One of the most controversial actions that can happen in a poker game is the declaration of a dead hand by the dealer or croupier. It raises a lot of suspicions and numerous complaints are raised by players who suffer the decision of the dead hand declaration.

To better understand what it is and when it can be declared, we will delve into the factors that influence the dealer to consider its declaration, what role the rules play in this regard and whether its effects can be reversed in the event of an error during the game.

What is a dead hand and why does it happen?

Every game is based on a certain regulation, and it is the one that defines all aspects related to the game. Let’s start at the beginning: every casino can have its own rules, just as every tournament can have its own set of poker rules. As it happens with laws, ignorance of them does not exempt from their compliance and it is necessary to know the regulations in order not to fall into attitudes constituting a sanction.

Realistically, there are few players who take a look at all the rules that are part of the regulations, and this always leads to misunderstanding or makes the player think that a certain attitude could not have been punishable, when in fact it has been.

The dead hand is an action by which the dealer declares the action of a certain hand null and void. It does not have as much presence in the online side as in the face-to-face side, being especially present in amateur competitions or in mid-level tournaments, where players are at tables with clear rules but where impulses prevail and there is a greater margin of error, given the informality of the situation.

In almost all cases, there has been an infraction or an action indicated in the rules as an infraction that gives the dealer the power to declare it null and void. What usually happens is that, due to ignorance of the rules, the player makes a certain action without knowing that he is incurring in a punishable act, which does not exempt him from having to comply with the penalty; in this case, suffering the nullity of his hand.

We have commented many times that the dynamics of online poker are very different from those of face-to-face poker, and there is no greater exponent than the declaration of the dead hand. It is not so much that in the digital variant of poker there are no regulations, but that in face-to-face poker certain actions are penalized more than in online poker they are regulated by themselves.

When can a dealer declare a hand dead?

There are several cases in which the dealer can declare the hand dead or can kill a player’s hand without warning. They seem somewhat surreal situations, but they happen much more often than it may seem, and most of the time because of mistakes or oversights.

Automatic withdrawal from the game

A simple mispronunciation can cause the dealer to kill your hand. It’s that simple, and that sad. If a player makes a mistake pronouncing the fold and continues betting despite having folded, the hand will be declared dead. In poker there is a maxim that the word always prevails over the physical action, and no distinction is made, even though it may have been a mistake. In addition, you will lose all the chips wagered at that moment, so be clear in your indications.

Throwing cards forward or shuffling them by mistake

An action penalized by a dead hand declaration is the throwing of cards. Even if you are in the middle of a bet, when cards are thrown forward the dealer declares the hand dead.

It is an action that is sometimes done when all is lost, as a sign of defeat, but the dead hand is still declared so that the player is aware of his penalty.

Also beware of shuffling cards. Even if it happens during a bet, if the cards are mixed with those of another player, the dealer may declare the hand dead, so be careful where you leave them.

Be careful with the number of cards

It doesn’t usually happen, but dealers are people and, as such, they can sometimes make mistakes. If the number of cards is exceeded, if a Joker escapes, or if you have any other type of card considered illegal, the dealer may declare the hand dead.

Although an error may have occurred, it is elementary that the player knows that there is no possibility of returning his chips if he has any in play. This is what is usually stipulated in the rules.

Exceeding the time during the turn

There is always a reasonable amount of time to think, but when a player usually goes more than 120 seconds without taking any action during his turn, the dealer usually notifies the table supervisor or the director of the competition to inform him of the situation.

Should this occur, the supervisor will advise the player that he has 60 seconds to act. It is normal for a countdown to be made aloud when 10 seconds remain, so that the player knows he is running out of time.

If no action has been taken at zero, the dealer will declare the player’s hand dead.

Picking up cards by mistake

It happens more than it may seem, and it’s a real bummer. The cards must always be protected by an object: a glass, a chip, a card holder or the player’s own hands, so that the dealer does not pick them up by mistake. In addition, they must always be behind the safety line of the table to avoid confusion, but in case the dealer picks them up by mistake, the hand will be considered a dead hand.

The most dangerous positions in this regard are those just to the left and right sides of the dealer, the most prone to neglect the cards and where the dealer can more easily pick up by mistake the cards of an active player.

Normally, the affected player will lose all the chips he had in play at that moment, although he could recover them in case no player has yet called or raised his bet.

Making deceptive gestures

There is a difference between making a false bluff and bluffing and inciting enemies to bluff. For example, if a player makes a bluffing gesture and thereby causes other players to bet or fold their cards, the dealer may declare the hand dead.

This is also not exactly what is known as collusion, a fraudulent technique that consists of playing in cahoots with other players at the table undercover to go against a specific opponent at the table.

Tips to prevent the dealer from declaring the hand dead

There are several things you can do to cover your back and prevent the dealer from declaring your hand dead. A very useful and quick compendium is provided below:

1.- Read the rules. It is essential that you know the rules of the tournament or the place that acts as host, and to avoid future confusion it is ideal that you know which actions are allowed and which are not.

Always try to clear up any doubts before the competition starts, since participation implies acceptance of the rules.

2.- Protect your cards. The cards must always be protected. It is very nice to see in the movies how they protect the cards with chips and so on, but they do it for a reason: in poker the cards that have an object on them, no matter how small, are not picked up by the dealer. This way they make sure that there are no mistakes.

3.- Don’t throw the cards. Have you ever wondered why poker players often throw the cards against the table with such a cocky pose? It is not cockiness, it is security. It is forbidden to throw the cards, even slightly on an unsafe area of the table, and the only way to throw them with effusiveness without running the risk of a dead hand is to do it against the table, without the cards moving.

4.- Do not uncover them too soon. Never be overconfident and always keep the cards covered. Uncovering them before the hour will automatically eliminate you from the game in a figurative sense because it will deprive you of any possibility. Don’t let them fool you and don’t uncover them until it’s your final turn.