Poker TDA Summit Finalizes Recommended Changes for Game’s Rules and Procedures

Poker’s Tournament Directors Association, or TDA, has wrapped up its biennial summit with a host of new recommendations and procedures that will likely become the law of the poker land — or at least those card rooms that are TDA member venues and employ the TDA’s recommendations

The just-completed two-day summit, which was held June 28-29, 2019 at the Aria in Las Vegas, offered debate and recommendations on literally dozens of topics where controversy can arise. For a complete list of topics and the newest poker rules recommendations, surf on over to the Poker TDA website and sample away. For a quick glimpse at many of the summit’s most important highlights, we recommendation scrolling through Dan Ross’s @holdemmedia account on Twitter.

The whole point of the TDA, which was founded by prominent tournament director Matt Savage and includes among its members and supporters most of the poker world’s most prominent TDs and poker rooms, is to provide a standardized framework for running poker tourneys while also putting forth best practices to combat cheating and/or angle shooting opportunities as they occur. The TDA also works to eliminate certain player practices that make the game less enjoyable to most players.

With that in mind, let’s touch on some of the most interesting recommendations to come out of the TDA summit:

Big-Blind Ante Considerations

With the big-blind ante tourney format continuing to sweep across the poker world, it’s little surprise that this was one of the key topics to be discussed. For instance, what should be put into the pot first, the ante or the blind? While some European TDs, notably Kenny Haellert, argued for the blinds to be posted first, out of a sense of being friendly to short-stacked players.

However, that was a minority opinion… and by a wide margin. Other TDs pointed out that it is long tradition that the antes precede everything else in games where they are part of the action. Johnny Grooms, who is one of the TDA’s directors, pointed out that the word “ante” quite literally means “before”, as in “antecedent”. An ante is best thought of as an entry fee, simply a part of the game, and so it quite rightly should be the considered the first of the two pre-action amounts the big blind pushes forward.

A couple of other BBA-related items still await consensus, however. First, there was extensive debate (but no final recommendation) to reduce the collective ante posted by the big blind in the very late stages of a tournament, when play is very short-handed. In these instances, the ante posted can become multiples of what the antes would amount to if posted individually.

Also, a new tactic that’s come up in connection with BBA play didn’t yet come up, but it just might in 2021. That’s the tactic of moving almost all in, particularly from the small blind or late-position seats. The tactic is designed to possibly hold back a chip or two from an all-in pot in case the bettor loses and is thus able to see most of another round of hands for free. The idea is to capture the blinds and antes for virtually nothing, then continue climbing back into the mix. The possibility is one of the unseen side effects that the big-blind ante format has created, and it may well need to be addressed in some manner down the road.

Face Covering to be Strongly Discouraged

Here’s one that’s near and dear to my heart. The TDA is recommending stronger actions to prevent the excessive hiding of one’s face behind scarves, sleeves, sweaters, hoodies, masks, sunglasses, and much more. Live poker is meant to be not played by unseen robots. Recently on Twitter, a player posted a photo of one of his table foes wearing a breathing mask or scarf, oversized sunglasses and a baseball cap pulled low, so that all that was visible of the other player was a little bit of cheek and ear.

It says here that such extreme covering up of one’s face should be banned. Scarf/mask or sunglasses, but not both. (I understand the health-issue argument that a small minority of players might be able to make regarding one or the other, but most of the players utilizing such disguises have no such health issues. The player in the photo posted on Twitter — and I haven’t been able to relocate it to link to it — was eventually identified as a tough Filipino player, Mike Takayama. No matter: the whole hiding-the-face thing has to be reined in, for the larger sake of poker.

And hell, why stop there? Let’s be brutally honest. Things such as Chris Vogelsang’s poker snood, for example, are among those face-hiders that should go right the fuck away.

A preponderance of TDA summit attendees appear to agree. The TDA has issued this recommendation: “Clothing or other accoutrements must not continuously obscure player identity or become a distraction to the game.”

Now, let’s see if TDA member rooms and directors have the guts to enforce this long-overdue recommendation in the face of the inevitable pushback that will accompany any such crackdown.

There’s lots, lots more, far too much to be detailed here, ranging from esoteric topics such as the proper stacking of chips to one of the generally more popular changes likely to come your way, that being dealers being instructed to call out amounts wagered while the hand is in action.

Overall, the TDA appears to have had a very constructive two days. Now it’s time to see how well the new recommendations can be implemented and how well received these changes will be the majority of players.


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