Poker Etiquette – How to handle yourself at the table

There are many do’s and don’ts that poker players new to the game should be aware of so as not to cause problems or discrepancies at the table. Although some of the issues raised in this article are applicable more toward live action, we will cover poker etiquette for both online and live table games.

What is poker etiquette?

So, what exactly is etiquette? Well according to Dictionary.com:

1. conventional requirements as to social behavior; proprieties of conduct as established in any class or community or for any occasion.
2. a prescribed or accepted code of usage in matters of ceremony, as at a court or in official or other formal observances.

In a poker context, it’s pretty much the social conventions of the game, a code of conduct for the poker table.

Poker etiquette tips

pokerOur first major poker etiquette rule is that you should act when it is your turn to act and not before. Of course, in online poker the software makes sure that players go in the proper order. There is nothing worse than playing live and seeing a player raise or fold or even indicate his intentions prior to his turn to act. Sometimes mistakes happen and sometimes newcomers are so anxious to play their good hand that they will be dying to bet. It really disrupts the flow of the game when players act out of turn and is entirely unfair to the rest of the players.

Secondly, a player who always is slow to act and is holding up the rest of the table also disrupts the pleasure and excitement that players hope to get from playing poker. Online poker sites have combated this problem by offering turbo or quicker-paced games. Poker Stars’ latest launching is Zoom Poker, which allows a pool of players to fold quickly if their cards are not good and to be whisked away to another table immediately. So acting slowly is, again, more of a live action annoyance. There is nothing wrong with taking your time to make the correct decisions during live play when it is called for. However, players who are not paying attention and are constantly being reminded that it’s their turn to act put a damper on the game.

poker chipOur third poker etiquette tip is that you should not be making comments about your cards while a hand is still in progress. This is done by players who lack etiquette online as well as live. Giving any indication of the cards you folded or the cards you are holding – even in a joking manner – is not allowed and is unfair to the other players. Sometimes upon seeing the flop, players will bemoan their decision to fold pre-flop, saying things like “I would have had a set” or some such utterance. Your comments should be saved until after the hand has been completed so as not to influence players still involved in the hand.

Players should also play their own hand and not coach or help other players as to how their hand should be played. Even though someone may be new to the game and is asking for help, it is not allowed to give assistance while the hand is in progress – and widely considered poor poker etiquette. After completion of the hand, it is fine and dandy to discuss strategy and offer advice on how the hand could have been played, but during the course of the hand, players should refrain from coaching or giving advice to other players.

Another rule of poker etiquette is to never show your cards to other players while a hand is still being played. Upon folding, never flip your cards over or let another opponent get a peek at what you had in your hand. If players know what you had or what you folded, it is additional information that can influence the wagering or outcome of the hand. If the hand has concluded prior to the showdown and you’d like to show others your hole cards, it is poor etiquette to show only one player and not the rest of the table. If you show your cards to one player, the whole table must also be allowed to see. Show one, show all – it’s only fair.

When making a bet or raise, you should indicate the amount of the wager by placing the chips in front of you and not tossing them into or “splashing” the pot. It is the dealer’s job to tally the amount of the chips being bet. If you splash your chips into the pot, the dealer and other players cannot properly count them. This is a rookie mistake that will irritate other players.

computer cardsAnother faux pas at the table is to make a string bet. Players are guilty of string betting when they place a number of chips in front of them as if that is the amount they intend to bet, only to reach back to their stack of chips to add more to the bet. This is a no-no. The possible advantage to doing this is to gauge the reaction of fellow players on your initial bet. Some card rooms will not allow any more chips to be part of your bet after you make the initial placement of a bet in front of you. To avoid string betting, simply announce that you wish to raise the bet and then state the amount.

Sharing chips with other players is also against the rules, and poor etiquette. Akin to sharing chips is “chip dumping,” where a player will intentionally lose his chips during a tournament to another player to build that player’s stack, giving him a better chance to win the tourney. This is considered collusion and is an offense that could get you banned from a live casino and possibly terminated from playing at an online poker site. If we were to rank the offenses of poker etiquette, splashing the pot and acting too slowly would be misdemeanors, while collusion and chip dumping would be seen as felonies. It is cheating and is very serious. Don’t do it.

Our last rule of poker etiquette is to be polite and courteous to dealers and your table rivals. There is no reason to berate or ridicule dealers or other players. Criticizing the play of other seems much more prevalent online where players can hide behind their computer. Those same players probably would not be so vocal in face-to-face confrontations. Some players online actually try to rattle and get under the skin of opponents with trash-talking and criticism. However, that’s a style that is lacking in originality and class. You will get much farther in becoming a successful player by being courteous and using other strategies that are more about actually playing than relying on annoying your opponents to win.