Poker Etiquette

Poker Etiquette

In social situations, appropriate etiquette gives you self-confidence, allows you to concentrate on more important matters, and at times, allows you to dominate a situation against someone who doesn’t know the correct etiquette. It’s no different at the poker table, where the first trip into a public card casino is almost inevitably intimidating, but understanding the correct etiquette will make your life a lot easier.

Here are a few tips to help ease the pain and make you look like a veteran in no time…

1. Play at reasonable speed.

Every once in a while, you will be faced with a decision that requires some significant thought, and no one will object if you occasionally pause to think. If you consistently take a long time to make decisions, though, you will make the game less enjoyable for others, and many times people will leave a table if one or more players are consistently slow.

On the Internet, playing in two or more games simultaneously creates the potential for slow play if you focus on one hand in one game while the action has reached you in the other. It is probably a good idea to avoid playing two games at once until you are comfortable with the game interface and are able to move relatively quickly while playing one game.

2. Be polite.

Poker can sometimes be frustrating, but swearing at other players or being critical of their play is counterproductive. Some people have long memories about obnoxious conduct. Verbal battles with players who dislike you may distract you from playing your best. Showing frustration also makes you a target because players see that you’re not having a good night.

3. Play in turn.

You should not fold your hand or leave your seat until it is your turn to bet; this can give important information to players still in the hand.

4. Don’t expose your cards until the showdown.

If you are folding, gently toss your cards to the dealer face down. If you expose them, accidentally or intentionally, this gives important information away, and can affect the outcome of a hand.

Similarly, you should try to protect your cards so when you look at them, no one else can see them. This is in your own self-interest, but if one player at the table can see your cards when no one else can, it creates a special advantage for that player (obviously).

5. Don’t take chips off the table.

Winning players are tempted to take some of their chips off the table and pocket them, to ensure that they walk away with some kind of win, but this isn’t allowed. Once you buy into a game, the chips you have on the table must remain there until you leave that game.

6. If you’re not in the hand, keep quiet.

If you’re not in the hand, you have no business affecting the outcome of the hand (this goes double if you’re not even seated at the table but just watching from the rail). Offering theories about who might have what, or commenting about what you folded, can alter other players’ strategy.

Even body language or gestures can be very telling. If you correctly fold a hand like J-2 offsuit in Texas Hold’em, the flop comes J-J-J, and you lean back in your chair silently while acting like you just lost your best friend, anyone watching you knows where the fourth jack was.

If you want to observe play and etiquette without actually sitting in a game, you’ll generally be left alone if you don’t disturb the seated players: don’t comment, don’t ask questions and don’t stand so close as to make them uncomfortable.

7. Don’t abuse the dealer.

Throwing cards at the dealer or using foul language only brands you as an immature, unsophisticated player. The dealer is not trying to give you good cards or bad cards, just random cards.

8. Don’t “splash the pot”.

When you make a bet, place your chips neatly in front of you in easily countable stacks within the dealer’s reach, and let the dealer pull them into the pot. If you toss chips directly into the middle, the players have no way of knowing if you put the correct number of chips in. You might be required to put more in.

9. Don’t offer or ask for assistance from other players.

“One player to a hand” is a fundamental poker axiom. Asking for advice is considered bad form, and offering help — such as saying to a confused-looking Omaha player, “Do you have a low?” or “Lay your cards on the table” — will create angry reactions from the other players in the hand. If you have a question, ask the dealer.

10. Don’t mis-declare your hand.

Don’t muck your cards until you have seen you are beaten. If you have a pair of sevens, don’t joke around and say something like, “I have a straight.” Another player hearing you might assume you are telling the truth and throw his cards away, and once the cards are in the muck, he can’t retrieve them. For similar reasons, don’t throw your hand away until you it is clear that you are beaten.

11. Don’t “slow roll” other players.

If you realize you hold the winning hand, waiting a long time to show it after the other players have shown their hands is considered very bad form. It’s viewed as taunting, and won’t make you any friends.

12. If unsure, let the dealer read your hand.

Sometimes hands can be confusing, especially when you’re inexperienced. If you lay your cards on the table, the dealer can figure out what you have. Don’t get accustomed to relying on the dealer, though; you are responsible for your own hand, and the dealer’s help is only an emergency backup plan.

13. Don’t mess up the table or cards.

If you want to eat or drink at the table, keep your food and/or beverages on a side table if at all possible, and take care to wipe your hands before handling the cards.

14. Show one, show all.

If you win a pot uncontested and show your cards to another player, you have a duty to show everyone else at the table what cards you folded. People can insist you do this if you don’t do it voluntarily.