Every two years the Poker Tournament Directors Association (TDA) meets in Las Vegas to review their official tournament rules and make any changes they deem necessary. The TDA most recently met this past summer during the WSOP to conduct this biannual review.

Last month, the 2019 Rules were officially published. The TDA rule changes were generally minor, with only a couple of particular interest to the general player.

The most significant new rule regards player appearance. “Clothing or other accouterments must not continuously obscure player identity or become a distraction to the game. House standards will apply in the sole judgment of the TD.” In other words, no ski masks, disguises, or other attempts to hide behind a persona will be allowed. Now, I can’t say I have ever been in a situation where a player was trying to fully obscure their identity, but given the addition to the rules, it must be happening somewhere.

Another, more commonly occurring, rule change regards the creation of the final table. “9 and 8-handed events will combine from two tables of five players each to a 9-handed final table. 7 and 6-handed events will combine from two tables of four players each to a 7-handed final table.” I currently play at two different venues where play is generally 9 handed, but the final table is created once 10 players remain. This rule change would allow the final two tables to play evenly (five-handed each) before combining to a 9 player final table.

TDA Rules for Poker Tournaments

Another rule change involves the relatively new, yet widely accepted big blind ante format. “the big blind ante format (BBA) with ante-first calculation is recommended. Antes should not be reduced (including at the final table) as play progresses in the event.” This change actually unpacks to two new rules. First, short-stacked players who have less than a full bet in the big blind, should be considered to have put in their ante in before their big blind. Secondly, the big blind ante shall not be reduced in any situation. So the final table is recommended to continue the full big blind ante, even when only two or three players remain. Short-handed tables leading up to the final table shall also continue to pay the full BBA. Frankly, this rule is not currently followed in any of the venues where I play. I am very interested to see whether this rule change is adopted widely in the coming months.

The new TDA Rules also state that “Dealers should routinely announce non-all-in bet values as betting proceeds around the table. All-in bets will be counted only on request of the player currently facing action. ” There is often confusion around the table as to when the dealer should announce a bet count and when it must be requested by the player who is facing action. This rule makes it clear that when a player shoves out a stack of chips (short of an all in) the dealer should count and announce the size of that player’s bet.

There are a number of more minor procedural changes in the new edition of the TDA Rules. The TDA comments on who can call the clock, mobile device usage, fouled decks, and a number of other special situations. However, the rule changes above are the most significant and affect the widest number of situations. For those interested in reading all of the most recent TDA rules, you may find them here.

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