Poker Ethics: Rathole

SliverOverlordSliverOverlord Red Chipper Posts: 323 ✭✭✭
edited February 2017 in General Concepts
Hey Red Chippers,
As I progress in my learning about the game, I've stumbled into ratholing. For anyone who doesn't know what it means, I believe it is when you cash out/leave a table (typically online) to take profits off the top, and rebuying with your usual stack. The two sites I play on won't allowing buying back in within 15-30 min, or force you to return to the table with the same stack size in cash games, but in Ignition's Zone poker, this is allowed.

A side note, this sounds like a strategy employed by short-stackers which in itself is arguably unethical. But is ratholing something that is considered to be unethical by other poker players?

Another side note, my reasoning for doing it would be doing so in a cash game which I don't know the strength of the players, or I believe the other deep stacked players are better than me, and I want to limit my losses in situations where they have more experience with (turns and rivers). Even against worse players, building a 300bb stack in a 100bb buyin, then losing it can be very tilting, and avoiding spots that could potentially end with me dropping 3 buyins+ is something that helps my bottom line.
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Comments

  • kerrizorkerrizor Red Chipper Posts: 70 ✭✭
    Yes, it is considered unethical, and is generally prohibited in live play. You are not allowed to take money of the table (except of course for like, tips or paying for a drink, that's reasonable..)

    Think of it this way; would you ever want to play against someone who only ever had a stack of 1BB in front of them?
  • SliverOverlordSliverOverlord Red Chipper Posts: 323 ✭✭✭
    @kerrizor In the situation you describe, In live and the situation you describe, it's very clear why the rule is in place. However in a situation that I described with the anonymous zone tables, am I not just exploiting an edge to minimize my losses?
  • kageykagey Red Chipper, KINGOFTAGS Posts: 2,241 ✭✭✭✭✭
    @SliverOverlord
    using a "hit and run" ploy online is often allowed, although I'm sure you can understand why it's bad etiquette. you're basically angling a system that has flaws. the fact that some sites enforce rules that prevent ratholing tells you that it's bad form.

    In live play (at least in my poker room) you can be banned for ratholing/ "going south" - which is taking chips out of play on purpose... especially after you've won a big pot.
    If you decide to take chips off the table, you must take ALL your chips off the table and you cannot return to the same type of game & stakes for 2 hours if you don't rebuy for the same amount you left with.

    It's considered bad etiquette because doing so prevents the losing player from having the opportunity to win his chips back. But you're free to leave anytime you want.
  • jeffncjeffnc Red Chipper Posts: 5,007 ✭✭✭✭✭
    IME, "ratholing" really means literally pocketing chips off of your stack at the table while continuing to play at that table. Yes, this is unethical. Not really unethical, more like cheating. It is simply prohibited everywhere I'm aware of. IMO it's part of poker that if you either win or lose chips, part of the skill of poker is being able to play with every different size stack you might find yourself with. Allowing someone to be a short stack specialist and literally start every hand with the exact same stack size would really cut down on the skill of poker - it would just change the game if people could "specialize" on their preferred stack size.

    With regard to a "hit and run", it depends on how you do it. Personally, online I think it's absolutely fine as long as the site allows it. I don't agree with @kagey in that just because some sites don't allow it means it's unethical. This is not at all difficult rule to enforce online, so if the site didn't want you to do it or felt it wasn't ethical or not in the best interests of their customers, they would simply not allow it. The fact that they allow it means that it's fine with that site, so it's fine for you. "Self enforcing" this rule for yourself online would be about on par with you thinking it's unethical to take more than 15 seconds to make a decision, so you always do it in less than 15 even if the site clock is 30 seconds on some sites and 15 seconds on others. Just my opinion.

    The same applies for live play. If the casino allows it, do it if it's to your advantage. If you don't like the fact that that is the casino rule, go play in a casino that has rules you prefer. But I think all casinos I've been in have a rule that if you leave a table to play the same stakes at another table, you have to take your full stack with you.
  • Doug HullDoug Hull RCP Coach Posts: 1,876 -
    I believe it is when you cash out/leave a table (typically online) to take profits off the top, and rebuying with your usual stack. The two sites I play on won't allowing buying back in within 15-30 min, or force you to return to the table with the same stack size in cash games, but in Ignition's Zone poker, this is allowed.

    A side note, this sounds like a strategy employed by short-stackers which in itself is arguably unethical. But is ratholing something that is considered to be unethical by other poker players?

    This is not ratholing, it is hit and run.

