The Dos and Don’ts of Proper Poker Etiquette: How to make friends and enemies at the table

By David Roberts
May 23, 2024

Poker is a highly combative game where the ultimate goal is to win stacks of cash or the accolades that come along with it, such as bracelets and trophies. That being said, much like there’s a codified set of TDA rules, there is also an unwritten set of standards that players are expected to abide by which is commonly known as poker etiquette. Follow these acknowledged rules of poker etiquette and you can make friends and win respect at the table. If, however, you disregard these you may soon find yourself making enemies and in the long run gaining a bad reputation in the poker community. Here are some of the most common guidelines to good and bad poker etiquette and making friends and enemies at the table.

Hellmuth Ninja poker etiquette

Image used for illustrative purposes only

Good Poker Etiquette

1. Don’t berate the dealer or other players at the table

This is a fundamental point of good poker etiquette. Poker can be an emotionally charged game and it is up to you to keep your emotions in check when riding that rollercoaster. Never take out your frustrations verbally on the dealer or on other players at the table after a loss. This way you might have lost the pot, but you will win respect from your peers — and there will always be another hand.

2. Act in turn

Always wait until the action is on you before you act in a hand. Folding or raising before the action is on you can influence the other player’s decisions. Accidents will happen from time to time and a player may fold out of turn, but pay attention to your position and act in turn at the table.

Be patient and courteous to other players by granting them ample time to act – it’ll be much appreciated when someone is under stress. Beginners and inexperienced players usually take the longest because they are still processing the information. While you may look down at a hand like A2o and know it’s a fold, they may still be thinking.

3. Avoid discussing the hand in play

Imagine you have folded your hand pre-flop only to see those junky cards flop a full house. Here’s what to do: stay calm. Don’t react. Don’t say, “You won’t believe what I just folded!” or wiggle around exasperatedly in your seat. Plainly put, that’s bad form. The other players are still betting and the hand is still live for them. You never want to give away any information that may influence the decision-making of others, and thus the outcome of the hand.

4. Keep large denomination chips clearly visible

The large value chips in a cash game or tournament should be at the front of your stack and clearly visible. This gives your opponents transparency to gauge how much you are playing. This comes into play when opponents might be considering things like pot odds and stack to pot ratio (SPR).

If you’re “hiding” larger denomination chips in the middle or bottom of your stacks, this greatly affects their calculations. You don’t want to be the person accused of misrepresenting their stack or “angling” in play — something we will arrive to later in this article.

5. Don’t ask to see a losing hand

Imagine you are facing a bet on the river in a cash game and you are in position and decide to make the call. Your opponent announces “You’re good.” You don’t want to be that person that forces your opponents to show down losing hands every single time — it’s a surefire way to make enemies at the poker table in the long run. Lesser skilled players especially might not want to reveal their cards out of embarrassment. Table your hand and allow your opponent to muck their own; this is good poker etiquette.

Bad Poker Etiquette

1. Slow rolling

This is a major one and perhaps the rudest thing you can do that is in most cases technically within the rules in poker. Slow rolling is when you intentionally delay showing down what you know to be the winning hand, misleading your opponent into thinking that they are about to scoop the pot. This is a way to make enemies quickly — when you know you are good, just table the winner.

2. Splashing the pot

This refers to throwing chips directly into the pot recklessly… effectively “splashing” the pot. This is bad etiquette as it makes the pot difficult to count for the dealer and the other players which in turn slows down the action. Generally speaking, anything that slows the game down is to be avoided. Part of being a respectful player is being even-keeled and controlled in all your maneuvers.

3. Angle-shooting

Angle-shooting might not be technically illegal, but the term refers to actions that are deemed unethical and unsporting. An example might be holding one high denomination chip in the palm of your hand during a big pot – misleading your opponent into thinking you have a smaller stack. This form of deception is very frowned upon in the poker world and will certainly make you an unpopular figure at your cardroom.

READ MORE: Here’s Why Angle Shooting is a Big No-No

4. Needling

Needling occurs when you make mildly offensive comments towards other players — to get under their skin. This is quite common in poker, especially in friendly home game settings, but try not to hit below the belt. You will have to judge what is friendly banter and what is crossing the line. Let’s say someone was doing well and had a giant chip stack then lost most of it. If you were to turn and ask them; “hey, where did all your chips go?” then this could be seen as a tasteless needle, and poor poker etiquette.

5. Being a bad winner

When you take down a pot — particularly a big pot — you should do so humbly and in a way that won’t embarrass the losing player. Don’t engage in excessive or obnoxious celebrations, and definitely don’t give unwarranted advice on how badly your opponent may have played their hand (even if they are a fish). As hard as it may be, the correct etiquette is to contain your excitement, stack your chips quietly, and don’t forget to tip the dealer.



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David Roberts
Written By.

David Roberts

David Roberts is a poker player originally from Ireland now living in California. He started playing Sit N’ Gos online and has traveled the world playing cash games all over Europe, Canada, and the United States for nearly two decades. He enjoys cooking, working out, and talking politics with his wife.

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