Poker is a game that’s made up of many different elements. While some rules are clear and written in stone, others are more flexible and not as clear-cut.
When it comes to these unwritten rules, most of them have to do with poker etiquette or the way you should behave at the poker table.
In live poker games, you will be playing with other players, some of whom you may have never seen in your life. On top of that, poker room and casino staff will also be around.
There are many things to take into consideration and many unwritten rules you should look out for. If you are relatively new to live poker, you may not be aware of all of them.
For that reason, I have compiled a list of the most important poker table etiquette rules that you should keep in mind the next time you set foot in a live poker room or brick and mortar casino.
Keep these poker etiquette rules at all times, and you should not get into any trouble with the other players, the casino, or anyone else.
1. Wait for Your Turn
Very often, in live poker games, you will want to fold your cards and get dealt a new hand. However, it is very important to keep in mind that you are not the only player at the table.
Other players will also be involved in hands. For various reasons, they will not want to see players folding out of turn, as it could hurt their action significantly.
Acting out of turn in a poker tournament will often mean you will get punished with a round or two of not being dealt cards. In cash games, this breach of poker etiquette can’t really be punished properly.
Yet, if you want to be well-regarded by the other players in the game and the poker room staff, you should make sure to always wait your turn.
You may sometimes accidentally fold or call before your turn, of course. But, for the most part, you should keep your eyes and ears open and only act once the action is actually on you.
Repeatedly acting out of turn is almost guaranteed to incur the wrath of other players, and being disliked by everyone in a poker room is not something you really want.
2. Don’t Act Slow on Purpose
Sometimes in poker, you are going to need a little time to make your decision, and that’s perfectly fine. If you have a big decision to make, take your time and don’t worry about what anyone has to say.
On the other hand, some players like to take a lot of time whenever the action is on them, and this is considered a major breach of poker table etiquette.
While there is nothing in the poker table rules that would tell you exactly how long to take, you should not be pondering your easy folds too long. You should also try to make your bets in a reasonable amount of time.
If you want to take a few seconds on your decisions to avoid giving away poker tells, that’s also reasonable. Just make sure you are not wasting everyone’s time needlessly.
After all, unlike casino slots, poker is a social game, and people want to have fun. Watching you stare down your opponent before making a trivial fold is anything but fun for all other players at the table.
3. Don’t Talk About the Hand
When a hand is active, and players other than you are involved, you should keep your mouth shut about what you have, what you folded, or what you think they have.
Talking about folded cards can give one player a serious edge over another. Talking about your hand during a multi-way pot can also hurt other players.
You should only really talk about your hand if you want to when the hand is down to heads up. Feel free to talk about what you folded once the hand is over with.
Even making gestures and sighs in response to a particular card coming can be considered a breach of poker etiquette. However, straight up saying you folded pocket nines is not something you should ever do.
For the most part, you should remain quiet at the table while hands are going on in general. People don’t really want you yelling over them while they are playing a big pot, even if you are not talking about your hand.
4. Don’t Be a Poor Winner
Being a little nasty when you lose a big pot is something that most players will accept in good spirit, but talking smack after you win a big pot or stack someone is absolutely not acceptable!
If you want to honor the casino poker etiquette that most players follow, you should never talk smack after winning. In fact, you should even let the other guy throw a few verbal jabs at you without responding.
Of course, I am not saying you should let anyone insult you, but as long as they are not going too far, just let it go and enjoy the spoils of your victory.
There will be plenty of time to discuss the strategy of the hand later. For the time being, you should simply say things like sorry, unlucky, and nice hand.
One of the worst things you can do at the poker table is berate people who have lost big pots. This is simply a show of poor character and bad general life etiquette.
5. Don’t Harass the Staff
The consensus among most professional poker players is that the worst thing you can do in a poker room is berate and harass the dealers and other staff.
While players get into spats and arguments once in a while, whether they like it or not, there should never be a situation in which you are yelling at or being mean to the staff.
Dealers are just there to deal out the cards, and they do not decide your fate in any way. In fact, dealers are always just helping facilitate the game you want to play.
Keep in mind that everyone makes mistakes in their job, and a poker dealer accidentally turning over a card or the waitress forgetting your order does not give you the right to harass them.
Keep your language appropriate, your tone within reason, and remember to tip the staff. Do this, and you will get good treatment, just as you would in any other place.
One last thing to remember is that tipping well will not make your cards better, so don’t be a douche about the tips you have given away and the cards you are getting. The dealers have absolutely no control over it.
6. Don’t Hide Your Chips
One of the most common angles that some players like to shoot in poker games is hiding their big chips behind their small ones.
This is not only a major breach of poker etiquette but borderline cheating. You are giving away an impression of having a stack that does not correspond to the actual amount of chips you have.
If you are hiding your big chips, you are purposely being dishonest about your stack and giving players reasons to play badly against you in specific hands.
