Poker etiquette

Everyone learns etiquette when they are growing up. It stands to reason that the lessons you learned about being polite, being patient, and exercising civility should apply when you’re at a poker table. But humans being human, sometimes the manners we learned long ago are forgotten, especially in the heat of a contested hand. Tempers can flare, and things become confrontational. Then there’s poker etiquette itself, which is also easy to forget due to the excitement the game creates. What follows are rules related to poker and conduct in general.

1) Wait your turn.

Never bet, fold or raise before it’s your turn. This fact seems like a simple rule, but many players fold prematurely, most often because they’re disgusted with their cards. And sometimes players raise before it’s their turn because they have a strong hand. Remember, every time you act early, it gives the players behind you information they would otherwise not have.

2) Don’t show your cards early.

When you fold, don’t accidentally flash or flip over your cards. You’re giving information to other players still in hand, and revealing those cards may determine the outcome of the hand. The only reason to flip over cards before a showdown is in heads-up situations when one player is all in.

3) Don’t talk.

How many times have you heard a player say, “I would have had a full house” when rag cards hit the board? Too many. Letting other players know what you folded again gives them information that will affect a hand’s outcome.

4) Don’t make string bets.

Never say, “I call your 50 and raise you 100,” as they did in cowboy and western movies. That’s known as a string bet and won’t be allowed a table. Say “I raise 100” instead. Make sure you don’t put your chips in a pot in more than one motion; it won’t be allowed.

5) Poker etiquette – pay attention!

Don’t be that guy/gal who keeps checking their fantasy team’s stats or stock prices on their cell phone. Why do we need to remind you it’s your turn to act. Keep the pace of play flowing by not making other players wait. As a bonus, if you pay attention to the game instead of your cell phone or any other distraction, you might learn something about your fellow players.

6) Don’t splash the pot.

It might look good in Rounders or other movies, but splashing the pot is bad form and makes it hard to tell how much you’ve bet. Just move your chips into the pot in neat stacks. The dealer and other players will thank you.

7) Speaking of dealers, don’t blame the dealer!

Suppose the river card gives your opponent a flush or inside straight. Yes, the dealer shuffled the cards, but the randomness of poker (shuffling) ensures that they were not plotting against you! Don’t yell, scream, or berate the dealer because of a bad beat.

8) Don’t play drunk.

This tip should be obvious, and most poker players adhere to sobriety for the simple reason playing intoxicated leads to bad decisions. But if you are new to playing at an event or casino, be advised that a few drinks are okay; being plastered is not. It’s reasonable and good poker etiquette.

More poker etiquette tips!

Be sociable — One of the best things about playing poker is that you can sit down at a table of strangers and walk away a few hours later with friends for life. Poker can be the most friendly of games, a great way to relieve boredom or loneliness if you have the right mindset. Be open to conversation and smile. You don’t have to gab like Dr. Phil, but a pleasant, upbeat attitude will go a long way to making your experience at a poker table more enjoyable.

However, do watch what you talk about. Poker tables can be great incubators for discussion, but it’s not the best idea to stridently advocate for one political candidate and demean another. Be aware that your fellow players might have varying viewpoints on social issues, religion, politics, and even sports. If you talk about these subjects, be respectful of others. And never use profanity, racial slurs, or sexist language, which will justifiably get you ejected from any decent poker room.

About cell phones — not so long ago, most casinos banned cell-phone conversation at poker tables. But now that everyone has a cell phone — and with casinos aware they can’t make money with players away from tables — cellular conversations are usually permitted as long as they don’t interrupt play. But here’s the rub. Cell phone conversations are still annoying during a poker game. No one wants to hear about your dinner plans, complaints about a spouse or boss, or incessant chattering about, well, anything. If you’re going to be on your phone for more than 30 seconds, do the right thing, walk away from the table, and converse in private.

By guest author, Rege Behe

New to poker and want to learn more tips about poker etiquette, rules and how to play? Check out my blog for beginning poker players.