Table Manners

[BB] “I was going to buy you Miss Manners Guide to Etiquette at the Poker Table for your birthday, but I couldn’t find it at Amazon. Since I don’t want everyone to think we’ve raised a slob, here’s what you need to know”, Benny the Book indicated to his son Joey the Juvenile.

  • Pay attention to the action. Get your blinds in when you’re supposed to and be ready to act when it’s your turn. [This keeps the game moving. Live poker is slow enough already.]
  • Keep your cards on the table where people can see them. [This keeps players on your left from accidentally acting out of turn.]
  • Don’t act out of turn. [Besides messing things up, this could be used to angle shoot and gain an unfair advantage.]
  • Don’t reach into the muck to pull out your cards or anyone else’s. Once cards hit the muck, they’re gone forever. [This prevents people from seeing other players’ cards and avoid confusion as it may look like you’re still in the hand.]
  • Keep your chips visible at all times, preferably in stacks of the same color, with the highest denomination chips in front. Never put chips in your pocket unless you’re leaving the table. [This makes it easier for players to judge how many chips you have.]
  • Don’t splash the pot. Put your bet clearly in front of your chip stack but out of the muck. [This makes it much easier to see who’s bet what, especially after a raise.]
  • Similarly, don’t make change from the pot until the betting round is over. It’s okay to make change for someone else from your chip stack in most home games, but don’t do that in a casino. [Ditto.]
  • Don’t string bet. If you want to see how much is in the pot after you match the previous bet, say “Raise” first. Don’t emulate the old westerns and say, “I see your bet… and raise you…” Just say “Raise”. [This could be used to read an opponent’s reaction.]
  • Don’t do the opposite either. If you have a stack of chips in your hand, don’t just drop one or a few of them to the felt. When your hand moves forward, it should hold only the chips you intend to bet. [Ditto.]
  • Don’t slowroll. When it’s your turn to show your cards, flip them both over immediately without fanfare. [This is pure etiquette. Don’t prolong your opponents’ agony.]
  • Don’t ask to see someone’s hole cards, especially if you folded early. If you’re heads up, it’s okay to ask your opponent if he’ll show if you fold. [This is also mostly etiquette, as it may appear that you are accusing them of collusion. It also slows down the game.]
  • Do show your hole cards to everyone if you show them to the person on your left or right. [This is because everyone at the table is entitled to the same information.]
  • Don’t discuss the current hand until it’s over. If you’ve folded, don’t react to the flop or say that you would have flopped a straight. The one exception to this is when a hand is heads-up; either player can speak freely then. [This may seem like pure etiquette since everyone would gain the same information, but that information may be more useful to one player than another.]
  • Don’t criticize how someone is playing. If they’re making mistakes, that’s to your benefit. If it’s a friendly game, you can talk with them privately later. [This is mostly etiquette, but in a serious game, you’re also affecting other players’ profitability.]
  • Don’t complain to the dealer about your cards (or anything else). [This is pure etiquette.]
  • Follow the local customs. If rabbit hunting is standard, just help them get it over with quickly. If they cut the deck backwards (from the small blind), go with the flow. [Ditto.]

[JJ] “I think you explained the rules of Hold ‘Em to me in a quarter of that time”, Joey remarked.

[BB] “Fair enough. Here’s the Reader’s Digest condensed version: Keep the game moving and be courteous. Got it?”

[JJ] “I can remember that.”

Related Links:

  • An infographic of someone else’s Top 12 Worst Poker Etiquette Mistakes
  • The International Poker Rules are now available online at (note that you can’t check the “Player” radio button in some browsers when you try to download the PDF version, but leaving it unchecked works fine). [May 21, 2013 update]

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