Um, I think that was your opening hand?

You are on the Deck Checks team at a Grand Prix. You have been assigned a table to perform a deck check on, and you are casually wandering around that area, watching the players at that table shuffle. Suddenly, “JUDGE!” There’s a judge call, and you’re standing less than five feet away, so you decide to take the judge call. Once you answer the player’s question, you return to your assigned table, only to find that the players have kept their opening seven-card hands and are waiting for the round to start.

“No matter,” you think to yourself. “I can still perform a deck check, as long as I keep their opening hands separate from their deck.” So when you take the decks and sideboards from the players, you carefully orient their opening hands so that they are perpendicular to the rest of the deck. You take the decks back to your deck check partner, hand one of them to her, and start checking yours.

Halfway through checking the deck, you suddenly realize… You didn’t tell your partner that those top cards were the player’s opening hand! You look up, and see her sorting those cards in with the rest of the deck. “NOOOOO,” you exclaim; “STOOOOPP!”

What do you do from here?

Judges, feel free to discuss this scenario here!

View Answer
Judges, thank you for all the insightful comments and thoughtful debate! Before I provide our solution, I would to highlight a few key points:

1. Unless you have a strong reason to check a specific table (e.g. a targeted deck check), don’t deck check a match after players have drawn their opening hand! Just find another table to check. While you may lose some time finding the new decklists, you prevent the confusion, embarrassment, and dissatisfaction associated with losing a player’s opening hand. (If you end up checking another table, remember to take their match slip as well so you know who you’re actually checking.)

2. Alert your HJ as soon as possible. This situation will probably result in upset players, and the HJ is best-equipped to handle it.

3. Other than the IPG’s general philosophy of “When a judge makes a mistake, he or she should acknowledge the mistake, apologize to the players, and fix it if it is not too late”, there is no prescribed solution to this scenario. The solutions presented are therefore simply the Knowledge Pool’s suggestions. As always, use your best judgement.

And now, our solution:

If possible, reconstruct the player’s opening hand. You may be able to rely on memory, or deduce the contents of the hand based on the way you sorted the cards. However, be very careful with this. Memory is a fragile mental construct, and may trick you into believing you have the correct cards. Make sure you are absolutely certain if you try this method. And even if you do, ask the players to verify their opening hands when you return their decks as a final safety check.

If you cannot correctly reconstruct the player’s opening hand, it’s time to inform the players and apologize. There are a couple of reasonable ways to proceed from here:

1. Explain to the players that you lost their opening hands, and instruct them to restart the game. You may want to use this solution because it is simple and neat – you don’t have to explain why one player may or may not be allowed to mulligan, and neither player feels that the mistake was directed at them specifically.

2. Explain to the players that you lost Nancy’s opening hand, and instruct Nancy to redraw a hand of seven cards. Tell the players that, because the situation and information have changed, they may choose to mulligan from here if they wish, even if they had already chosen to keep. You may want to use this solution because it preserves game as much as possible – Adam’s hand was not disrupted, so we should not try to fix his hand.

As you can see, there are merits to going with either solution. This is a “Significant and Exceptional” problem, which means our focus is no longer adhering to policy, but rather providing good customer service. Your solution should be based on what you think players will accept more willingly – there’s a good chance the players will be unhappy, let’s make sure they believe we tried our best to fix the mistake.