Poker etiquette refers to how players should behave themselves while at the poker table. It involves an unwritten set of guidelines to follow that helps promote good sportsmanship, the speed of play, and a healthy atmosphere for the game.

Overall, the topic of poker etiquette is very comprehensive, and it includes a vast array of DOs and DON’Ts. This article aims to serve as a complete guide for how to appropriately and properly act while at the poker table to ensure you’re abiding by proper etiquette.

POKER ETIQUETTE: COMMON BASIC RULES

  • Act Swiftly: While it’s understandable if you need to take your time to think things through on later streets or when the pots get relatively large, don’t hold up the game unnecessarily. This situation could include things like:

    • “Hollywood-ing” while heads-up before an easy fold.
    • Giving more attention to watching the television than to what’s happening at the poker table when you’re in a hand.
    • Talking to the waitress, another player, the dealer, and subsequently slowing down the action unnecessarily when it gets to you.
    • Using your phone during a hand. (Some casinos forbid this, anyway.)
    • Doing too many things at once (i.e. getting a massage, having a meal, and playing poker)
  • Pay Attention: While similar to the last point (as paying attention will help promote gameflow and speed of play), there are a few additional things that must be mentioned:
    • Always Keep At Least One Ear Open: While it can be common these days to listen to music while playing, never plug both your ears or play your music at a volume loud enough where you can’t hear other players or the dealer. You might unnecessarily delay the game by having to confirm the action you didn’t hear the first time. Additionally, you might miss hearing vital bits of info from your opponents that could help you make better decisions.
    • Always Be Sure To “Act in Turn”: This factor is important because it could influence other player’s action during the hand in an instance where it wouldn’t otherwise. While the odd, accidental time of acting out-of-turn is understandable, doing it repeatedly and/or intentionally is an angle shoot, and could be just cause for ejection.
  • Show Respect: To keep a positive atmosphere at the poker table, always make a point to be polite and show respect towards others.
    • Don’t berate the play of others or say what you would’ve done differently.
      • In addition to hurting your opponent’s psyche in doing so, you could also be unintentionally revealing to others your true skill level (which you might rather want to keep hidden).
    • Don’t go into a tirade after suffering a bad beat.
      • If you do, you’re simply showing opponents that you’re likely prone to tilt over the next few hands – something they could take advantage of.
    • Don’t be rude or mean.
    • Don’t take a bad beat out on the dealer by verbally abusing them or throwing your cards at them.
    • Don’t deface the poker table or ruin/crumple the cards.
    • Don't swear.
  • Don’t Get into Arguments That Don’t Resolve Anything: Following the guideline above of being respectful, if you have a genuine discrepancy with another player, then call over the floor man (live) or email the support team (online) to help resolve the issue.
  • Furthermore, if you’re ever going to accuse another player of cheating, doing something against the rules, or not adhering to proper etiquette, be 100% sure they did something wrong before escalating the issue to the authorities.
  • Don’t Unnecessarily Disturb Others (Especially Those Still in a Hand): For starters, you don’t want to be disruptive and a nuisance at the poker table in any case.
  • This could include:
    • Talking too loudly
    • Talking too much
    • Playing your music too loudly
    • Taking a phone call while seated at the poker table. (Turn away or leave the table, if you must take a call)

Taking a phone call while seated at the poker table. (Turn away or leave the table, if you must take a call)

NOTE: If you’re on the other side and find yourself caught sitting beside someone who’s a little too boisterous for your liking, keep a pair of headphones with you so that you don’t feel obligated to chat with them and can politely “tune them out”.

