A Look at House Rules: Forced Raise, a.k.a. “The Rock”
Playing in your favorite poker game at your local poker room may not prepare you for all the personalities or game variations you’re going to experience when you begin exploring poker in other casinos around the world. We’re here to help.
While the title of this article could create the impression that we’re going to lead you through a strategy piece on how to play with someone who plays tighter than a bolt put on with a compression wrench using Loctite thread locker — in other words, it never moves once seated — in this case the “rock” means something quite different.
Rather than refer to a tight player, the “rock” we’re going to tell you about is the creation of an action junkie. All conditions must be met before it’s allowed in any live poker room, but some rooms will not allow it.
Here is how it works:
The “rock” is simple. It’s not a house established game format and in poker rooms that allow it, all players at the table must agree before it’s initiated. Once the table agrees, after the first pot is won the winner must set out an amount double the big blind (BB) as an automatic raise before the next hand. In some instances the required amount of chips will be rubber-banded together to form a “rock” which is placed out by the winner as the forced raise, with the “rock” always kept in the pot. When the pot is pushed, so is the “rock” and the winner automatically places the “rock” back in front of him or her, putting it back in action before the next hand begins.
Here’s an example from a $20/$40 fixed-limit hold’em game:
- Player A wins the first pot and sets out the “rock” from the button position, $40.
- The blinds are posted as usual by Player B — small blind (SB), $10, and Player C — BB, $20.
- Everyone playing the hand must come in with a $40 call which matches the “rock” but the action doesn’t end when everyone in action has called that amount.
- The “rock” player has the last option to raise. After the SB either calls $30 more or folds or raises, the action goes to the BB to call $20 more/fold/raise. Then the “rock” player has the option to raise the bet $20 more — the amount of the BB.
- The bet limit is unchanged, the maximum raise preflop is $20, and any player has the option to raise which could force the “rock” player to face a raise before the action gets to him or her. The “rock” is not counted as a raise toward the number of raises allowed on that round.
Here’s a tip to keep in mind: Before you take a seat in a game with the “rock,” know that the game is going to require your full attention just to survive the intense action. If you’re having a serious attack of “run good” and you have the bankroll to withstand the swings, this is the perfect game to pick up additional cash for your poker playing career. But the action created in a game with the “rock” in play can also burn out rapidly and you could find you have lost more than you want when it ends, leaving you with no chance to get your chips back. Be cautious about your first approach to this type of game because it is easy to call $20 more when everyone at the table has called and the pot odds are calling your name.
Keep in mind also that most casino poker rooms will not allow the “rock” as it has a tendency to burn the game out and send players to the rail early. A game that doesn’t keep a steady flow of players coming in isn’t good for the game or the poker room. All it takes is one player to disrupt the flow of a game played with the “rock” by refusing to play with it, in which case the game will revert back to normal.
Home games often are built around variances that aren’t considered in casino poker room rulebooks. Playing with a “rock” or in other formats that force action can be a very standard approach to a home game.
If your favorite home game has plenty of action, trying to introduce a variable like the “rock” could ruin it. You want to sit and play poker with your frenemies for hours on end, so to coin an old phrase, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”
Online poker only allows for a small blind and a big blind, with no “rocks” or “straddles” or the like. But action junkies can try “fast-fold” versions of poker such as Rush Poker at Full Tilt Poker, Zoom Poker at PokerStars, and the like to satisfy their needs.
The fast-fold games allow players to take a seat in a pool of players who are all playing the same limit and game format instead of at a single table. With each new hand dealt, you’re moved to a new table when you fold or the hand completes. When you hit “fold,” you are instantly moved to a new table and your opponents will not even know that you folded until the action comes to you. You have an option to click the fast-fold button as well, meaning even if you are on the button and would have normally had to wait until the action reached you to fold, you are immediately seated at a new table and dealt a new hand.
It’s easy to look at up to 200 hands an hour when you play in a fast-fold format. Multi-table some fast-fold games and you can really feed that action junkie hidden inside. Keep in mind also that while you’re feeding, you’re also stacking up significant player points and climbing tier levels in the player appreciation programs offered by online poker sites.