Active Player

Poker Players in a Hand

by Jesse Knight


Active Poker Player
Active Player – A player who has a live hand.

An “active” player is any player who has been dealt in, and has not thrown his hand away or had his hand fouled, and therefore will have an opportunity to act on his hand. When the hand is initially dealt, all players who are dealt in are considered active players. As the hand progresses and players throw their hands away, the number of active players decreases. If nobody mucks after the flop, the number of active players will not decrease, but instead will remain the same. The number of active players can never increase during the course of play. Once a player throws their hand in the muck they are no longer considered active.

An active player is not the same thing as an “action player.” An “action” player is a player who bets and raises frequently. The have been dubbed an “action” player, because they create a lot of action. Alternatively, an “active” player is simply a player with a live hand. Of course, an action player (a gambler) can also be an active player (have a live hand).

To confuse matters, an “action player” and an “active player” can both be referred to as a “live” player. In fact, all three terms, “action,” “active,” and “live” are used in many different ways to describe many different things in the poker world. When you hear these terms you will sometimes have to evaluate the context they were used in, in order to understand their exact meaning. For example, a player can have an “active” hand, but can also be “active” betting. A player can be an action player, the betting in the game is often called the “action,” or a dealer can wait for a player’s “action.” Finally, a player can be “live” if they bet and raise a lot. They can hold “live” cards, or put chips into a “live” pot.

There are two ways a player can go from active status to non-active. The first way we covered, which was for the player to throw his hand away. The second way to lose your active status is to have your hand fouled. A fouled hand is dead and cannot play. It is often necessary to call the floorman to make the ruling at to whether the hand has indeed been fouled and will therefore be ruled dead. If the floorman rules that the hand is dead, the dealer must bring the hand into the muck to kill it.

An active player may have his hand fouled in any number of ways. There are numerous rules regarding the handling of cards in play, and many types of violation can lead to a hand being declared dead. Some blatant rule violations will obviously lead to dead hands. Others are less serious violations which may require the subjective opinion of the floorman. Some examples of rule violations which commonly lead to dead hands include: cards on the floor, cards touching the muck before or during showdown, hands containing too few or too many cards, walking away from the table while the hand is in play, and many others.

In addition to all the stated rules, the floorstaff all have the flexibility and maintain the right to make a ruling killing a player’s live hand if they feel it is in the best interest of the game. While floorstaff have that right, it is rarely used. They generally stick to the letter of the law. When they do make an irregular ruling, it is often to punish another player for attempting to cheat or act unethically.

When a player goes all in, they are still considered “active” or “live” for the pots that they have contributed to, and therefore can also win. Their hand would not be considered “live” for any additional pots created after they went all in. This is because they have no chips left and therefore can not contribute toward or win those pots.

Depending upon the house rules, the dealer may or may not announce the number of live players seeing the flop. These same house rules govern whether or not the dealer calls the post flop betting action. If required to, the dealer will state the number of players while displaying the flop. The purpose of this rule is to speed up the game and prevent player errors such as betting out of turn. Many clubs have implemented this rule because it does have the effect of speeding up the game, which in turn increases the collection in “drop” games. Some clubs either do not include or do not enforce this rule. This may be because management is unaware of the benefits of implementing this rule: smooth game play and increased drop. It may also be because management is philosophically opposed to babysitting the players.

Usage: Active betting and raising, Active Hand, Active Pot

Previous Poker Term: Action
Next Poker Term: Add-On


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