Playing poker in various card rooms across the United states and Central America, I have witnessed all sorts of crazy and odd behavior. For the most part, poker players follow poker etiquette and are relatively polite. Some are very friendly and enjoy joking at the table as much as they enjoy scooping pots. I’m not going to make judgments on people’s personalities here, rather I want to point out some major poker etiquette unwritten rules that should be followed by all players, mean or nice. I personally prefer fun and friendly poker tables where players are conversing and joking when appropriate. These ‘friendly’ games are generally the most profitable games. Violating poker etiquette should always be avoided for the benefit of all involved in the game.
Some poker etiquette violations carry a penalty in card rooms, but often times this is just a warning followed by more useless warnings.
1) Talking about the hand while it is in progress
This is often perpetrated at poker games of all stakes. A player might make a loud, noticeable sigh when an ace hits the flop, or when the flush card comes. This can greatly affect the action of the players still contesting the pot. At no point should action be encouraged, discouraged, or affected in any way by a player that is not in the current hand.
2) Acting out of turn
Players should not fold, call, or raise before the action is on them. This also applies to making hand gestures indicating an imminent fold. This can provide unfair information for players who have not acted yet.
3) Taking too long on mundane decisions (AKA ‘The Hollywood Effect’)
I am normally the last player to ever call clock on a player for taking a long time on a decision. Poker can be complicated and may require time to make the right decision. This does not mean that every time the action gets to a player, they take five seconds to finish a text message, a few seconds to have the dealer repeat what the bet is, and then give a speech. It can be very aggravating when a player does this every hand on minimum bet decisions. Remember, the players and dealers all want as many hands per hour as possible. There are nine other people at the table including the dealer. Don’t be selfish with their time.
4) Celebratory dancing
After winning a pot, making unnecessary fist pumps, clapping hands, and telling the dealer to “ship it” is not very classy. It’s unsportsmanlike, especially since you are winning the pot and taking your opponents money. This also applies to the “free advice” often offered by the winner of the pot to the loser. Be polite, collect your pot and move on to the next hand.
5) Berating the dealer
This happens at all levels of poker games. Unless the dealer has misdealt a hand, they obviously have no control over the outcome of the hand. I know players who will berate a dealer for an unfavorable river less than five minutes after the dealer pushed them a big pot where they got lucky on the river. Go easy on the dealers guys! They are just trying to make a living and don’t need to be berated because you misplayed your aces.
6) Throwing a bluff in an opponents face
Call me old fashioned but I find it rude and inappropriate to throw a successful bluff in a players face who you just defeated for the pot. True, you might put the player’s on tilt and possibly yield extra profit from their subsequent bad play, but more than likely you will put a target on your back for the rest of the table, as well as give away information about your own playing style. It can also make it more difficult to know what your opponent is thinking next time you face them in a hand. Are they raising you because they have the best hand, or is it because you just showed off a bluff to the whole table?
7) Using inappropriate language when a female is at the table
This rule is self explanatory. I don’t mind players saying anything they want to say at the table with very few exceptions. One of these exceptions is when a female is present, player or dealer. We are not heathens and can show basic respect. The other exception is threatening language or racial slurs. These have no place at the poker table or anywhere else for that matter.
8) Leave politics and religion at the door
I enjoy political and theological debate. I really do. I encourage you all to read my political blog at www.bloomdoctrine.wordpress.com . However, politics and religion at the poker table is a recipe for disaster. Even if a major argument is averted, the two people who are trying their hardest to convince the other of the righteousness of their side are giving major headaches to the other seven players at the table. For everyone’s sake, please save that debate for the bar.
9) Don’t tell everyone how much money you have
People who have financial security rarely talk about the money they have. If people had a quarter of the money they said they had at the poker table, we would never have a recession or economic crisis again. For some reason, at almost every table, there is one player who talks about how rich they are. They usually buy in for the near minimum and usually throw the biggest tantrums when they lose this minimum amount. No need to flaunt money at the table, real or fake. We are all sitting at the same table now.
10) Don’t be a baby when you lose a hand
This is one of my biggest pet peeves and grossest violations of poker etiquette. When you lose a hand, either tell your opponent good hand or say nothing at all. Don’t berate them. Don’t try to explain to them what they did wrong. One of the first lessons my parents taught me in life was to be a good sport in victory and defeat. Poker is a game that includes variance. If bad players never won, the profit in the game would cease to exist.
These are some simple rules of etiquette to follow at any poker table. They are universal from Belize to Macau to Las Vegas. They apply in home games as well as large casinos. Though card rooms are often somewhat lax in enforcing these unofficial guidelines, as a classy player you should always avoid doing them yourself.
On a side note, I would like to point out that in my experience the rules are followed more in Las Vegas card rooms than any where else I’ve played. Though Florida has some of the best and most lucrative card games in the world, poker etiquette is violated more often than any where else I’ve played. California poker rooms are hit or miss regarding poker etiquette. Some are very good while some are terrible. Hollywood Park was by far the worst in California. Poker rooms in Central America have players that tend to do a fairly good job of following good poker etiquette. Beginner players sometimes are not aware of these rules and therefore break them more frequently. Poker rooms in Central America for example had a lot of beginner players that would not abide by proper poker etiquette. This is to be excused and is not the same as an experienced player breaking the same rule. Many of the private games I’ve played in Georgia have players that exercise great poker etiquette.
In conclusion, be a good sport, don’t be rude, and ABOVE ALL never try to bluff me!