Keeping the big chips in front or on top of the small ones is basically a rule of poker, as is keeping your casino chips in uniform stacks and in a manner in which they can be counted.
Any other way of keeping your chip stack is against Texas Hold’em etiquette, and you should not be surprised if people get mad at you or even call you a cheater for doing this.
7. Don’t Give Poker Lessons at the Table
If there is one thing that will tick off pros and amateurs alike, it is a player giving everyone lessons in poker while they are playing.
If someone wants to learn poker these days, there are plenty of ways they can go about it. On the other hand, if they are already playing you, they most certainly aren’t looking for a lesson.
Some players have a tendency to constantly talk about strategy and tell other players how they should have played their hand. I highly recommend you don’t let yourself fall into this group.
The one time you should especially not tell people how they should have played it is after you beat them in a hand, as no one wants to hear such things from you or anyone else.
If you are a great poker player, keep your knowledge to yourself and capitalize on it. If you are average, think about how you can improve your game instead of trying to improve your opponents’.
8. Limit Your Celebrations
Players celebrating in poker is something that happens a lot, especially in tournaments. You will see players jump out of their seats and yell things out after eliminating another player, and this is just not good poker etiquette.
If you eliminate a player from the tournament, regardless of how it happened, you should always remain meek, collect your chips, and shake their hand if they want to.
There is absolutely no reason to talk about how badly they played it, how lucky they got to even be in the all-in with you, or other things of the sort.
In fact, if you are the one who got lucky and drew out on them, you should acknowledge it and be humble about it instead of going all crazy and celebrating your win.
If there is a time to celebrate in tournament poker, it is when the tournament is done, you have won it all and stepped away from the table. This way, you will not be rubbing your win in anyone’s face.
9. Don’t Slow Roll
Many players do it without knowing they are doing it, and it is one of the most disgusting things that can be done at the poker table.
A slow roll is a practice of waiting excessively long to show your hand, especially when you know it is a winner.
I have seen it many times that a player will turn his hand over, and the other player will wait for a long time, shake his head, say things, and then turn over the winner.
This breach of poker etiquette can get you into serious trouble with some people, as many poker players absolutely despise slow rolls and the players who pull them.
Whether you have the best hand or not, turn your hand over at showdown, or simply muck it if you think you are beat. Do not slow roll anyone, even if they have done it to you before.
Slow rolling is a cowardly act that goes against everything the game of poker should be, and I highly recommend you never do it in your life.
10. Take a Break When Losing
One of the most difficult things to do in poker (and casino games in general) is walk away from the table when you are losing. However, it is also one of the most necessary.
If you have lost a few pots, and you feel like you are starting to tilt, walking away from the table and taking a little break is one of the best things you can do.
After all, the game will still be there when you come back in 20 minutes, and you will have calmed down by that time.
This way, you will avoid getting into unnecessary arguments, berating other players or the staff, or doing other things you don’t really want to do at the table.
In fact, if you have been losing for a little while, taking a break of a few days or weeks is also sometimes a smart thing to do to get you right back into the proper mindset.
11. Protect Your Cards
The rules of poker actually state quite clearly that it is every player’s job to take care of their own cards and protect them.
This means that if the dealer accidentally takes your hole cards, which are still active, and puts them into the muck, the fault is your own.
When you play live poker, you should make sure to always have a clear sight of your cards and keep them covered with a card protector or chips, or keep an eye out to make sure they are intact.
If the dealer does take your cards, don’t make a fuss about it and try to settle it with the floorman or the dealer in a civilized and gentlemanly manner.
12. Avoid Hit and Runs
A hit and run in poker is the practice of sitting down at the table for a very brief period, winning a small or large amount of money quickly, and walking away with your profit.
While this is perfectly acceptable at a blackjack table, it’s frowned upon in poker.
Not only is this rude because you are taking money off the table very quickly and not giving others a chance to win it back, but also because you might be breaking up the game.
If you come to a live poker game, you should be willing to play for at least a few hours, as the game is quite slow, and it takes time to get some hands in.
As a poker player, you should be aware of the variance associated with poker, and you should give others a fair opportunity to play you in more hands before you leave.
The truth is that you will have the psychological advantage and the momentum on your side, so leaving when you are winning is usually a mistake anyway.
13. Take Care of Your Hygiene
This one should probably go without saying, but you should always make sure to take very good care of your personal hygiene when you go to play live poker.
The game is played with many people in one room and sitting at the same table, and there are few worse feelings than the guy next to giving off bad smells.
When you are getting ready to go to a poker game, make sure to get a shower, wear fresh clothes, and wear some mild cologne. Putting on powerful colognes can also be a bit intrusive to others.
In either case, making sure you are clean and smell well is the least you can do to show respect to everyone involved in the game you are going to.