Poker Etiquette: Top 10 Dos and Don'ts

2 years ago
Proper Poker Etiquette
18:20
11 Dec

When it comes to behaviour at the table – poker etiquette – you’ll probably find that there are as many ‘rules’ as in the game itself!

These rules may not be actually written down and it might seem as though they are only there to be broken – even by top players in the game – but you really should be paying attention to most of them to avoid getting yourself a bad name, or worse!

Let’s start by examining some examples of proper poker etiquette.


The Top 10 of PROPER Poker Etiquette

Always pay attention to what’s going on.

If it’s your turn to play, and you’re busy chatting up some waitress or watching something on your iPhone, the rest of the table is kept waiting. Not good, and if it happens a lot, you’ll almost certainly get pulled up for it.


Do your best to be polite

Always try to treat other players with respect. Watching the likes of Phil Hellmuth bad-mouthing his opponents might seem like harmless fun, but acting this way yourself will mark you out as an idiot. You might not get invited back to whatever game you’re playing!


Make sure that you protect your hand (and chips) at all times.

There have been too many incidents where a player watched on as the dealer mucked their pocket aces by mistake. With a lot going on at a table. It’s your responsibility to safeguard your own stuff, so buy a card protector and pay attention.

At the 2009 WSOP, French player Estelle Denis was dealt pocket aces, and when J.C. Tran bet out 32,000 the delighted Denis moved all-in for her last 130K or so. The dealer, however, had missed her bet and proceeded to muck her cards! Because she hadn’t protected them, and they couldn’t be retrieved, the unfortunate lady couldn’t use her aces to double up!


It’s best to always verbally announce your action.

You might know fine well what you intend to do, but no-one else does until it’s done! Remember that in most games, throwing a single chip in is just a call, no matter how big that chip is! So tell the table what you’re doing before you do it, particularly in games with non-professional dealers.


Keep your cards, chips, etc... in your own area.

Poker tables vary in size, but with a full-ring game for example, you need to be aware that there’s not a lot of room. Making sure that cards and chips don’t get mixed up between players is as much your responsibility as it is the dealer's and other players'.


Leave the table if you have to take/make a phone call.

The majority of casinos insist on this rule, so get used to it. Nobody wants to listen to your call anyway, and it’s not only distracting, but also considered rude.

Here's Phil Helmuth being hilarious but rather rude as he talks to his wife on the phone.


Try your best to be modest when you win.

Nobody likes to lose a big pot, or get rivered with a 2-outer, so act as you would like someone to act if you were on the receiving end of things.


Make sure you don’t play out of turn.

This might be forgiven occasionally, but repeated offences cause not only ill-feeling and exasperation, but serious problems for the other players. Although certain seats at a poker table can be more difficult to follow things from, and distractions abound in casinos and particularly on TV tables, it’s still up to you to make sure you know what’s going on and when it’s your turn!

During the Party Premier League Season 6 TV series, Daniel Cates incurred the wrath of Scott Seiver when he continually bet out of turn, thus affecting Seiver’s ability to make plays acting after him. The two had a lengthy spat, with Cates swearing and Seiver very unhappy.


Swearing and other offensive language won’t be tolerated in most places.

Yes, poker is traditionally a ‘man’s game played in smoky backrooms’, but the world has changed! Don’t be left behind, or worse still kicked out, because your f-bombs are uncontrollable!


Treat the dealer with respect.

They are generally professionals doing their best to make sure your game goes smoothly, and dealing you 7-2 offsuit 5 times in a row isn’t REALLY their fault, so don’t take it out on them! Apart from which, nobody ever won a big pot after telling the dealer what an asshole they are!


The top 10 of IMPROPER poker etiquette

Don’t talk about a hand if you’re not in it!

In a similar way to folding your hand below, don’t get involved in talking about the cards, possible plays, bet sizing or anything directly related to an ongoing hand if you’re not in it!

At this summer’s WSOP Main Event, one of the players who went very deep in the tournament – Justin Schwartz – displayed an almost complete ignorance of table etiquette and common decency throughout the event. After folding his own hand, he proceeded to comment on the play between Daniel Negreanu and Federico Butteroni, until fellow player Max Steinberg pulled him up for it.


Don't splash the pot.

This is a big no-no – it’s not only rude to the dealer and other players, it can lead to accusations of cheating. If you throw your chips or money into an already big pot, no-one actually knows how much you’ve paid into it – so simply don’t do it!


Don’t make string bets.

This problem is not as common as it used to be, when movies always seemed to have players saying ‘” I call….and raise you xxx”. This type of ‘string-betting’ is simply not allowed nowadays and your initial call will be accepted as such, regardless of your actual desire or intention to raise.


