Especially at GPs, where the stakes are high, the chances that two players end up in a situation where it would be beneficial for them to commit Bribery or Improperly Determining a Winner are high as well.
If you would like more information about these two infractions, I wrote this article a while ago.
Be active, not passive
Since Bribery and Improperly Determining a Winner are infractions that can be identified even if the player was not aware that they did something illegal, it’s important that judges actively make sure to educate players about what their options are.
Obviously, there will be times where you will not be able to do it and the accountability remains on players no matter what. However, because we’re striving to make Magic a great environment for everybody, educating and teaching others can never hurt.
Noticing these situations
Here are some hints that you’re reaching such a situation:
• Players are in the extra turns
• It’s pretty clear the game will end up in a draw
• The pace slows down a bit
• Players start staring at each other.
These are signs that players will soon discuss about conceding.
Take control over the situation
This is the moment where you should actively step in and say something along the lines of:
Players, it seems you’re about to discuss about conceding. I would like to remind you what you can and cannot do :
• You cannot roll a die, flip a coin or use another random method to determine the winner.
• You cannot look at the top cards of your library either, but can reveal your respective hands.
• You cannot offer anything in exchange for a concession
• If you have questions about what you can or cannot say, you MUST do it away from the table
• Finally, I need you to speak in English, or to wait until a judge that speaks your language arrives [Thanks for the tip Ryan Brierley]
• Understood? Good, you can resume your discussion.
Having said this, you’re now certain that if players cross the line of Bribery, that’s their fault and you will not have to face this weird situation where an ignorant player commits a DQable offense.
Do not stick to statements like: You can choose to concede or not. By sticking to this, players may feel it’s time to add something to try to reach a decision, and this greatly increases the chances the situation will end up fairly badly.
Of course, you’re not here to make decisions instead of players or act as a counselor. You’re here to remind them about the rules as they are written and make sure they can make decisions with all the elements at hand.
More about Bribery
Questions must be asked away from the table
Players should ask their question about prize splits/offers away from the table.
Indeed, imagine a situation where a player says while seated at the table:
“Judge, can I offer my opponent 200$ so he concedes?”
Even if the player is speaking to the judge, it’s pretty obvious that the opponent was indirectly made an offer. That’s why you need to say players MUST ask these questions away from the table.
Note that a player making an offer within earshot of his opponent, even if he’s not directly talking to him, is committing Bribery and should be disqualified.
The reason is easy: we do not want players claiming they were talking to their neighbours or asking the question loudly to a judge standing a few meters away.
Note that this doesn’t apply to Improperly Determining a Winner.
It’s perfectly acceptable to ask a judge at the table what can be done and what can’t be done, as long as nothing is actually done (most notable looking at the top cards of the library).
Judge, what can I say?
There will likely be players who will ask you what they can and cannot say so as to “legally bribe” their opponent. After evaluating their first attempts at wording it (none of which usually works), I generally conclude with:
The general philosophy of Bribery is that’s it’s illegal to link an incentive and concession. Therefore, when we’ll be back at the table, you can say what you want but if at any point I believe you have linked your opponent’s concession (or yours) to any offer, you will have committed Bribery and will be disqualified. I’d strongly recommend you stay away from such grey area.