Following Poker Etiquette

Poker etiquette goes beyond just being nice, being pleasant, saying “excuse me,” and not chucking your chair at the dealer when he turns an unfriendly card. It’s mostly rituals and customs for what happens around a card table. Repeatedly ignoring any of the rules listed in this section may get you removed from a professional Poker room.

Handling your cards

To play cards, you first have to know how to physically handle them.

When you get your hole cards, don’t take them beyond the edge of the table. Look at them quickly, memorize them, and then protect them.

If the cards you’re playing with are cardboard-based (like the kind you messed around with when you were a kid), be careful not to bend or warp them. If you notice a deck is being warped, notify your dealer. (All-plastic playing cards, such as Kem brand, can be bent considerably more without warping effects.)

Keep your cards visible at all times. This lets the other players and the dealer know that you still have a vested interest in the game.

Don’t rip your cards in half when you take the most unbelievable beat of your life from the guy who started dating your ex-girlfriend and who is now mocking you. Well, maybe.

Don’t fold out of turn. When you do fold, push them face-down to the dealer across the felt. After you’ve pushed your hand and let go of it, it’s officially mucked and dead.


In Hold’em, you only have to show your hand when you have a showdown winner. The rest of the time your exposure is at your option.

You may want to show a hand if you had a very strong hand or you were beaten by a lucky draw.

You may also want to show a hand if you pulled off a successful bluff to make your opponents slightly more incendiary.

Remember: When you show a hand, you’re showing the tiniest bit of philosophy about you and your play — you’re literally saying, “Yes, I play this kind of hand in this type of situation.”

If you’re comfortable with that, and especially if it’s helping create a table image you want to convey (for example, “I only play the best hands — I never bluff”), then go for it.

Our advice is to never show a hand you don’t have to. Keep your opponents guessing.

Don’t ever show a hand to anyone at the table when the hand is still in play. Yes, this includes the girl with the low-cut blouse or the Benedict Cumberbatch look-alike who’s sitting to your right and who isn’t currently in the hand.

Handling your chips

You should know Poker chip basics as well.

Keep in mind that only the chips on the table are eligible for that given hand. You are not allowed to pull chips out of your pocket to play in a hand after cards have been dealt.

In No-Limit, you’re not allowed to take chips off the table until you’ve decided that you’re going to leave the game.

In tournament play, you must keep your keeps stacked and readily visible/countable to all players and tournament officials. You also have to carry them in full sight of everyone when you move from table to table.

When you want to raise a player, say “raise” to the dealer and then place the bet on the table. If you’re playing No-Limit, you must move the total amount of the raise in one motion or you should call the exact amount you want to bet. (Putting money on the table as though it were a call and then saying “raise” to put more money out is strictly prohibited. Doing so is known as a string raise.)

Place your bets out in front of you on the table, not mixed in with the rest of the pot (mixing with the rest of the pot is known as splashing). Placing your bets in front of you lets the dealer make sure the pot has the correct bets and amounts from all the players in it.

Do not touch another player’s chips. Even if your halo is glowing that day.

Do not start moving a pot toward you until the dealer has declared your hand a winner and is moving the pot toward you.

Do not bet out of turn.

Playing in turn

Poker is played clockwise, with the first person to act being to the left of the dealer button (or to the left of the big blind pre-flop). The closest player to your right must act before you do, so you should be cuing off of her play. If you’re sitting next to a player who tends to act out of turn, base your movement on the player to her right.

Playing in turn is especially important on the river. Be certain that all betting action has ceased and no one is still waiting to make a betting decision before you turn over your cards.

Tipping the dealer

In ring game play, tipping the dealer a buck when you win a hand is customary. Most dealers only make minimum wage and depend on your tips to make a living. Not to play the guilt card or anything… .

Keeping an eye on the game

When you play Poker, especially if you’re in an unfamiliar environment, keep an eye on what’s going on around you. You have two people you can turn to, your dealer and the floorperson.

Talking to your dealer

If you run across any problem at a table — be it the way a hand was declared or an incorrect deal — talk to the dealer immediately. The dealer is the boss of the table. You’ll be amazed at how many know-it-alls on a table will try to straighten out problems or solve big messes. They don’t have any authority in a Poker room, but the dealer does. Again, talk to the dealer.

Asking for a floorperson

In our experience, dealers are most likely to make mistakes in one of two ways:

By incorrectly paying a board that has been counterfeited

By getting too deeply involved in a conversation with someone else around the table

If the dealer has made a mistake — for example, paid a hand off incorrectly, called a winning hand incorrectly, or allowed some type of action at the table that you think is clearly egregious — ask for the floorperson. The floorperson handles any problems at the table and is essentially the dealer’s supervisor.

If you do need a floorperson, the demeanor of the table is likely going to be fairly aggravated and hot. Explain the situation with the floorperson and only speak when spoken to. Don’t argue with other players, even if those players are talking directly to you.


You’ll be surprised how often you’ll see someone else’s cards when you’re sitting at a table. It seems like nine times out of ten it’s either someone who is drunk or someone who’s otherwise out of it.

Here’s how to approach this “problem” the same way. At the conclusion of the hand where it happens, say, “Excuse me, you need to protect your hand — I could see your cards there.” Say it loud enough that most people at the table can hear it.

This strategy nearly always gets a “thanks” from the player you tell it to and should clear your conscience. If the player exposes his hand again, you’ve warned him; use this as another piece of information in your game.

Watching your manners

If you play Poker long enough, you will be beaten by the turn of an unlucky card. It’s not a question of “if,” it’s a question of “when.” If you can’t deal with the pure concept of chance, you should seriously consider taking up an all-skill game like chess.

Nobody wants to hear someone whine about a beat he just took, and if you’re new to the game, you can be certain someone else sitting at the table has just had exactly the same kind of horror unleashed upon her. Just suck it up and live with it.

It’s never okay to insult another player, throw cards at a dealer, or hurl your beer bottle through the mirror behind the bar. If the game is getting too tough or too intense, take a walk or call it a night. There’s always another game somewhere.

It’s just a game, unless you’re a professional. And if you’re a professional, you should behave like one.

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