    Ethics do not come into this. It is a perfectly legitimate strategy of stack and bankroll management.

    Many people frown on this and think it is bad for the poker ecosystem. If the management of the site agrees with them, they can and do take counter-measures to stop the hit and run short stacks.

    The proper definition of ratholing is taking some (but not all) chips off an active stack at any point in a poker game. Taking them off in middle of hand is bad because it allows a player to get all-in protection at any point that he chooses.

    Taking chips off between hands in a math sense does not matter since each hand is independent. That said, it has long ago been decided that ratholing between hands is bad for the poker ecosystem and is universally disallowed.

    This makes sense, if you take it to an extreme, where people take off any chips above their original buy-in, you can see there would need to be a rebuy every hand or eventually, the table would be bankrupt.

    Should hit and run followed by rebuy be made against the rules? In zone poker, the table you left literally exists for one hand. So there is no real thing as ratholing versus that table. There is ratholing versus that player pool. The site could implement a rule against leaving and coming back, but they don't. I suspect it just does not matter that much. This is not angleshooting, unethical or anything like that, though I expect it would be unpopular among your opponents.

    Co-founder Red Chip Poker,
    Author Poker Plays You Can Use
    Author Poker Workbook for Math Geeks
  • persuadeopersuadeo Red Chipper Posts: 4,382 ✭✭✭✭✭
    There seems to be some confusion over Ratholing and Going South- start there.

    One is irritating, strategic, and a little pathetic, but only the other is unethical.
  • jeffncjeffnc Red Chipper Posts: 5,007 ✭✭✭✭✭
  • YoshYosh Red Chipper Posts: 580 ✭✭✭
    @persuadeo has it right.

    Ratholing is the classic hit and run. Win a big pot, tip your dealer, tip your hat, and hit the road. Your chips have gone "down the rathole" never to be seen again. It's not unethical, but also not very sporting.

    Going south is similar in that money is removed from the table, but in this case the player is brazen enough to hang around and keep playing.

    I don't know which I respect less.

  • jeffncjeffnc Red Chipper Posts: 5,007 ✭✭✭✭✭
    So you're saying rathole and hit and run are the same thing. Considering that that is perfectly within the rules, and going south is not, I would have to respect going south less.
  • persuadeopersuadeo Red Chipper Posts: 4,382 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Recent real life examples from my player pool:

    1. Ratholing: Sith, always dressed in black and who never says anything, is the rare actual semi-pro. He often short stacks and even when he doesn't, he tries to capture equity and protect his hand, rarely giving action or engaging in much post flop play. He adds nothing to the game. Whenever he plays in a bigger game and makes about 150 bbs, he mumbles something inaudible and leaves. Most assume he has to go, but if you follow him after the cage, you'll see him go to the desk and get on the list for the smallest game - he's cashiering his profits and starting over, with no one the wiser. Ratholing, in other words, is about degree and manner of leaving- and the observer's attitude toward the "ratholer."

    2. Hit and Run: Uncle Ted is a big loser and knows that wins, like mornings without his arthritis, are few and far between. He'll sit all day in the game and bleed off before saying "it's not my day" and everyone will say good bye to good old Uncle Ted. However, if some fish gives him action and doubles him up, even if it's in the first 15 minutes of play, even after driving thirty minutes to the casino, a mysterious call will occur, and he will regretfully have to leave. He's pulling a hit and run, and just like Sith, he's tucking away the money - yet no one would ever confuse good old Ted with a Ratholer.

    3. Drunk Steve loses track of his night and his money, so occasionally he will pull a whole fistful of reds and greens and try to stuff him in his pocket. It's useful when you have lost everything and you need one more beer or a taxi. When I'm doing my duty, I have to point out that this is unethical- you can't Go South. However, sometimes I let it slide for the good of the game, in an ethical quandary, whereas there is nothing I can say appropriately about Ted or Sith's behavior.
  • tfaziotfazio Red Chipper Posts: 819 ✭✭✭
    My local casino allows table changing and at the same time "going south" I have seen this at other casinos but it always annoys me to lose a pot to someone and have them move to another table a book the profit.
  • moishetreatsmoishetreats Red Chipper Posts: 1,819 ✭✭✭✭
    For the record, I have no problem with someone ratholing or hitting-and-running. First of all, it's allowed by the rules.

