All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten

“I know the rules.”

These words flew from the open mouth of a player one table over. He was an older white man, perhaps a bit too old to qualify as middle-aged. For purposes of this blog, I’ll call him “Angry Old Man.” I was in Las Vegas, in the Bellagio poker room, and a supervisor had just arrived at his table.

“There was no action on the river!” Angry Old Man raised his voice.

Apparently Angry Old Man bet all-in on the turn and another player called. The dispute was over who had to show their cards first. Angry Old Man wanted the other player to show first, since the other player would be first to act on the river if both players still had chips remaining.

“No,” said the supervisor. “Since you went all-in and he called your bet, you have to show first.” What the supervisor didn’t say is that the absence of betting action on the river was irrelevant in this specific situation. If the players weren’t already all-in, each player would have the option of betting on the river. then if it went check, check, the house rule would follow the betting order, starting with the seat left of the button and proceeding clockwise. In that case, Angry Old Man – by checking behind – could wait for the other player to show.

In this case, the all-in and call closed the betting before the river card was dealt. So the last aggressor must show first. That was Angry Old Man, and for whatever reason, he didn’t want to show. And felt strongly about it. And the other player wasn’t willing to show out of turn as a courtesy to resolve the dispute.

“I know the rules,” AOM repeated, even louder. “There was no action on the river.”

In a civil society, unwritten social norms are as important as laws and rules at maintaining the civility. AOM must have forgotten this, or maybe he never read Robert Fulghum’s classic All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. He was wrong about the rule. Even if he was right, so what? The best hand will win the pot. Apparently the dealer said that AOM needed to show first after his all-in bet was called. Not believing that to be correct, AOM asked for a supervisor to be called over, and got the same ruling again.

Still not satisfied, AOM proceeded to make a complete ass of himself, shouting repeatedly at the supervisor “THERE WAS NO ACTION ON THE RIVER.”

Perhaps the supervisor could have explained it better, rather than simply shouting back. Fascinated with the eruption, I listened intently. I agreed with the supervisor, at the same time wondering of AOM might be armed and/or capable of mass violence.

At a public place in a civil society, the supervisor’s ruling should be the end of it. AOM’s request for a supervisor was granted, but his appeal of the ruling was denied. Many decades ago, in kindergarten, AOM should have learned to stop there, respect the other players’ time and let the game move on.

About 20 minutes later, the supervisor and Angry Old Man walked back in to the room together and approached the same table. After the supervisor got everyone’s attention, AOM apologized for his behavior and acknowledged that his interpretation of the rule was incorrect. It was a difficult, humble, sincere apology.

Well, well, well. Maybe there’s hope for all of us.


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    1. Being one table over, I didn’t see who won the hand but suspect it was NOT Angry Old Man as he immediately left the room. I was more focused on the ruling than the result.

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