4 Common Courtesies That Are Rudely Ignored at the Poker Table

by Henry Jablonski
on August 6, 2017

By the end of this blog, you’re going to be on one side of the aisle or other. You’re either going to be fired up and angry at how terrible some people behave at the poker table or you’re going to be realizing that it’s time to change your ways before everyone hates you. Honestly, I can’t guess where you’re going to fall, but I hope for the best for you. If you do fall on the dark side, hopefully, this is a wakeup call.

People at the poker table are a lot like people behind the computer screen; they feel as though they are free to do as they please with no consequences. You would hope that this sort of freedom would bring out the best in people. However, if you’ve ever spent a few minutes online or at the poker table, you know that it frequently does the exact opposite.

For some reason, people feel like they no longer have to act like adults and are free to treat everyone else like garbage. Common courtesy goes right out the window. Let’s look at a few of the things that I have noticed over my 12+ years playing poker professionally.

Sharing is Caring

Somehow, somewhere, people have forgotten the things they learned as a small child. I’m not talking about sharing your chips. I’m not talking about sharing your food or drinks. I’m talking about sharing the table. I wish I were making this up, but I have seen more fights at the poker table over how much space someone is taking up than over anything else.

Someone will come to the table and ask someone to slide over a little bit so they can have some room. I’ve seen people huff and puff, refuse to move, or do the fake slide shuffle and not actually move at all. Look, I get it that you think you are the most important person in the world but the table is meant to be shared.
It doesn’t matter if you’re 400 pounds or 80 pounds; each person is entitled to the exact same amount of space at the table. And guess what? They have rules about this to make this easier on you. If there are 10 people at the table, the 5 and the 6 seat split the box. This means that if you drew a line down the center of the dealer, one player would be on one side and one would be on the other. The remaining players are spaced evenly around the rest of the table. In some poker rooms, they have 10 cup holders in the table. If you can’t figure out that you are supposed to be in front of one of the cup holders, maybe you should just stay home.

If the table is nine handed, the 5 seat is directly in front of the dealer, and everyone else is spread evenly around the rest of the table. It’s really that simple. If the table is six handed and you are having problems with room, you need to leave immediately because you have bigger personal problems.

If you think that sliding over a few inches doesn’t make a difference, you apparently have never flown on an airplane. When they announce that seat leg room is shrinking by a few inches, it’s the difference between comfort and misery.

The solution here is to be courteous and be an adult about things. If someone asks you kindly to slide over, don’t snap back at them because you now have to do what’s right. On the same token, if you do have to ask someone to slide over a bit, please do it respectfully. I’ve had people tell me “Hey, get out of my space now.” I’ve just laughed at them and told them that if they asked nicely like a useful member of society, they would see better and quicker results. For those wondering, I still moved because it’s the correct thing to do.

If You Don’t Have Something Nice to Say…

Why. Am. I. Having. To. Explain. This. One. To. Adults. Seriously. The poker table is not this sudden octagon of oppression where you suddenly have the right to be a complete jerk to everyone in sight. When you say mean things, they still hurt just as much at the poker table.

Now, some of you are probably saying now that you do it to “get your opponent on tilt” or “get under their skin”. If you do this, you’re just an asshole. If the only way you can beat your opponent is by being mean to them, then you suck at poker. It’s also probably costing you money. Let’s look at an oversimplified example that will illustrate what I mean.

Let’s say you are beating your opponent for $5 an hour when you are nice to them. But let’s say that when you’re mean and nasty, you can get them on tilt and you can make $50 an hour on average from them! You are making ten times as much!!! This must be the positive expected value move then, right? Wrong.

In scenario one, your opponent plays with you for 5 hours. Your opponent loses $25 but is happy and enjoyed their time and comes back tomorrow…and the next day…and the next day. You continue collected $25 for every day. In the second scenario, your opponent plays with you for two hours and loses $100 to you. How much do you make on day two from them? You make zero. Your opponent hates you and didn’t enjoy their time in the game and never comes back or refuses to play when you are there.

Poker is so much about preserving the ecosystem and making sure the fish are happy and having fun.

If you bash them all to make a few quick bucks, you’re a short-sighted idiot who is destroying the profitability of the game.

Hygiene – It’s Not Just for Saturdays Anymore

Again, not sure why this has to be discussed (or disgust), but it must be. I’ve seen a lot of older poker videos where people came to the WSOP and the poker table dressed up in nice clothes and with an air of “I care about myself”.
Old Spice
It’s hard to tell from video or pictures, but I think it’s probably safe to assume that before putting on those nice clothes, they took a shower and applied some form of deodorant.

Somewhere throughout the evolution of the game, that responsibility to take a shower and show up clean to the poker table vanished. People show up to the game now reeking of body odor, sweaty, covered with food stains, and frankly just gross. I am not trying to say that you need to dress to the nines to come to the table. I’m not even saying that you need to comb your hair.

What I am saying is that you need to have some respect for the people around you. I should not have to get a clothes pin for my nose just to be able to sit at the table. I should be able to come to the table and enjoy myself without fear of getting attacked by flies following around a smelly player.

Why? Well, if you even have to ask why then this conversation is probably pointless. But outside of just being a good human being and respectful of yourself and those around you, it’s also good for the ecosystem of the game. The fish are not going to come back to the game if they aren’t having fun and I can assure you that playing in a cloud of body odor is not fun.

Respect the Staff

This may be ground breaking for some of you to hear. The staff and dealers are not in place just so you can have someone to sh*t on. Do you go to the grocery store and scream at the checkout person? Do you go to the gym and scream at the trainers? If you answered yes to any of those questions, you need more help than I can offer in a simple blog post.

The point is that dealers and floor staff are just people trying to do their job, make a living, and feed their families. They don’t come to work trying to make your day miserable so why would you turn around and try and do that to them.

When you disrespect the staff, here are some things that can happen:

  • You can get thrown out or banned from the poker room. This is obviously not ideal.
  • You can upset the fish, and they won’t come back. Again, not ideal.
  • You can make the entire experience miserable for everyone at the table. People will not like you. Surprise! Not ideal.

I’m not saying that you have to compliment every dealer on how great their hair looks or that you need not to voice concerns or complaints. What I am saying is that everything can be done respectfully. Don’t like something the dealer is doing? Tell them or speak to a floor staff. Don’t just start yelling and throwing cards and chips. One, that’s rude, and two, it’s not the way to get what you want to be done.

The Wrap Up

Poker USED to be called a gentleman’s game. I think some people still refer to it as that, but frankly, it’s lost a lot of that. If you’re someone who likes to make money or fancies yourself a professional, you should be aware of how important it is to protect the fragile ecosystem of the game.

If we as a whole continue to act like jerks, we’re going to drive away all of the recreational players. If this happens, it will only be the good players left, and we’ll be stuck just trading money back and forth while the casino and poker rooms get rich off the rake. Protect your livelihood and treat the fish with respect and create a fun and exciting environment for everyone.

I’ll leave you with this beautiful display of how NOT to accept defeat in a hand.

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