  • Never Do or Say Anything to Influence Action in a Hand That You’re No Longer In: 
    • Don’t say what your hole cards were.
    • Don’t fold face-up or show your hole cards to another player before folding.
    • Don’t verbally or visually react to a hand still in-progress.
    • Don’t discuss the current hand in any way with another player while it’s still ongoing.
    • Don’t announce things about the current hand (i.e. “There’s a straight on the board!” or “The flush got there!”).
  • Don’t “Angle Shoot”: Angle shooting in poker is defined as using unethical, intentionally deceptive tactics to take advantage of opponents. Some common angle shoots to avoid include:
    • Being actively involved in a multi-way pot and talking to one of the other active players regarding the strength of their hand or what action they’re likely to take.
    • Being intentionally unclear about the action you wish to take when it’s your turn.
    • Misrepresenting your hand or action intentionally (i.e. saying you have a flush when you don’t or using a larger sized chip “accidentally” in what you “intended” to be a small bet.
  • Don’t “Hit and Run”: This situation occurs immediately or soon after you win a significant pot from another player. You pack up your chips and leave the table (either to another table or to finish your session
Poker Etiquette 2
  • Be a Gracious Winner:
    • Don’t celebrate overly hard when you win.
    • Don’t add insult to injury by criticising your opponent’s play when you win. They’re already going to feel bad from losing.
    • Tipping the dealer and quietly stacking your chips is perfectly acceptable etiquette.
  • Be a Gracious Loser:
    • Don’t complain if you end up on the wrong side of a bad beat or cooler.
    • Don’t berate the play of others when you lose.
    • Don’t swear, slam the table, or angrily throw your cards at the dealer or another player.
    • Feel free to say, “Nice hand,” after losing a pot to another player.

POKER ETIQUETTE AT LIVE CASINO TABLE

  • Bet/Act with Clarity: Sometimes, it can be ambiguous what your intentions are (both in action and sizing) when you place a certain amount of chips forward. If in doubt, always verbally declare what you want to do before you physically do it. (More specific guidelines for proper etiquette regarding betting, raising, folding, mucking, etc. will be made later in this article.)
  • Make the Total Amount You Have in your Chip Stack Easily Identifiable: 
    • Don’t fully block your chip stack with your hands.
    • Feel free to ask how much someone has in their stack if you can’t fully see their chips.
    • If someone asks you this, either move your hands to reveal the chips in front of you and/or verbally declare approximately how much you have or started the hand with.
    • Sort your chips in easy-to-read piles so both you and other opponents can quickly gauge an approximate estimate of how much you have (i.e. stacks of 20 chips each in each pile)
    • Keep your chip stack (and cards) in your own area.
      • This is both to avoid confusion with mixing with other players’ chips, along with respecting the play space of others.
    • Do not add chips to your stack while in the middle of a poker hand (and ensure your rebuys and top-ups respect the house minimums and maximums).
    • Never, ever take some chips off the table to lessen the total amount of your stack (regardless of whether you’re involved in a hand or not).
  • Tip the Dealer and the Serving Staff: After winning a medium-sized pot or when you receive a drink or meal from the serving staff, it’s often customary to give them a tip. Here are a few considerations regarding the frequency and amounts for which you should tip the dealers:
    • Do take the amount of rake, in conjunction with your win rate into account.
    • Some players tip the same amount (i.e. $1) on every hand they win. Other players tip less often but increase the size of their tips depending on the size of the pot.
      • Generally, $1-$2 tips are commonly accepted.
    • A typical tip amount for a bad beat jackpot might be approximately 1-2%.
    • If you’re ever in doubt, mimic what some of the regulars and/or better players at your table are doing regarding tipping.
  • Protect Your Hole Cards:
    • Use a card protector to keep the dealer from unintentionally mucking your cards.
    • Keep your cards on the table at all times.
    • Cover your cards well enough when peeking at them to ensure others don’t see them.
    • Ensure your cards are well-displayed in front of you if you’re still in a hand.
      • Don’t try to make others think you’re not in the hand by hiding your cards.
      • Don’t encroach on the area of other players with your cards.
    •  Never show your cards to another player during a hand (even those who aren’t in the hand, as they might potentially give off information through physical tells or sometimes verbally to your opponents regarding your hand’s strength)
  • Take Care of Your Hygiene:
    • For the consideration of others, shower often, use deodorant and stay clean.
      • Sometimes an unpleasant smell resulting from poor hygiene can result in ejection from a cardroom or a penalty (if playing a tournament).