Don’t accuse other players of actions unless you’re 100% sure!

You might think that somebody hasn’t put in their blinds or antes, or they have done something else against the rules, but you’d better be sure before you start a conflict at the table.

Much better, of course, is to inform the dealer or floor manager if you think something incorrect has occurred. If you do pull the player up about it, going on and on about the problem can have some seriously negative effects,

When Prahlad Friedman got it wrong at the 2006 WSOP, it almost had very serious consequences for both him and his opponent. Friedman thought that Jeff Lisandro had not put in his ante, worth 5,000 chips, and stated so. He referred to it constantly during the hand, and Lisandro was getting more and more angry with the young American. When Friedman refused to stop his accusations, and basically called Lisandro a cheat, the big Australian lost his cool and threatened Friedman that he would “take your head off, buddy”.


Never show your cards to only 1 or 2 players.

Apart from being rude, everybody at the table has the same right to see or not see certain cards – to do otherwise could give an advantage to some and not others. Of course, it’s easy enough to just flash your bluff to the guy next to you without thinking, but you should then display it to the rest of the table.


Don’t slow-roll – ever!

This is one of the rudest and least sporting things to do in poker; letting someone think they have a chance of winning while all along you’re holding the nuts. It’s not big, it’s not clever, and quite how there are no videos around of people being punched for doing it is quite bizarre!

Sometimes, though, it backfires spectacularly – as when Andreas Gann for some reason slow-rolled Donnacha O’Dea at the Irish Open. Having flopped the nut flush, Gann had no other option but to put the Irishman all-in, but he took so long to do it that when he showed his cards, the rest of the table was disgusted at his slow-rolling. However, O’Dea’s 2 pair hit a beautiful river to make a full house!


Don't Agree to check a hand out when a third player is all-in.

Although this is pretty much a given in many instances in online play, it’s another one on the ‘blacklist’ of poker’s ‘etiquette rules’. You are never allowed to collude with other players in any way in live poker.


Don't Misrepresent your hand or action.

This one can actually be border-line outright cheating rather than etiquette. If you say you have a specific card or hand, and you don’t, that’s just wrong. If you make as if to move your stack into the middle of the table, and then pull it back, that’s also a major no-no.

At the EPT Season 7 Grand Final in Madrid, and with the board showing 5♣3♦K♠5♦6♠ Eugene Yanayt bet out on a river holding K♦Q♠. This left his opponent

Freitez announced ‘raise’, then immediately corrected himself, stating that he meant to only call. When the tournament director, Thomas Kremser, was called to the table, things got very interesting indeed. Not only was Freitez told that his ‘raise’ had to stand, he then proceeded to explain to Yanayt that Freitez had pulled the same stunt 3 times previously!

Amazingly, despite Yanayt being informed of exactly what the angle-shooting Freitez was doing, he proceeded to call anyway! Freitez turned over his boat and scooped the pot. The rest of the table could only look on in disgust as Freitez then went on to pick up the title.


Over-celebrating is pretty offensive.

It’s absolutely fine to be happy, even ecstatic when you win, but taking it too far is not remotely ok for most players and fans. Naturally, players get excited, and celebrations should reflect this – but a bit of respect for the rest of the table or room would be good to see also.

During the 2007 WSOP Main Event, Hevad Khan made it to the final table, but his celebrations when he won a hand led to a new rule being introduced the following year. His offensively boisterous behaviour spoiled the event as a viewing spectacle for many.


Don't comment about the cards you just threw away.

If you fold your hand, don’t give away any information about it while others are still playing. Don’t tell people what you had, don’t make noises of disgust and don’t show your cards!

The 2005 WSOP Main Event saw Mike Matusow livid with fellow pro Shahram Sheikhan. Matusow’s raise saw Sheikhan fold, leaving ‘Mike the Mouth’ heads-up against Allen Kessler. When the flop came, Sheikhan slammed his hand and chips on the table –indicating that the flop would have hit his hand-and then said something to his rail.

Matusow, naturally, was less than amused, saying: “You know, we’re in a hand, you need to shut the fuck up!” Things of course didn’t end there….


There are a lot of dos and don'ts when it comes to professional poker, but they all boil down to one point: be respectful. Hundreds of thousands of people play poker, each for their own reasons and with their own intentions. Don't bring your trash to someone else's table because poker might be their livelihood or their only means of R&R. Treat other players the way you would want to be treated in terms of poker etiquette and everyone should come out all right.


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Andrew from Edinburgh, Scotland, is a professional journalist, international-titled chess master, and avid poker player.Read more

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