world, but you are not laughing if a joke becomes a binding action. I’ve seen a situation before where a player was talking about a previous hand they played and the punchline of his story was “I’m All In” at the point the action was on him, and yes that meant he had to put all his chips in the middle.

The Live At The Bike hand was an angle shoot (an incredibly minus EV one at that), but justice was served because Mike and the rest of the poker world got an important lesson in removing ambiguity from live poker. There is plenty of space for jokes at the poker table, after the hand (as Antonio Esfandiari shows below).

Do you have a live poker joke gone wrong story? Share it in the comments:

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Comments (1)

  • ghaleon


    Hah so obvious that his allin must hold in this spot. I think in pretty much any casino what you say will define your action. E.g. if you say thousand and accidentally throw 10k into pot what you say will hold. At least if not whispered or something.

    He says very clearly allin and also moves chip rack into middle. Later action without saying anything would also account allin. Some use funky small forward motions (without releasing chips) without saying anything as way to get some reads. But that alone is somewhat of angle shoot...