Etiquette in Live Poker
Etiquette is one area of concern for poker players that's applicable almost exclusively to live poker. While there's certainly a certain amount of etiquette that should be expected out of online players as well, it's hardly anything that the majority of players will worry about. Etiquette starts from the moment you sit down at a table, and it's something that will likely corner you into a few awkward positions of your live poker playing career. If you want to ensure that you have a pleasant experience when playing live poker, etiquette is one of the many areas of the game that you will need to have a firm grasp on.
Etiquette in Table Talk
Table talk is arguably the biggest element of poker etiquette. You can say the wrong thing at the wrong time and it will be just enough to upset the right type of person. Some common areas where problems arise are more frequent than others. Before expanding into how you should handle your general table talk, we are going to look at some of the "problem areas" that many players tend to experience.
After a player loses a big pot, there are a handful of things that they don't want to hear. This is not to say that some players aren't more accepting of your input than others, but it's generally a good idea to just keep quiet and to say nothing at all. There's no point in trying to intervene when the best case scenario is not really beneficial to anyone at all.
When someone loses a hand, for whatever reason, they don't want to hear about how you think they misplayed it. That is one of the most aggravating things that any poker player can ever start talking about. Not only were you not involved in the hand, but it isn't your money that they are playing with. As odd as their play might have seemed to you, there's no reason to try and belittle an opponent. In fact, even asking why a player played a hand a certain way is just asking for trouble. Your best bet in these situations is to simply say nothing at all.
If a few players are involved in a hand of any size, you shouldn't be commenting like you are Norman Chad and the game is being televised on ESPN. Saying things like, "he raised, you know what THAT means," or "wow, what an over bet," are just asking for trouble. Imagine if you were playing in a pot and another player started to incessantly ramble about what they think of your play as the hand is going on. Not only is this type of table talk totally inappropriate, but it's also against the rules in many poker rooms. You'll likely get a simple warning the first time that you do it, but continual talk like this is certainly grounds for removal from a game.
Perhaps the worst thing that any player can start to talk about in a game is how bad a certain player is. Not only are you likely to offend and/or upset the player that's being discussed, but there's more than a good chance that your other opponents will be aggravated that you are trying to chase a weak player out of the game. The phrase "don't tap the glass" is used in these types of situations, and it means that you should never try to scare away someone who is trying to hand you their money.
This type of talk often times starts after someone loses a hand to a poor player. It could have been that the winning player got lucky, played their hand terribly, or both, and the frustration from the losing player causes them to call out the bad player. As annoying as it might be to lose a hand to an inferior player, it's just dumb to try and get them to quit or to focus on playing better. After all, if your opponents were all premier players, you wouldn't be able to earn nearly as much money.
One thing to keep in mind is that a player who berates others is usually not very good at poker themselves. Lots of poker players have completely unwarranted egos, and you'll realize that the biggest mouths frequently correlate with the biggest losers, both figuratively and literally.
Etiquette in Acting Time
Live poker can be a slow enough game as it is, so taking unnecessary long periods of time to act in each hand can become incredibly annoying for other players at the table. Most players who are guilty of slowing down the game are either drunk, are new to the game, or are simply not paying attention.
You'll almost have to learn to deal with drunk players, if only for the fact that they are going to usually give away all their money. New players are learning so it's difficult to be overly critical of them. Players who don't actively pay attention to the game, however, are the most frustrating to deal with. There's no excuse for slowing down the game if you are simply talking with others and/or not paying attention. Always do your best to keep the game moving at a reasonable pace and no one is going to have an issue with how long you take to act.
Etiquette in Breaks
Taking a break is fine and there certainly is nothing wrong with it. The problem with taking breaks stems from players who constantly wander the floor and are seemingly never in their seat. If you don't want to really play, go ahead and rack up. No one is going to throw a fit if you simply leave.
The reason that players don't like a constant wanderer is because it means that one extra seat at the table is now vacant. Players, especially those in live poker, always want as close to a full table as possible, so a few empty seats will dramatically change the pace of the game. While this isn't the type of issue that will usually garner disdain from other players, it's still something that you should keep in mind.
Etiquette in Following Rules
Rules are something that every player should always be paying attention to. If you are a long time player with a lot of experience, the chances are that every facet of the game comes as second nature to you. For many, however, a disregard or unawareness of the rules seems to be very commonplace.
One of the biggest poker rules that's broken in live poker is the order of action. If you accidentally muck your hand out of turn once, it's perfectly acceptable and is actually a very common error. It's the players who do it over and over again who can become quite a nuisance. Players who intentionally act out of turn are sometimes looking for an edge over the table, and this kind of potential cheating mechanism is hardly welcomed. If you are continually making mistakes at the table, stop whatever else you are doing and work on focusing your efforts on the game at hand for a handful of orbits.
The Unwritten Rule
This next area of poker etiquette has to do with following more of an unwritten rule more than one that's actually set in stone. One of the worst things that a player can do in live poker is start to react to the board after the flop is dealt. Needless to say, it's almost always players who already folded who are guilty of this. In getting upset after the flop is spread, you are basically telling the world that you would have made a strong hand. This will tip off each player into realizing that their opponent is likely weak.
How would you feel if you raised pre-flop, missed the flop, planned a continuation bet, and then had another player get all upset after the flop comes? You now know that the other player is more likely to call you down, rightfully assuming that it's less likely that you too have a big hand. Some players don't understand why this is such a breach of poker etiquette, but once you get burned by an over animated player, you'll realize that it has no place in the game.
Author: Jonathan Wanchalk
Updated: March 2015
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