This question has been coming up recently, and I think it is a byproduct of our new High Hand bonuses.
(Note: A hand does not have to go to the river for a player to receive a High Hand bonus. See our Scoring page. The tracking of high hands is intended to be primarily just a fun way to track and acknowledge those high hands. We are not looking for reasons to withhold the bonus, nor do we want to discourage players from trying to get paid when they make a big hand. Even if everyone folds on the flop, if a player has one of the High Hands and shows it, that player should receive the bonus.)
In any case, this post is about the “betting the nuts on the river” rule.
That’s a rule, right? We’ve heard about it, we’ve seen it applied on TV, and we even heard the TD at BPO in Vegas make a point of it before the tournament began.
Let’s read the rule together. Here is a link to the Poker TDA rules….
Wait, what? It isn’t in there.
What we do find is a rule against “soft play,” because soft play is a form of collusion. And that is where the “must bet the nuts” thing comes from.
The soft play rule is almost universally interpreted to mean that you must bet or raise with the nuts when closing the action on the river. Note, this only applies on the river, and only when you are last to act. (There would be many situations where you are more likely to extract value by checking to induce a bluff. It would be silly to forbid a player from doing that.)
As for our bar poker league, we are not going to be punishing players for checking behind or flat-calling a bet with the nuts on the river. In some cases, a player may not realize that they have the nuts. And some players just don’t even think about raising. It isn’t soft play, necessarily, it could just be (forgive me) bad poker.
In the interest of being a fun poker league while simultaneously respecting the rules of the game, and trying to insure that our players will be casino-ready if that is of interest to them, anytime this situation comes up it should be pointed out and explained. Players should be learning how to play better poker and how to not incur a penalty in a casino someday.
And Just in Case You Still Think it is a Rule…
It isn’t a rule and never was, says the founder of the Poker TDA.