POKER ETIQUETTE AT HOME / POKER NIGHT

Poker etiquette that applies to casino poker also applies to home games. However, as the general level of players is more beginner, along with there not often being a floorman to resolve any disputes, it can be advisable to remind players of proper gameplay etiquette beforehand. You should specifically ensure they are very clear about their intentions when acting.

A common breach of etiquette done in home games is that regarding “string betting”, where a player puts out a bet or a raise using multiple forward motions. A string bet could also be done verbally, as has been done in many Hollywood movies, where a player says, “I’ll see (call) your $50 and raise you $50.” As per the rules, only the first action (call) is applicable for the betting round.

POKER ETIQUETTE IN ONLINE POKER

Just because you’re behind the protection of a computer screen doesn’t mean that poker etiquette no longer applies to you. That said, while many of the live instances for poker etiquette may not be applicable online, there are some additions and slight variations that must be noted:

  • The Chat Box:
    • Don’t Type in all Capital Letters: You constantly appear angry and mad if you do this, and it is also somewhat annoying and distracting to the other players.
    • Don’t Over-Indulge in Your Use of the Chatbox From the Rail: If you’re on the rail and observing a table, keep your talk in the chat box to a minimum and don’t be overly disruptive to the players who are playing.
    • Don’t Verbalise Your Emotional State: Just as in live poker, don’t express your anger and/or tilt and don’t slam another player for his or her actions through the text box.
    • Don’t Reveal What Your Hole Cards Were During a Hand.
    • Don’t Discuss Action in the Hand During a Hand After You’ve Folded.
    • Do Feel Free to Congratulate an Opponent After Winning a Hand vs You: Often players will type in “nh” (standing for “nice hand”) after conceding a pot to their opponent.
    • Do Feel Free to Mute Annoying Opponents: If your opponents are being disrespectful, distracting, or annoying, many poker clients have a feature that allows you to mute specific opponents or disable the chat box altogether.
  • Other:
    • Don’t Excessively and Intentionally Slow Down the Game: Just because you have a timebank and capped time limit to make each action doesn’t mean you should abuse these privileges by always taking longer than you need. If you’re excessively multi-tabling (or if you’re playing higher stakes, you need to balance your bluffs and value hands for each action by trying to always take the same length of time), it can be an understandable part of the game. However, in instances where you know you’re going to fold and/or you can act quicker, do it! It’ll help contribute to the pace of the game and keep other players happy.

 POKER ETIQUETTE IN TOURNAMENTS

  • Don’t Verbally Agree to “Check It Down” When a Third (or Multiple Players) are All-In: While this situation can also be found in cash games, it is more commonly applicable to tournaments. If remaining players check-down in this situation without saying they’re going to, it’s perfectly acceptable and widely common. However, verbally agreeing to do it is considered a form of collusion, which is cheating and prohibited.
  • If You Win, Remember That You Can Tip: Some casinos prematurely include gratuities for the dealers as part of the entrance fee. In other places, it’s often expected that the winner will tip, if he or she wins the tournament. Know what is customary regarding gratuities for the place where you play.

POKER ETIQUETTE IN CASH GAMES

Cash games follow the same etiquette guidelines as previously mentioned in this article. Tipping the poker dealer (especially after winning medium-sized or large pots) is something that should be re-emphasised in this section.

POKER ETIQUETTE IN LAS VEGAS

Las Vegas is just like any other city when it comes to poker: the same etiquette applies. It’s likely that you’re going to encounter a much more international base of players than you would in other cardrooms, as many will be playing while on vacation, or have relocated to Vegas from another country or a certain period.

If you’re a regular in the poker rooms during your time there, be especially welcoming to tourists, as it’s these recreational players that will be your biggest profit centres.

POKER ETIQUETTE FOR GAMEPLAY

In this section, we will elaborate on the proper elements of etiquette for specific gameplay situations. In many cases, these will be only applicable to live poker, as such instances are automated and streamlined online.

