On Angle-Shooting in Sports

Or, you might call it, breaking unwritten rules.

But, even that doesn't sound right. When I think of unwritten rules, I think of baseball, where the unwritten rules are like "don't celebrate a home run too much while circling the bases."

That's different from angle-shooting (and it's also total BS, but that's an article for another day).

Angle-shooting is a poker term. It means to gain an unfair advantage in play by exploiting a situation not adequately addressed by the rules. Showboating around the bases doesn't change anything about the game.

The most famous angle shoot in poker is this one here:

If you can't or don't want to watch what went down, here is the gist:

Ivan Freitez has a full house on the river, and knows he has a pretty much unbeatable hand. So, he wants his opponent in the hand (Eugene Yanayt, who just has top pair) to commit as many chips as possible to the pot.

His opponent makes a modest bet, and Frietez says, "Raise — I MEAN CALL!"

Freitez, you see, knows that his first declaration (raise) must stand. He starts to defend himself by pointing to his lack of English skills, but this, of course, is a crock.

He's hoping that his opponent will believe he only wanted to call, and that that means his hand is not that strong and, since he must raise, Yanayt will re-raise him, whereupon Freitez can win a bigger pot than he would have otherwise, or even re-reraise Yanayt. That's his angle. Thus, the term "angle-shooting."

The floor is called (this is poker-ese for summoning the tournament director, who is something of a referee in situations like this).

The tournament director did all he could to make this situation right. He did compel Freitez to raise as per the rules, but specifically decreed he could only raise the minimum amount. More crucially, he warned Yanayt that FREITEZ HAS PULLED THIS STUNT BEFORE. He all but implored Yanayt to fold. Yanayt, however, called. The angle-shoot worked, at least modestly.

More recently, we've seen something of an angle-shoot in tennis. Did You Know? A served ball that hits your opponent or your opponent's racket before hitting anything else is considered "in" (actually, I think this is also true for all balls in play, not just serves, but in this context, the serve is what's important).

In a recent professional doubles match, on match point no less, a player seemingly intentionally thwacked his opponent in the near court, several feet away from where the serve would have been good and valid, to win the point and the match.

Here's women's star Jelena Ostapenko doing the same thing (choosing this is a visual example since the video is better):

As I wrote in a tennis fan forum about this, this is taking advantage of a scenario the rules makers clearly didn't anticipate.

When decreeing that a serve that hits an opponent's racket or body is essentially "in," they were not saying, "we want to make sure that doubles players that smack the shit out of their frontcourt opponent get rewarded for it."

Rather, that eventuality simply did not occur to them. So it paved the way for an angle-shoot.

I am against angle-shooting, but I concur that players following the letter of the law, if not the spirit, should not be punished for it. Rather, the rules need to updated to say, for example, a served ball that hits an opponent before hitting the ground is a fault, or a let.

This has me thinking about angle-shooting in other sports. The most obvious example I can think of is in basketball. I find it to be against the spirit of of the game to ever miss a shot on purpose. But, if you're at the line for two free throws with a second left and down three, you have no choice but to miss the second one and hope your teammates (or you) can get the rebound and put it back up in under a second.

Maybe I'm misremembering, but I think when I was a kid it was even worse, because you could just cannonball your second free throw against the backboard. Now, you at least have to hit the rim, but most players are good enough to do that while still missing, all the same.

That one is a little tougher to adjudicate. You could say that the ball is dead on missed free throws inside of 3 seconds or something, but that means the team at the line would have basically zero change of winning, and it would also incentivize the defense to foul.

For that matter, "fouling on purpose" at the end of the game to try to stop the clock and force your opponent to make free throws is an angle-shoot, it's just one we all accept because there's no satisfying solution for it and it has been that way forever.

For the record, in pro football, I don't think there should ever be a situation where gaining yards is bad for your team. This is why I am against making longer field goals worth more points. I don't want to see a receiver go down on purpose at the 33 so that the ensuing field goal will be over 50 yards and worth more points.

I concur that, while there are no situations where gaining yards is bad for your team, there are situations where scoring a touchdown is bad when doing so gives the ball back to your opponent, and kneeling short of the goal line will allow your team to run out the clock. Like with the free throws, however, I'm willing to live with that because I'm not sure what a good alternative would be.

What other sports angle-shoots are out there?

Leave a Comment

Featured Site