Poker Etiquette
2005 Jason Kirk  

Online poker has been a mixed blessing in a lot of ways. On the positive side, people who live far from casinos and don't want to play in underground games can enjoy a safe game of poker from the comfort of their own homes. A lot of new players have been brought into the game this way, which is also a good thing - more money is up for grabs today than at any time in the past. One of the negative sides of online poker is that some of these players who have never played in a casino or regular home game before don't know anything about the etiquette of poker. Ignorance of accepted rules and procedures is no excuse for breaking them; it's best to be educated in order to avoid any unwanted embarrassment or confrontations. Thankfully most poker etiquette is very simple and revolves around the concept that you shouldn't do to others what you wouldn't want done to you. For those who may be new to live games, here's an overview of a few basic rules of poker etiquette.

1. Don't act out of turn.

When playing online, it's impossible to act out of turn because the software just doesn't allow you to do it. Once you're seated at a poker table, though, it's imperative that you pay attention to the game to avoid acting out of turn. Making a raise out of position not only gives extra information to the players who have yet to act, but it's also considered a binding action. You could be forced to move all in if a player you skipped makes a large enough raise. This rule of etiquette is considerate of the other players, but following it could also save you a lot of money in the right situation.

2. No string bets.

If you've ever seen an old poker movie where a player tosses out chips and says something like, "I call your $500 and raise you another $500," you've seen a string bet. This way of betting in considered unethical because it gives you a chance to gauge your opponent's reaction before announcing the amount of your raise. It's very easy to avoid this in practice. Verbal declarations are binding in casino play, so once you've announced you intend to raise you can take your time in getting your chips together. Move your chips forward in one motion, or if you'll need two motions because your raise is so big, announce the amount of your raise.

3. Don't splash the pot.

In the film Rounders, there's a memorable scene where Mike McDermott is playing Teddy KGB in a heads-up match of no-limit hold'em. Teddy makes a bet and throws his chips in the middle in big, unorganized piles. Mike asks him not to splash the pot, and Teddy replies (not in so many words) that he'll splash the pot in his own club whenever he wants. Throwing your chips into the pot can slow the game down, and it can also make the amount you've bet unclear. When you bet, place your chips in easy-to-measure stacks in front of you and you'll keep everything moving along nicely.

4. One player, one hand.

This is one of the most basic rules of the game - you can't receive advice from anyone else on how to play your hand. Every player is responsible for making decisions with the money he brings to the table. This means you can't ask a neighbor who's out of the pot how we would play your hand. It also means you can't encourage someone else at the table to call a player you want to see gone from the game. Make your own decisions for yourself, and let other make their own decisions as well.

5. Protect your hand.

Players are responsible for protecting their cards at all times. There are two main implications of this rule. First, you should take measures to make sure that your opponents can't see your cards - if they catch a glimpse of what you're holding, there's no one to blame but yourself. Second, if a dealer accidentally grabs your cards and throws them into the muck, your hand will be declared dead and you'll forfeit any money you've put into the pot. In practice, you should keep a chip or some other object on top of your cards to indicate that they are still in play, and when you look at your cards you should keep them on the table and cup your hands over them to obscure them from anyone else's view.

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