  • Poker Etiquette: Betting
    • When placing your chips forward, be careful not to “splash the pot” (where some of your betting chips prematurely enter the location of the main pot). Splashing the pot can confuse the dealer as to the size of your bet and waste time if your chips must be separated from the pot.
    • Ensure that the action is on you when you bet so that you’re not betting out of turn and negatively influencing your opponent’s action.
    • Place out your entire bet amount in one forward motion (or declare it verbally beforehand) so as not to be accused of string betting.
  • Poker Etiquette: Raising:
    • When you want to make a raise, ensure you put into the pot at least double the size of the previous bet.
    • In many cardrooms, one chip means a “call”. For example, if you are playing $5/$10 cash game, and put out one $25 chip preflop, it means you’re calling the $10 big blind (unless you specifically said, “Raise,” before putting the chip in).
    • You cannot say “Raise,” and then go back and say you only wanted to call. This move is an angle shoot and is highly unethical.
    • Know your casino’s rules on how you put your chips into the pot and what constitutes a call versus a raise.
    • Be sure not to “string raise” – that is to say, place out calling chips or an incomplete raise in one forward motion, and then add chips to complete the raise in a subsequent forward motion. As previously explained, your first forward motion dictates your action, and therefore, this would only be considered a call.
  • Poker Etiquette: Showing Cards
    • Know the rules of showdown and who is first to show their cards.
    • Don’t ask what the other player has first, if you’re supposed to be first to show.
    • When it’s your turn to show, show immediately and show BOTH cards.
    • Don’t expose your cards to anyone else while still in a hand (i.e. before folding, while mucking, or at showdown when you don’t have to and/or have the losing hand).
  • Poker Etiquette: Slow Roll
    • A slow roll is highly unethical. It’s when a player takes their time before revealing their winning hand, usually after another player has already shown his or her hand at showdown. Another example of a slowroll is when another player is all-in, and you take a considerable length of time before calling with the nuts (best possible hand).
    • As aforementioned, when it’s time at showdown to reveal your hand; do so quickly.
  • Poker Etiquette: Mucking
    • Push your cards forward enough to be within arms-reach of the dealer to collect them.
    • Mucked cards stay mucked. Do turn over another player’s mucked cards to see what they had.
    • Don’t ask to see another player’s mucked cards.
    • Many casinos have a “Show One Show All” policy, whereby if you show your cards to one player when mucking (usually at showdown when there is no further action), you must then show ALL the players at the table.
  • Poker Etiquette: Folding
    • General etiquette for “folding” follows the same guidelines as mentioned above for “mucking”.
    • When folding your cards, keep them low to the table and take caution not to expose them to other players (and subsequently influence future action).
  • Poker Etiquette: Chips
    • Keep your chips separate from others and well in front of you.
    • Keep them organised in piles of an easily recognisable number, so you and your opponents can quickly and easily determine how many chips you have.
    • Keep your biggest chips in the front.
  • Poker Etiquette: Chopping
    • In cases of a chop pot, if you’re the second player to show down an identical hand, do so quickly and don’t slowroll.
    • Know, for reference, that if there is an uneven number of chips in the pot, upon division, the player who is furthest out-of-position will get the additional chip.
  • Poker Etiquette: All-In
    • As previously mentioned, if a third player is all-in, players cannot verbally agree to check it down.
    • Additionally, for future action with a third player all-in, players remaining in the hand are not allowed to talk at all, as it might influence action that deals with the main pot, too. (Same as the rule of no talking allowed when pots are still multiway.)

IN CONCLUSION

Hopefully, this article has served well as a comprehensive guide for you regarding proper poker etiquette to abide by while at the tables in several different formats and situations.

If you remember and play by these guidelines, you’ll be well on your way to contributing to a positive poker atmosphere for everyone when you play.

About the Author
By
Matthew Cluff is a poker player who specialises in 6-Max No Limit Hold’em games. He also periodically provides online poker content for various sites.
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