    Second, those players are usually doing it because they're playing beyond their skill level or bankroll. Over time, they'll be losing players at the higher levels. When they leave, I say as genuinely as possible, "Nice playing!" or "Nice hit on that hand!" I want them to come back.
  • Kyle SKyle S Red Chipper Posts: 8
    I wouldn't call it "ratholing", more along the "hit and run" (though there seems to be some debate about the terms here). Years ago, when I first started playing for real money–my second trip to the local cardroom, I was at a table where I was questioning where I stood against literally everyone at the table. I couldn't spot anyone particularly weak and I thought to myself, "If you can't spot the sucker in your first half hour at the table, then you are the sucker". I remember I was playing KT on the button and the flop came 9JQ rainbow. Ended up getting all in with 2 other players and tripled up (don't remember the turn or river, but I remember I finished with the nuts).

    I realized it was just luck and that I was severely outclassed at that table, so I stood up, cashed out, took a 20 min break, and bought into another table. I felt kind of bad taking their money and bolting, but looking back, I still don't think it was particularly unethical for me to do that. If I bought back into the same table, sure I believe I should buy in for the same amount I left with, but I requested a different table at the same stakes because I was no where near that table's league and knew there were better tables around.
  • RCP Coach - Fausto ValdezRCP Coach - Fausto Valdez RCP Coach Posts: 859 ✭✭✭✭
    both ratholing/ hit and run are both frowned upon for obvious reasons and an unethical behavior but at the end of the day its your money and within your right but don't expect any respect from this behavior especially in a live environment.

    more importantly @SliverOverlord you are lying to yourself and the progress of your game. This behaviour you are implementing does not help you grow as a poker player and creates a trend of bad behavior which will install other fearful behaviors into your game.

    unless your are literally gaining 50bb and running or gaining 50bb, then going south and leaving at any moment beyond that lost, all you will do is dip back into your pockets and put it back in the table. If its not now, it will be in the next session, then what ? your not gonna quit for the rest of your life are you ? it will eventually go back on the table

    improve your game and don't let fear or lack of knowledge be a hindrance to your game and growth as a player. buckle down, study and acquire the knowledge necessary to become a stronger more confident poker player. GL.
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  • SliverOverlordSliverOverlord Red Chipper Posts: 323 ✭✭✭
    @Faustovaldez123 , Hypothetically, What if the strategy I wish to employ is improving my play solely in short stacked scenarios? While this may not have as much edge as deep stacked play, I definitely think that people who focus solely on deep stacked play can have leaks in their shortstack play as well, in knowing exact ranges for stacking off. Could this not be an advantageous strategy to focus on and use in exploiting "better" player players?

    As of right now, I see a majority of people targeting deep stack play, and with my "don't follow the crowd mentality" I'm thinking that this could also open up an avenue for shallow stacked players to exploit smaller edges repeatedly against these players who openly don't pursue this alternate form of play. I understand that due to the way poker is, exploiting deep stacked mistakes has been shown to be more profitable, but as this market becomes saturated, would some people not stand to benefit my perfect short stack play? Or am I overthinking this.
  • RCP Coach - Fausto ValdezRCP Coach - Fausto Valdez RCP Coach Posts: 859 ✭✭✭✭
    @Faustovaldez123 , Hypothetically, What if the strategy I wish to employ is improving my play solely in short stacked scenarios? While this may not have as much edge as deep stacked play, I definitely think that people who focus solely on deep stacked play can have leaks in their shortstack play as well, in knowing exact ranges for stacking off. Could this not be an advantageous strategy to focus on and use in exploiting "better" player players?

    As of right now, I see a majority of people targeting deep stack play, and with my "don't follow the crowd mentality" I'm thinking that this could also open up an avenue for shallow stacked players to exploit smaller edges repeatedly against these players who openly don't pursue this alternate form of play. I understand that due to the way poker is, exploiting deep stacked mistakes has been shown to be more profitable, but as this market becomes saturated, would some people not stand to benefit my perfect short stack play? Or am I overthinking this.

    Your overthinking it, this is not a tournament where u benefit from learning how to play short stack and u dont gain an edge by playing short you just lessen the skill gap because there are less moves to be made.

    I like that you are trying to think outside the box but i promise this is not the right direction amd would not benefit you in cash games. Especially when ure trying to accumulate as much chips as possible. Also u cant practice short stack in cash games for tournaments because they play differently just incase you tell me that lol
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  • jeffncjeffnc Red Chipper Posts: 5,007 ✭✭✭✭✭
    There is one advantage to understanding how to play shortstack - some of your opponents will be playing that way - intentionally or not - so you better know what they're doing right and wrong.

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