Poker etiquette and why it’s important

By Bernard Harris

Poker etiquette is as important as the house rules, though it won’t be found in your local cardroom’s rulebook. Etiquette can be thought of as the true spirit and intent of the rules. At its core, poker etiquette is about creating a fair and fun environment that is conducive to you making money. You want to keep the players happy, the action going, and the chips flowing towards you. In short, tables that follow proper etiquette will be more profitable than those that don’t. Below are 10 common points of etiquette.

Avoid Celebrating. Poker is a zero-sum game; your win is someone else’s loss. No need to do a victory dance or “Aussie-Aussie-Aussie-oy-oy-oy” war cry. Be mindful of your opponents’ feelings and keep your celebration to an absolute minimum.

Don’t Ask to See a Losing Player’s Cards. The reason behind being able to see the losing player’s cards at showdown is to guard against collusion, not to satisfy your curiosity. If you suspect collusion or witness nonsensical action for a monster pot, then you can ask to see all hands at showdown. Otherwise, it’s considered bad form.

Act in Turn. Acting out of turn gives an unfair advantage to players that have yet to act. Please have the courtesy to wait your turn.

Don’t Call Out Potential Winning Hands. No matter how obvious a 4-to-a-flush or 4-to-a-straight board is, please do not comment on a hand in progress to include innocuous statements like “anyone got a heart?” One player to a hand means one player to a hand. There are FIVE streets in poker: preflop, flop, turn, river, and showdown. It is unfair to help a player on any street to include showdown.

Help the Dealer. Dealers appreciate it if you help them prevent mistakes or back them up when they are dealing with unruly players. A clean, fair, and friendly game is in everyone’s best interest.

Don’t Show Cards While a Hand is in Progress. No one cares that you got dealt 3-2 offsuit four times in a row. Just fold and don’t show cards that may kill someone else’s action.

Don’t Flinch After You Fold. When the board is J-7-8-7-7 and you would have had the nuts had you stayed in, don’t give any outward tells that may impact the players in the hand. Players deserve the opportunity to play their hands for value or for bluffs without undue influence from others not even in the hand.

Death to Nit/Slow Rollers. When you have the nuts and are heads-up facing all-in action, don’t Hollywood and make a needlessly delayed call (i.e., nit roll). Similarly, when your opponent has shown a lesser hand and you hold the winner, don’t delay and give off false tells that he won merely to dash his hopes at the last second and flip over the winner (i.e., slow roll). These actions create a hostile and negative table which hurts everyone’s bottom line.

Stop Announcing Your Reads. If you are not in the hand or are folding, do not rant about what you think everyone has. Again, one player to a hand means one player to a hand and when you announce your reads you can unwittingly influence the action.

Don’t Teach at the Table. Every time you feel the need to correct a player’s mistake you should get a 50,000 volt shock to your groin. Correcting bad play spoils the fun atmosphere and makes players tighten up for fear of looking foolish.

Poker etiquette represents the true spirit and intent of the rules, namely, to foster a friendly and honest gaming environment. When those at the table adhere to proper etiquette, the table becomes a magical place full of fun, action, and lots of loose chips sloshing around. Proper etiquette is not limited to the above list but encompasses all actions that can adversely impact the table’s mood and hurt profitability. It’s in everyone’s best interest to adhere to proper etiquette since we are all in this game together.