Originally Posted by KoRnholio
Yes, there is a hard and fast rule of not being able to take chips off the table and continue playing. Most casinos you have to leave the whole room for an hour before you are permitted to come back in with a stack smaller than you left with (assuming you are over the minimum buyin).
This is what I assumed too, but having looked all the way through Robert's Rules I'm not sure it's the case.
The rule you're referring to is this one (Robert's Rules, Section 2 - House Policies: Procedures (http://www.homepokertourney.com/roberts-rules-of-poker.htm#PROCEDURES)):
7. If you return to the same game within one hour of cashing out, your buy-in must be equal to the amount removed when leaving that game.
Call me a grammar nit, but that rule only applies to people who have left the game, cashed out and then decided they want to return to it. Obviously it's meant to stop people ratholing, but we can't apply the rule in OP's case because the player in question had neither left the table nor cashed out.
There is a further rule (same section (http://www.homepokertourney.com/roberts-rules-of-poker.htm#PROCEDURES)) which states (emphasis added):
8. All games are table stakes (except “playing behind” as given in the next rule). Only the chips in front of a player at the start of a deal may play for that hand, except for chips not yet received that a player has purchased. The amount bought must be announced to the table, or only the amount of the minimum buy-in plays. Awareness of the amount being in play for each opponent is an important part of poker. All chips and money must be kept in plain view.
From Glossary/Definitions (http://www.homepokertourney.com/roberts-rules-of-poker.htm#GLOSSARY): TABLE STAKES: (1) The amount of money you have on the table. This is the maximum amount that you can win or lose on a hand. (2) The requirement that players can wager only the money in front of them at the start of a hand, and can only buy more chips between hands.
I think this is the closest we get to a hard and fast rule, that the chips "must be kept in plain view". Note though that it doesn't specifically say you're not
allowed to go south and take a chunk of your stack off the table - as long as you leave what you're continuing
to play with in plain view it could be said that you've satisfied the rule.
In fact, you could read that rule as stating that the player from OP should have been allowed to have the $33 stand as an all-in bet: those were the only chips in front of him at the start of the deal and they were in plain view.
The intent of these and other rules (an intent I agree with, FWIW) is clearly that you shouldn't be allowed to take money off the table unless you're cashing it all out, but unfortunately there seems to be a bunch of loopholes.
That surprises me, given that there are other rules that specifically prohibit things like taking insurance side bets and it wouldn't be hard for an additional rule to the effect of "no player shall be allowed to remove a portion of their stack from play and continue to play with the remainder" to be added. Maybe it's not there because such wording would also make it against the rules to, among other things, pay for a drink, tip a dealer or pay collection with chips from your stack.
If someone has an alternative interpretation or can find different rules that specifically prohibit going south I'd love to hear about it.