This winter I embarked on a new project - the creation of a poker rulebook that is completely my own. The first goal was to produce a work superior to any other rule set for poker. The second goal was to make such a work available to everyone at no charge. I think that the well-being of poker has been held back to a certain degree because those cardrooms that have decent rulebooks are (understandably) using them only for their own facilities, and are not making them available to others. I am hoping that my work will help cardrooms that do not now have a good rule set, and also will promote standardization.
My poker rulebook is now completed. It is called Robert's Rules of Poker, and it's 62 full pages. It can be downloaded in digital form from my website, www.pokercoach.com. Later on this spring, Card Player will make it available at no charge on its website, also. I am very pleased with the finished product, which can be favorably compared with any set of poker rules to date, including those I have written myself.
Is it really necessary to have a 62-page rulebook? Some people follow the "frontier thinking" that says the fewer rules, the better. I have even heard some old-time shift supervisors say, "I wish we could go back to the days when we didn't even have a rulebook, so no one could stick one under our noses and dispute a ruling." I do not think the "good old days of poker" were so good, because I have seen some of the rulings made when the rules were not written down. There was no uniform enforcement, and there were some downright bizarre decisions on occasion.
The modern trend is to be comprehensive (in all rule-making, not just poker rules), and I believe it's the better way to go. As poker continues to spread throughout the world, we are stretched thinner and thinner for employees with good judgment and extensive experience. If you want to get along with a small rulebook, you need highly qualified people staffing your cardroom. If you want to take precautions that an inexperienced person does not use bad judgment, you need to thoroughly cover most of the situations that may arise. And even with good people, it is important to get consistent rulings.
Is this rulebook an attempt to get everyone to follow the same rules, and dictate to them what those rules are? Uniform rules in certain areas of the game would be helpful, but in other areas they are not necessary. One thing you will find in Robert's Rules of Poker is flexibility. One of the chapters is called "Explanations." In areas of poker law where there is no unanimity, alternatives are given.
An example of flexibility is the long-standing difference in button movement between the Nevada method of a dead button and the California method of a forward-moving button. The rulebook covers this procedure by stating, in part, "Each round, every player must get an opportunity for the button, and meet the total amount of the blind obligations. Either of the following methods of button and blind placement may be designated to do this." It then gives the two options. In the chapter "Explanations," the pros and cons of each are discussed.
The rulebook employs some interesting ideas in organization. For example, the very first chapter is "Proper Behavior." This early location (which in some rulebooks comes so late that it is practically an afterthought) stresses the importance of good conduct. This up-front placement stems directly from the late Rick Cole, who, when he was at Hollywood Park Casino, asked me to do this when I was working on their cardroom rulebook. Anyone who knew Rick will remember him as one of the real gentleman of the poker industry; he set a fine example himself, and strongly stressed the need for such behavior in his employees and customers.
Where do you normally look for information about blinds, how they are made up, how much to post, and so forth? Most rulebooks require that you look in the hold'em section. This is a hangover from the days before Omaha became so popular. I prefer to have a section called "Button and Blind Use" for this type of rule. Otherwise, Omaha players are in a sense discriminated against. Yes, there is a bit of personality injection here; Omaha is my favorite poker form.
In a great many cases, rules were worded slightly differently to improve on traditional usage. Here is an example: Suppose you wish to challenge the result of a deal. You must do so before the next deal starts, and it starts with the first riffle of the shuffle. (It might be better to say that it must be done before the deal ends, as signified by squaring up the cards preparatory to shuffling for the next deal, but no one uses this idea.) I can think of some circumstances in which the shuffle for the next deal is delayed, or never even takes place. So, here is the way this rule is worded in my rulebook: "A ruling may be made regarding a pot if it has been requested before the next deal starts (or before the game either ends or changes to another table)."
Here is a rule regarding decisions that I believe is not stated in any other poker rule set, although the idea itself is fairly often used in practice. "To keep the action moving, it is possible that a game may be asked to continue even though a decision is delayed for a short period. The delay could be needed to check the overhead camera tape, get the shift supervisor to give the ruling, or some other good reason. In such circumstances, a pot or portion thereof may be impounded by the house while the decision is pending."
One thing I do not like in poker rules is the business of putting a disclaimer of house responsibility in harsh terms. For example, strictly speaking, the house is not responsible for money you leave on the table during an absence. But the rule is usually stated brusquely, "The house has no responsibility for money left on the table." Hey, does this mean that if someone tries to pick up your chips, the house will not lift a finger to interfere? I certainly hope not. I worded this rule as follows: "The establishment is not responsible for any shortage or removal of chips left on the table during a player's absence, even though we will try to protect everyone as best we can." I believe the house needs to appear to be concerned a bit about the player, instead of simply trying to remove responsibility from itself.Even if you are not a cardroom manager or employee, I think you will find it interesting to look over my new set of poker rules, Robert's Rules of Poker. The price is right.
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