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Mucking Has Multiple Meanings

Author: Mark Pilarski

Dear Mark: I was catching up on my "required reading" and noticed your June 12 column regarding a poker irregularity. This reminded me of a question I had. Pick a game, any game. Ponder a situation where, in the last round of betting, I have bet and been called. I show my cards and my opponent mucks. Do I have a right to see their cards even though they have relinquished the pot? I might want to do this to learn more about how they play, or why they thought they had a winning hand. V. L.

The word “muck” is used one of two ways in poker. The collection of face down cards near the dealer composed of discards and folded hands is called the muck. In the verb form, "He didn't have any outs, so he mucked his hand."

In your scheme, because an opposing player called your bet, commonly, it is not a requisite for that player to show you his or her cards.

You may always inquire, but a most players will deny your inquiry, simply because the effect of someone’s playing style – bluff/semi-bluff/reasonable hand – when they call, then muck their cards, would give other's an insight into their game. Although many players think it’s poor gamesmanship if you don’t show your hand, others believe you should declare as little information possible. You want other players wondering whether you folded due to barely being beat, or because you never had a hand to begin with.

There are poker rooms in casinos that allow any player to see the mucked hand at the showdown. This statute was originally set up to avoid complicity. Also, if you're playing in a tournament, all cards will be shown, regardless of who went all in, or where the action is; flop, turn, or river.

In conclusion Van. Although both players do not have to reveal their hands in cash games in the majority of poker rooms across the US, there is unquestionably no definitive set of rules that are followed everywhere. Thus, house rules trump Hoyle.

Dear Mark: In poker, if you muck your hand, are your cards automatically dead? My poker group is 50/50 on this question. We await your response. G. R.

The "act" of mucking your hand does not cause a dead hand as a matter of course.

For most card games, whether in the friendly confines of your home, or in a card room, the rule is “cards speak.” Your poker hand is what it is, no matter how you call, miscall, or in certain instances, muck your cards.

Any vocal declaration as to the composition of a player’s hand, or mucking it, is not necessarily compulsory. If a player physically mucks their hand or verbally claims that their hand is unusable, but in fact had a straight, their cards speak, and their hand is viewed for its genuine appraisal. That is, Gordon, as long as the folded cards didn’t hit the muck pile or any other player’s card(s). If any card did, the dealer would justly rule their hand dead, and the thrower is automatically withdrawn from participation in the pot.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week:
“We would now like to acknowledge our American friends who account for about 80 per cent of the casinos' attendance. By emptying your pockets, you've helped pay down our debt and ease our taxes. We call that mighty neighborly.” – The Windsor Star (Canada)