Acting Out of Turn – Betting, Raising, or Folding

Poker acting out of turn green signalActing out of turn is obviously not something you want to do in a live poker game. Mistakes happen though, and there should be rules to follow when there’s a situation like this. In my experience the rules for betting out of turn will vary from room to room. It’s best to ask some questions if this happens so you can make an informed decision based on the rules of the poker room you are playing.

That being said, most poker rooms will abide by TDA rules (Tournament Directors Association). However don’t assume that they do follow TDA rules. The best thing to do in my opinion is to ask the floor what the ruling is. Be specific and ask them, “What happens if I check? – if I bet? – if I raise ?” This will make it easier for you to make the correct decision.

The following is taken directly from the poker TDA rules site – 2013 Rules Version 1.1, Released Aug. 11, 2013:

38:  Action Out of Turn (OOT)

A: Action out of turn is subject to penalty and is binding if the action to the OOT player has not changed.  A check, call or fold does not change action. If action changes, the OOT bet is not binding and is returned to the OOT player who has all options including: calling, raising, or folding. An OOT fold is binding.

B: A player skipped by OOT action must defend his right to act. If there is reasonable time and the skipped player has not spoken up by the time substantial action (Rule 35) OOT occurs to his left, the OOT action is binding. The floor will be called to render a decision on how to treat the skipped hand.

What Does Acting Out of Turn Mean?

So what exactly does this mean? The easiest way is for me to illustrate in an example.

In a recent WPT final table, heads up, at the Venice Grand Prix in Italy there was such a situation where knowing the rules and asking the right questions would have gained you some chips. It was heads up with Rocco Palumbo and Marcello Montagner. This is what went down on the river.

The board read Kc 6d 7c 8d 4s and there was 530K in the pot. Montagner, who was last to act on the river bet out of turn 100K holding 9c 8h. Palumbo was holding the winning straight with 6h 5c. Palumbo decided to bet out 400K. Since the action to the OOT player had changed now with that 400K bet Montagner was allowed to take back his 100K bet and allowed to call, raise or fold. Montagner threw his hand into the muck.

If Palumbo had taken the time to think about this and ask the floor the right questions he may have instead opted to check raise in this situation. If Palumbo had checked this then Montagner’s 100K bet would stand since there was no change in the action. Then Palumbo would have the chance to fold, call, or raise the bet! This would have at least guaranteed him an extra 100K in chips.

Another example I have is one that I had while playing at The Orleans Casino. I was first to act on the river in a 4 way pot, and I had not done anything yet, but 2nd, 3rd, and 4th person check behind me quickly. I was not sure of the ruling so I called the floor person down to verify and he told me that the hand is over and I would not have a chance to bet. Initially I had thought about betting the river as a bluff, but that opportunity was taken away from me. I thought if this was true then it can be exploited by starting a checking train out of turn in order to hold off a bet on the river. It seemed strange to me that this was a normal ruling, but after reading the TDA rules I see that it is actually a standard ruling.

Let’s look at it a bit more closely. In my hand it is relevant to check out rule 38 B and then refer to rule 35 as taken from

35:  Substantial Action

Substantial Action is either: A) any two actions in turn, at least one of which puts chips in the pot (i.e. any 2 actions except 2 checks or 2 folds); OR B) any combination of three actions in turn (check, bet, raise, call, or fold). See also Rules 34 and 38.

From this rule I can understand that the 3 checks out of turn behind me on the river falls into the “combination of three actions in turn” Since I must “defend my right to act” otherwise the out of turn action is binding. My problem with this is that I did not have “reasonable time” to act before there was substantial action to my left. The players quickly checked one after the other and I had no time to stop it.

In the end though, the floor should have been called down to make a decision on how my skipped hand could be played, and they ruled that it would be played as if I had checked and asked me to showdown my hand. I lost the hand, but a person to my left said, “hey the rule saved you some chips this time.” I’m not sure if that’s true and whether or not one of them would have called my river bet, but I did learn something new in a situation that I had not been in before, and this has made me more alert to out of turn action behind me.

Angle Shooters and Cheating

The reason why these rules are in place is because they want to avoid people who are purposely acting out of turn to angle shoot. Intentional angle shooters will be punished if they act out of turn to gain an advantage. The poker rooms will not tolerate this behavior. Usually an angle shooter will raise out of turn in order to gain information. Raising will give the angle shooter the most information since they can now see the others reactions to the raise whereas a call or check would not get such a reaction. Angle shooting is frowned upon, and the rooms will kick you out for repeat offenses.

In conclusion, it’s easiest to remember that in most casinos acting out of turn is binding, as long as the action before it does not change. Even still, there are casinos out there that run on different rules so the best thing to do when this happens is to call the floor and ask for a ruling. This way you will know what the rule is for sure, and have that for future reference.


Image courtesy of Benny Mazur on Flickr

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