Ratholing chips: surreptitiously removing chips from your stack while still at the table

One of the basic tenets of fairness in a poker game is that you can’t remove money from the table until you get up.  You can (and should) count it all you want, but it’s got to stay on the table.  This gives the other players a chance to win it back from you. 

So most every casino has a rule that says, "You cannot remove chips from the table during the game."  I googled Party Poker’s rules as an example (see bottom of page).

So I’m sitting at a $6/$12 limit hold’em game at Lucky Chances, and this guy sits down at the table.  He drops three white chips ($100 each), four black chips ($20 each) and a rack of 100 green chips ($2 each) on the table to play.  He looks entirely disheveled and exhausted.  He’s got that look that near-full-time gamblers have where nobody cares how he dresses or grooms anymore, so he’s stopped caring.  His hair is long, teased out and a little wild.  He’s wearing some sort of faded tshirt and flip flops, and In a few days he’ll be entirely feral.

Turns out he just won a $2600 jackpot a few hours ago.  Instead of going home he’s table hopping and losing money.  For some reason I watch him carefully as he wins a big pot.  He’s a terrible player and likely to lose every last dollar the longer he stays.  He rakes in a big mess of green chips, and then I notice him take the $380 of big chips in his stack and put them in his pocket.  I struggle with the dealer, who’s English is awful, but get her to state the rule when she understands what I’m asking.  She tells him to take them out, and he pulls $320 out of his pocket and puts it back on the table.

Another player who knows him says he knows the rule, this isn’t some innocent mistake.  This becomes obvious over the next two hours when he does this 4 more times.  Every time he does this I say to him loudly, "Just get a table change and pocket the chips on your way to the new table if you want to take some money out."  He ignores me, either intentionally or because the concept is too much for his slightly drunken/high brain to handle.

I catch him doing it a second and third time before the dealer leaves and a new one pushes in.  Michael, one of my favorite dealers, sits down and has no trouble chiding him when he does it a fourth time and I catch him.  I call for the floorman in exasperation and he comes over and make him change out the remaining $200 chips for a rack of 100 green $2 chips.  He’s lost about $200 worth since he started this shenanigans, and it’s clear to me that as long as he stays here, he’s likely to lose the rest.

I say, "Ok, I doubt you can fit that entire rack of chips in your pocket so I’m happy."

Little do I know that when I run to the bathroom he will try it again.  When I return he’s taken the rack off the table and set it on a side table to change it back for two $100 chips.  The new dealer, a young Asian man who has good control of the players, corrects him.  Other players look at me, and say, "How could you have missed him taking a rack off the table?"   


Finally, Jackpot Guy loses some more and is down to only $150.  He picks up his rack and leaves table.  Sadly, very little of that money made it into my stack.