The Difference Between Rule Sharking, and Knowing the Rules

Hey all, so for those of you completely unfamiliar with who I am, my name is Evan Russo. I host and produce the YouTube channel “Epic Duel Time” and am an avid YuGiOh player and judge. I began playing fairly competitively and at regular tournaments in early 2010, having only previously played casually and infrequently since the game was first released.

Since my entrance into competitive play, I have developed a great interest in judging and tournament policies, as I found that a surprising amount of players are completely unaware of when to call over a judge, and even how to communicate game issues properly! One of the largest issues I see is the trend of players who, when corrected, accuse opponents and judges of being a “rule shark.”  I firmly believe that this term is not only overused, it is seldom used properly. There is an enormous difference between not knowing the rules, and being corrected, and being a rule shark.

Not knowing the rules is not an excuse for playing without them, and simply because a player follows the rules well, does not make them a rule shark. A player should always at any given time attempt to follow the rules as closely as possible. The game of Scrabble drastically changes if I have a dictionary in front of me, and the game of YuGiOh changes when one take its rules as “suggestions” as well. The rules are rules. If you dislike them, I would recommend another card game. If I don’t like Monopoly’s rules it does not mean I burn down my opponent’s hotels and throw the thimble at their eye, it just means I play Life or Guess Who instead.

As a registered and fairly established judge in my area, I’d like to think I have a strong background in this card game and strive to achieve accuracy in every ruling I know. In short: I like knowing the right things, not just the things that will help me.

On one particular event, I witnessed a player attack with a monster and his opponent used Call of the Haunted which then changed the amount of monsters on field causing a replay. The opponent opted not to use the original attacking monster and switched to a different one and then after the attack, tried to use the first one to attack again. For players who recognize this issue, the turn player was unaware of the replay that occurred when the opposing monster was summoned and that the turn player must either continue the attack, or not use that monster’s attack at all that turn. The player’s opponent was aware of the rule and pointed it out and the turn player, frustrated, accused him of rule sharking.

Let us set a couple definitions:

Rule: a principle or regulation governing conduct, action, procedure, arrangement

Rule sharking: "Attempting to force an extreme rule or policy on an opponent who has made a small and repairable error."

There is no penalty against what he did; he simply can’t do it. The “replay” rule is a fairly old rule and has been around for a very longtime, if not since the beginning. So we have a choice here, ignore the rule and give one player an extreme advantage, or enforce the rule and say “better luck next time.” You will find that the more educated player you are, the fewer times you walk into screwing yourself on a rule/ruling. You don’t ignore a rule because you did not know, and you don’t go back because you forgot and you would not have done that if you actually knew. I have never seen a contestant get a second chance on Jeopardy after the answer was read! You might say: “Well why can’t the players go back to when the replay occurred to allow the player to perform the proper move?” And my answer is: He never made an illegal play until he attacked with the 1st monster again after the replay. Rule sharking is only really for exposing repairable errors in order to get a penalty. Not knowing you can’t attack with your monster if you chose not to attack at the replay is not an illegal move, it’s just bad knowledge, and that doesn’t exactly call for rewinding the game state. If I normal summon twice by accident, I don’t get to say “Oh then I would have used my 2nd monster as the first one.” NO! The first monster was my normal summon. End of story.

What is an example of rule sharking? You have several foreign cards located in your main deck, and have translations for most of them. You activate a copy of “Trou Noir” (Dark Hole in French). Your opponent now demands to see a translation. You might think “IT’S F***IN DARK HOLE YOU FOOL” however, that would be unsportsmanlike….and a poor choice of words. You do need a translation, but does your lack of translation impact the game state especially when your opponent likely runs the card as well? Not quite. Calling over a judge to get you a game loss is considered rule sharking and could actually lead to penalties for them as well. The judge, however, could easily identify and explain the card as Dark Hole, and is within their right to give both you and your opponent a game warning. You, for the lack of translation (better bring a common or a picture next time) and your opponent, for in short, being an asshole and wasting the judge’s time.

Here’s a foggier example. If my opponent draws a card by accident, the judge penalty documents state he would simply get a game warning and would put the exact card back. Calling over a judge to nail them for it is sharking since the mistake was entirely accidental. How do I know what card it was? When he drew, he added it to the far right of his hand and is still there. It does not get shuffled back because then that would change what he was supposed to draw. We must minimize the amount of damage done to the game state on this issue.

Here’s where we complicate this: I like my opponent. He seems like a nice guy. However, I don’t know this for fact whatsoever. So what happens if he draws the card accidentally and shuffles his hand quickly? Now the game state is no longer repairable. Neither player can prove 100% what card he drew, no matter how honest he looks. Well should I trust my opponent and not call him on it? Should I let him keep the Gorz he supposedly “had in hand” or the Kabazauls he really just drew? The official penalty for creating an irreparable game state is a game loss. Period. Adding a card to your hand and not being able to prove it IS in fact what you drew accidentally is cause for a game loss. Now is that rule-sharking? Well that is up to you to decide. Do you want them to keep the Gorz they drew, or the Kabazauls they say they drew? It’s not ideal and in YuGiOh, you’d hope beyond anything else that your opponent wouldn’t attempt to cheat you but you can’t exactly prove that. This is where your opponent has put you in a position you obviously don’t want to be in, but at the end of the day, you need to look out for your own interests. Thus far, you’ve played an honest game, and more importantly, it wasn’t your mistake. Your opponent however has made a large error in rules, but also might be making an error of integrity as well. This is where you call the judge and explain the situation. A judge familiarized with Tournament Policy will most likely rule an irreparable game state and a game loss would be placed on the offending player.

Wait, you just got someone a game loss for a technicality! What a rule shark! Well, let us say your opponent WAS trying to cheat you. Are you really meek enough to allow them to do that? A more extreme example: a stranger puts their hand in your back pocket and takes your wallet out and you witness him doing it. Was he trying to examine your wallet because he’s in the market and looking for a new style, or is he trying to steal it? Obviously this is an extreme example but you cannot sit across the table from your opponent and assume the best 100%. Your opponent crashed into your car, you’d be a fool not to point it out. Your opponent drew an extra card and shuffled it into his existing cards. You don’t know what card that was. We have tournament policies for a reason. In fact, you can look all of these online. WHOA research! Watch out! The tournament policy and penalty guidelines documents can be found here:

In summary, I implore you all to be the best players you can be, but most importantly, be the best people you can be. Being a nice person doesn’t mean to be a doormat and being a good player doesn’t mean taking advantage of your opponent. There is a middle ground of an assertive and well-informed player knowing his/her rules, and being polite. Dueling Network cannot and will not ever prepare you properly enough for large-scale events. You’ll know your plays, your deck, and maybe some meta insight, but the day-to-day practicing and communication is far more helpful. Knowing how to communicate with your opponent and judges is a very important skill. The better you are at it, the more success you can gain by feeling more comfortable with your surroundings, and being able to simply focus on your game as an intelligent and well-informed player.

In my closing thoughts, I want to thank Alter Reality Games for the opportunity to guest write on their blog, and thank you, the reader, for taking the time to read what I feel is a very important part of YuGiOh Competitive play.

Please also take a moment to visit my YouTube Channel: Epic Duel Time and show your support! Thanks and as always, Play Hard, or Go Home!