Twitter Me Foul?

by , Jun 5, 2009 | 4:11 am

We knew it was only a matter of time, right? TJ Cloutier reportedly had quite the emphatic conversation with Jeffrey Pollack while the two were watching Phil Ivey’s final table — about a recurring rule violation that may or may not be getting out of control. The issue: Twittering at the table.

TJ’s beef (as told to me secondhand) was that even when players are not in a hand, they are violating tournament rules when they are texting under the table, in their laps.

Here’s the rule in question:

87. Cell Phone Rule: All cell phones and other voice-enabled and “ringing” electronic devices must be silenced during Tournament play. A player who wants to use a cell phone to talk, text, or email must step away from their assigned table or be subject to penalty. Any player using a cellular phone while in a hand with no action pending (player has gone all-in) will receive a missed hand penalty to be assessed on the next hand. No cell phones or other electronic communication device can be placed on a poker table.

Hmm, I dunno. I think it’s subject to interpretation — and frankly, imho, these are the problems with rules written (or approved) by lawyers, as opposed to writer-players. But what really surprises me in the above-described situation is that @JeffreyPollack didn’t twitter about it.

Just remember, whether you’re breaking a rule or not, you can follow all the peeps we’re following in the Pokerati Twitterverse here.

17 Comments to “Twitter Me Foul?”

  1. Johnny Hughes

    I hate cell phones at a poker table. When folks text message, I figure they could be cheating.

    If I was a gambling man, I’d wager rules will not be enforced for big name players….again.

  2. DanM

    So explain to me, Johnny … how could someone be cheating via text if they are not in a hand?

    I thought it was a possibility myself, but when challenged on this notion, I couldn’t think of a single example of how texting at the table when not in a hand could have any effect.

    The best I could come up with is if two players had a collusion plan before the game … like if you feel your phone vibrate, it means i folded an ace. Or if you see me texting at all, regardless who the text goes to, it means I had X-X hand.

    But even in the above scenario, general rules against collusion would apply.

  3. BJ Nemeth

    My understanding is that Barry Greenstein brought up Twitter specifically at the Players’ Advisory Council before the WSOP began (at least as early as April) and got it approved. Part of the argument was that players would text/Twitter regardless, and if you made them stand up to leave the table, that put them in a *better* position to see the cards of other people at their table than if they stayed in their seat. (That is, you could time your standing up to match when your neighbor checks his cards.)

    But the official rules had already been written, and apparently, not rewritten to reflect the actual situation.

    Personally, I think the fear of electronic cheating (via cellphones, electrodes, or other doo-dads) is fairly unfounded. We all know cheating exists in tournament poker, in classic ways (chip dumping, chip stealing, collusion via physical tells, etc.). Why go to the trouble of texting someone’s phone to make it vibrate if you folded an ace if you could just yawn instead?

  4. solestus

    Examining the spirit of Rule 87, it appears that the drafters intended to prohibit twittering from the table, but I agree that the letter of Rule 87 does not clearly clip the wings of the tweets flying off from tableside.

    Rule 88, the “Approved Electronic Device Rule” may also apply to the twitter question. It prohibits any electronic device that can access the internet, send and receive SMS texts or is “equipped with any type of communication device.” Rule 88 expressly prohibits BlackBerrys, Treos, iPhones, iPod Touches and similar devices “at any time.” So, Rule 88 is inconsistent with Rule 87, because a “cell phone” — which is permitted away from the table (so long as it is not placed on the table) under Rule 87 — is a “communication device,” which is prohibited “at any time” under Rule 88. Such regulatory dissonance can be avoided by reading “at any time” in Rule 88 to mean at any time the player is at her assigned table, but that, of course, is not what Rule 88 says. Rule 88’s prohibition on devices is also written in bold and italics, and any good statutory interpreter knows that means that the drafters really, really meant it.

    When read together, these two rules arguably put the kibosh on twittering from the table, whether the player is in the hand or not. Even though a textualist could read Rule 87 as not preventing tableside tweets, a literal interpretation of Rule 88 creates an absolute ban, and it does so in an emphasizing font. And now, I think I have made Dan’s point for him: lawyers should stay out of the WSOP rule-making process.

    As a rather peripheral poker fan (whose interest in the WSOP has increased annually due in no small part to the high caliber of entertaining journalism and stellar insight provided by the crack staff at, I think that from a marketing perspective, the power of the tweet should not be overlooked. There is something special about being able not only to follow the action in real time, but also to peek into the minds of the players as the action unfolds. The WSOP rule makers should think long and hard (bold, italics) before implementing and enforcing rules that significantly cage twittering players.

    In another twitter friendly sport, golf, LPGA commissioner Carolyn Bivens encourages tour players to twitter and post facebook status updates during (bold/italics) their rounds. The PGA, however, has a rule prohibiting the use of mobile communication devices during play. Bivens has requested an advisory opinion from the USGA on whether the use of a mobile electronic device by a player or her caddie is a violation of the Rules of Golf.

  5. Poker Shrink

    We were told on Day One of Event One that the WSOP likes Twitter, Twittering and Twitters and unless they see evidence of someone using the technology to cheat, they are going to allow it.

  6. Short-Stacked Shamus

    I thought when it comes to Twitter (and other forms of text messaging) the rule in question was actually the next one — Rule 88 (“Approved Electronic Device Rule”) — which isn’t ambiguous at all when it says (in bold, no less) “iPhones, iTouch, Treos, Blackberrys, and other similar devices will not be allowed at any time.”

    I wouldn’t say that the violation of this rule is getting out of control. It was never in control to start with. Clearly no one is going to be penalized for Twittering at the table. Only when they reach the cash are players being told to put the iPhones/etc. away.

