MGM’s Ending Of Cash Plays Policy At Live Poker Tables Is Probably An Overdue Change

March 16, 2015
MGM’s Ending Of Cash Plays Policy At Live Poker Tables Is Probably An Overdue Change

There is a longstanding tradition at poker tables across the world: Cash plays.

But this era could soon be a thing of the past.

MGM Resorts, whose properties feature some of poker’s most notable poker rooms including Aria and Bellagio, has announced players will no longer be able to use cash at the poker tables in lieu of casino chips.

The reason behind the policy change wasn’t given, but MGM could very well be the first of many casinos to adopt this new policy if the educated guesses prove correct.

As was first reported and discussed on, the new policy likely stems from the recent crackdown on anti-money laundering policies in casinos by the government.

This makes perfect sense, as the cash plays policy (particularly in high-limit games where over $1,000,000 could be on the table) certainly created a void in a casino’s ability to account for money changing hands.

Why ‘Cash Plays’ has been the rule in poker

There are two reasons poker players often have cash on the table. One has to do with poker’s rules, and the other has to do with the logistics of converting cash into chips in a card room.

Table stakes

Modern poker games are played under a rule called table stakes, which prevents people from betting others out of pots by simply wagering more money and assets (I’ll see your BMW and raise you my private island in the Caribbean), by preventing players from taking money out of their pocket in the middle of hand – this is a poker-specific rule.

For example, if you bet your final $25 chip at a blackjack table and are dealt two aces, you are perfectly within your rights to reach into your pocket and pull out another $25 (which the dealer will then convert into chips) and split your aces.

Despite what you see in old movies, this is not the case at a poker table.

One fairly obvious reason for this rule is to prevent players from gaming the system. One example of this would be if a player moved all-in for $500 and another player with $100 on the table declares themselves all-in for $100 when they have a mediocre hand, but quickly pulls another $400 out of their pocket if they’re holding the nuts.

Chip runners and cashier cages

Even under the best circumstances, if cash doesn’t play, and a player loses a big hand and needs to rebuy, they will likely miss several hands.

In these situations a player’s options are:

  1. Buy chips from the dealer’s rack, which is not always an option based on house rules or availability of chips.
  2. Leave the table and walk to the cashier cage and purchase chips.
  3. Or, have a chip-runner (if available) bring chips to the table for purchase.

In scenario one a player would be able to continue playing without missing a hand, otherwise they will miss at least several hands.

Because of this, casinos have allowed poker players to place cash on the table in addition to, or in lieu of, their chips (provided they don’t exceed the maximum buy-in for the game).

In order to not miss any hands, poker players have relied on the “Cash Plays” rule, and simply tucked a couple one-hundred-dollar-bills under their stack, or in the case of ultra-high-stakes players, placed any number of banded bundles of $50,000 on the table.

What impact will it have?

The key for MGM, and any other casino thinking about adopting this rule, is to keep the dealer tray well stocked, so players can quickly purchase chips in-game without missing hands.

This new policy could also lead to players adopting the strategy of purchasing additional, higher denomination chips when they first sit in a game and leaving them in their pocket, or other standard protocols being adopted by casinos and regular poker players.

While change is always viewed with a skeptical eye by poker players, as many longtime 2+2 posters stated this rule change was perhaps long overdue, and should help protect tourists in town from potential angle-shooters who misrepresent the number of $100 bills they have on the table.

Photo by Arina P Habich /

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