A Look at House Rules: The Fouled Deck
What if you’re playing at your favorite card room and look down to see a pair of black aces? Hello, baby! You’re ready to get this show on the road after having waited for hours to pick up a hand, and you know your chips are going into the pot!
You’re ready to shove but just before you pull the trigger, you stop to take a second look because you know you’ve occasionally mistaken a four for an ace when you’ve been playing for a number of hours. So you look again...
Yikes! You have two black aces all right, but both of them are spades!
You just got the slow roll of running bad because two players in front of you went all in and you were ready to help them get felted. What should you do?
Alas, there’s only one thing to do: You must stop the game and have the dealer call the floor person.
The unethical approach would be to try to win the pot without having to go to showdown even though you know you’re playing with a fouled deck. But even that won’t work in this scenario because you have opponents all in and you’re going to be forced to show your hand. P-S-S-S-T! Don’t be a low life and try to pull something like that off! Keep your own integrity intact and play the game the way it’s meant to be played — even if you’re buried.
What would happen if you tried to run your hand through without an all-in player? You might pull it off, but you would have jeopardized both the integrity of the game and your chip stack at the same time. If it’s discovered that you played a fouled hand through to the end, your hand will be declared dead and all of the chips you put into the pot will be distributed evenly to the other players in the hand.
House rules require players to turn up a winning hand to claim the pot when all bets are called on the last card. The best policy, then, is always to check your hole cards and make sure your hand is valid before the start of the hand.
Once it’s discovered that a deck is fouled, the hand is declared a misdeal, the deck is removed, and any money put into the pot is returned to players. Even in a hand with massive action the bets will be sorted and returned, and in button games the button remains in the same position for the next hand.
What constitutes a fouled deck?
- A deck that has duplicate cards.
- A deck that has too few or too many cards.
- A deck that includes cards with different colored backs.
- A deck that includes a joker in games that are played without a joker.
- A deck that includes any marked card(s).
Incidentally, if your favorite card room uses shuffle machines at the tables, it’s not possible for a deck to have too few or too many cards due to the mechanics of the machine. The machine will notify the dealer with an error light if the deck is “light” or “heavy” whereas there is no such check in place when decks are shuffled by hand.
If you’ve been playing for hours with the same deck and it’s discovered there are two cards of the same suit and rank, the discovery only affects the current hand. Do not expect management to refund your losses for the last few hours due to a fouled deck. Any ruling regarding the fouled deck is restricted to that hand only and management will correct the issue by returning all bets to the players who were in action.
Some years ago I made five-of-a-kind in a friendly little $4-$8-$8 fixed-limit hold’em game (thanks to a fouled deck, of course). Rereading my post about the hand titled “Bad beat, schmad beat” brought a smile; perhaps you’ll enjoy the tale, also.
When something like that happens, all you can do is accept it and get ready for the next hand — or take a break and come back another day.
A fouled deck may be much more common in a home game for the simple reason that in most home games the dealing is done by the players. Since most players are not dealers, shuffling may be sloppy, deck handling could expose cards, and everyone is there to have a good time, so expect very little focus to be put on deck handling and tracking cards.
In some home games the wear spots are so numerous on decks that one could never use those marks as a guideline to knowing which card is which. Spotting a marked card could be very difficult, but keep your eyes open just in case someone in your group left his or her integrity at home.
You can help keep game integrity intact by counting down the deck when it’s your turn to deal. It’s easy!
If you’re playing hold’em with 10 players, at the end of the hand you have 20 hole cards, three burn cards, and five board cards in play. So 28 cards have been dealt, and there should be 24 cards left on the stub if the deck is correct. Obviously verifying there are no doubles of a suit or denomination takes a few minutes longer, but if you find a card on the floor or under a chip rack, it’s time to run the deck down and make sure everything’s in order.
If your home game has a different solution for handling a fouled deck than those mentioned for casino poker room play, we’d love to hear from you in the comment section.
Is it possible to have a fouled deck in online poker? There have been rare instances of a “glitch” making it appear two identical cards have been dealt among the community cards or in someone’s hand, but such is extremely uncommon. Online poker room software is always under a microscope, being scrutinized closely by the teams that create and develop it and by the players who spend hours at the tables.
It is our thought that fouled decks aren’t going to be encountered when playing online. However, if you ever run across a fouled deck in online poker, please send us a screenshot to firstname.lastname@example.org and explain the details in your email.