As I routinely do, I spent last night hosting the final table of the Cake Poker $100,000 Guaranteed Sunday evening tournament. It was the usual mix of raise-and-take-it, steely bets on the turn, and strong river calls, combined with the spice that only a one-outer on the river can provide.
All was going smoothly until we got down to heads-up. Then, we had one of those events that you just hope and pray doesn’t happen on your watch: one of the players disconnected and never came back.
For a few agonizing minutes, the railbirds and I watched as the player’s stack eroded. The blinds had just gone up and he had about 16 big blinds – not a “comfortable” stack necessarily, but certainly one with which he could play some poker. Unfortunately, he never got the chance. Finally he was literally blinded out of the event. Yes, he got about $18,000 for 2nd place, but he missed a shot at $25K and change for 1st.
Before we go on from here, there are a couple of questions that are begged by this scenario – let me address them first.
Question #1: Does the site have an obligation to stop the action and wait for the disconnected player to return?
Definitely not. Each player is responsible for his or her own Internet connection – this has been established throughout the history of online poker and is codified in the Terms of Service of every online site of which I’m aware (including mine – Cake Poker).
So in fact, our obligation is to the player(s) who is/are still connected. Obviously, in the case of some kind of mass-disconnect, it’s a different situation. This incident was just the one player who disconnected.
Question #2: Does the remaining player (or players) have an obligation to sit out and let the blinds just pass around for some period of time, giving the disconnected player a chance to get back?
I believe this one is a matter of personal choice. If it were me and we were heads-up, I’d probably sit out for just a few (five?) minutes to see if my opponent had a Plan B or could get back online. But I certainly consider this to be a personal decision; a player who chooses to raise every hand and collect the blinds is well within his right to do so.
So with all that said, I want to get to the key point of my discussion here:
If you play serious online poker, and particularly if you play tournaments in which serious money is involved at the final table, have a Plan B for if your Internet connection drops.
Serious tournament grinders worked this out long ago, and I sure wish that the guy who came in 2nd place that night had had a Plan B. Here are some possible options:
– A neighbor on whose WiFi you can reliably poach. This is, of course, useless if (e.g.) the entire block loses Internet. That very scenario has happened to me twice in the last year.
– A USB dongle that gets you Internet over the cell phone network. Not the fastest connection in the world, but plenty fast to finish out a handful of MTTs.
– A second dedicated ISP in your home. This is a bit over-the-top (and does you no good if you have a power outage) but you’d be far from the first online poker grinder to have this back-up system.
– A list of trusted friends you can call and ask to cover for you on your account in an emergency. Now, I realize that this treads near the edges of some sites’ Terms of Service. But speaking as somebody who would be intimately involved in making those decisions at Cake Poker, if I thought you had legitimately lost Internet access and the only way your account would be played was if your friend took over, I’d be okay with that. Should your situation come down to that, expect to have some questions asked and be forthright with your answers. But answering those questions is a lot better than letting your stack (and chances of winning the tournament) be blinded away.
Ever since I got involved in “serious poker” over 20 years ago, I’ve had a love of the pastime. The strategy, tactics, and psychology, all sitting on a constant swirl of randomness created by a deck of cards. It’s got everything a game needs. So it makes me sad when a poker game or tournament is settled by a rules loophole, an angle shot, or (as happened in this case) a technical glitch.
If you’re involved in online poker for serious money, please protect yourself and know what you’re going to do if you lose your Internet connection at a crucial juncture.
Lee Jonesis the cardroom manager of Cake Pokerand has been in the online poker business for over six years. He is also the author of Winning Low Limit Hold’em, which has been in publication for over 15 years.
More Articles by Lee Jones
The Game Selection Dilemma May 10, 2010
The Book That Needs to be Written Mar 24, 2010
Don’t Fear Chinese Gold Farmers Dec 21, 2009
Thoughts from the 2009 WSOP Final Table Nov 23, 2009
Home Games are Better Than Casino Games Nov 07, 2009
Pretend It’s a Bank Sep 14, 2009
This, Too, Shall Pass Aug 27, 2009
The Arc of a Home Game Jul 14, 2009
Getting What You Want from an Online Poker Site Jun 21, 2009