  7. Poker Shrink

    and lest we forget, there is a new rule about the size of your card cover, which I was going to label the Fossilman rule except that they let Greg Raymer use his monster slab of polished rock… anyone know if he is signing them for whomever busts him out or is that just a “being like barry” rumor?

  8. Short-Stacked Shamus

    He is indeed signing them & giving them to the player who busts him. We watched him do so for Isaac Haxton the other night at the $40K final table.

  9. DanM

    solestus … i’m pretty sure i know who you are … good to see ya!

    shamus, interesting that you brought up rule 88, because i too was thinking that one might be relevant. so here it is:

    88. Approved Electronic Device Rule: Players are allowed to use as approved electronic devices iPods, MP3 and other music players or noise-reduction headsets during Tournament play until they have reached the money in any Tournament, so long as the approved electronic devices can not access the internet, send or receive SMS texts and are not equipped with any type of communication device. Therefore, iPhones, iTouch, Treos, Blackberrys, and other similar devices will not be allowed at any time. Once players are in the money in any Tournament, all approved electronic devices must be removed. An announcement will be made to players once they have reached the money to remove all such electronic devices. Failure to do so will results in a penalty up to and including disqualification, in accordance with Rule 53.

    This rule, is of course, funny, because they go into so much detail about what you can’t use … and yet they fail to mention MMS. So technically, no problem sending pictures or video from the table, lol.

    Also funny because there’s no way this rule will stand any test of time. How many WSOPs from now will it be before watches, for example, or net-connected?

  10. Johnny Hughes

    The board comes 9,9 rag. Your collusion partner folded a nine. He vibrates your cheating ass. Now your 9 is the nuts as to kickers. The same as folks kicking under the table. The same with nut flushes.

    In the game of Hold ’em, one card can be important. It is goddamned rude to text or talk when two folks are tied up in a pot. I personally would like to shoot someone that talks on a cell while others are in a pot. Boom….

  11. brdpoker

    No disrespect intended but that’s probably the nittiest thing I’ve ever read. How often are you going to be in a game where the action is slow enough for you to be able to text someone, have them receive the text, and react to it? And where your partner just happens to have the case 9? I understand you’re talking about multiple situations, but it’s pointless to rely on technology when facial expressions or physical tells are easier and more reliable. Your cough or yawn won’t ever get lost in the intertubes.

    So if we can’t be texting or talking when others are in the pot… Are we supposed to just sit there and watch intently?

    Also… Doyle and Barry both have twitter accounts and post from their tables. You think they’re going to make Doyle get up and hobble away from the table on a crutch to go update his Twitter? If they don’t make him do it, they can’t really make anyone else do it either.

  12. Fred

    “Only when they reach the cash are players being told to put the iPhones/etc. away.”

    Yan Chen looked at his cell phone and actually took a call at the table when it was down to 3 players in the 2-7 tournament that Phil Ivey won. He said it was about his kid’s doctor appointment and Phil Ivey told the dealer to hold on and let him take the call. I have sympathy for the situation (if true), but either have a rule and enforce it or get rid of the rule.

  13. BJ Nemeth

    There’s a key difference between this rule in golf (and other sports) and poker. If golf has a rule about cellphones, it’s more about behavior than anything else. Golf isn’t a game of information.

    For everyone arguing the specific language, you need to remember one thing — Rules aren’t laws, and they shouldn’t be read as if they are. They are rules. Harrah’s can choose to enforce them or not whenever they’d like.

    The rulebook gives Harrah’s outs if they need an excuse to throw out somebody who is under suspicion of cheating/collusion. They can point to the rulebook and disqualify someone. But they aren’t going to do that randomly, saving it for the situations that really warrant it.

    Again, my understanding is that Twitter and text messages were specifically exempted from the rules by the Players Advisory Council and Jeffrey Pollack — it’s just not reflected in the rulebook. The first 10 days of the WSOP have shown that to be true.

    For those of you worried about players cheating via cellphone, your concerns are focused in the wrong place. That’s like driving home from a party drunk in a rainstorm, worried that you’ll get hit by lightning.

    Does anyone think Men the Master even knows how to send a text message?

  14. Short-Stacked Shamus

    BJ sez: “my understanding is that Twitter and text messages were specifically exempted from the rules by the Players Advisory Council and Jeffrey Pollack — it’s just not reflected in the rulebook.”

    Talk about “unwritten” rules in poker!

    If this is indeed the case that the “real” rule isn’t reflected in the rulebook, how “real” is the rulebook?

    (Doesn’t it seem like we have some version of this debate every summer — that there are certain rules/guidelines only some of the players/observers know about?)

  15. solestus

    “Rules aren’t laws, and they shouldn’t be read as if they are. They are rules. Harrah’s can choose to enforce them or not whenever they’d like.”

    Laws too are subject to arbitrary enforcement. Were it not for the selective choices of law enforcement, terms like DWB would not be in our lexicon. In the U.S., the due process clause of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution have been invoked to prevent it, but local, state and federal enforcement entities selectively enforce everything from municipal parking rules to federal banking regulations (see “Apparent Fed Crackdown on Online Poker Money Transfers,”, June 6, 2009).

  16. DanM

    ***Does anyone think Men the Master even knows how to send a text message?***

    I will take that action, based on this proof (taken in 2007) that he knows how to receive one.

  17. DanM

    Yet another rule (brought to my attention by Lance in BC->LV) that specifically addresses texting and, imo, handles concerns of those dismayed by the non-enforcement of 87 or 88:

    30 iv: Collusion includes, but is not limited to, acts such as: chip dumping; soft play; sharing card information with another player; sending or receiving signals from or to another player; the use of electronic communication with the intent to facilitate collusion; and any other act that Harrah’s and WSOP deem inappropriate.