Playing online poker is a great way to learn the game and the subtle nuances of play and certainly, it can help any player learn enough about the game for them to take into a casino and begin playing with a degree of proficiency. However, what the online game doesn’t prepare you for is the behaviour you need to exhibit while at the table.
Poker, like the game of golf, has its own established code of etiquette that almost all of the top players and top real world casinos like to adhere to. It is important to remember them because, although they are not stated as rules of the game, following them makes the game more enjoyable, friendly and fairer for all.
When watching a professional game in progress on the television it is easy to assume that it is almost ‘anything goes’ at the antics of some of the players, yet even when it appears anarchy reigns, these players are still adhering to the understated ethical code of the game.
So to play like a professional and keep everyone on your side, here are some great tips on how to behave when at the real world poker table:
1. Never, ever reveal any of your cards while a hand is still in play.
While not revealing your hand is not against the rules of poker per se (some casinos may choose to penalise you a few chips if you do so however), it is considered by players in the game a somewhat amateurish breach of basic etiquette. Why, you may ask, is that the case when you have finished with a hand that you must still protect the integrity of your cards and not just throw them back to the dealer face up?
The answer is blindingly obvious when you consider it, while you may be out of a hand, there may well be several players who are still in the hand and who are making judgements about their cards based on what they hold in their hand and the community cards shown on the table. By exposing your cards, you run the risk of giving one player a significant advantage and here’s how:
Imagine you have stayed in a hand with a 7♣ and 8♦ until the flop and after the flop (A♣ J♦ 6♥, your hand is pretty worthless, so after a couple of players bet, you decide to fold and you throw your cards face up to the dealer.
Now, those still in the game can see you had a 7♣ and 8♦ in your hand. Now if a player is playing with either a pair of 7s or 8s, they immediately know their chances of drawing another of these cards from the pack has just got significantly less. This gives them a huge advantage, especially if they are up against a player with a stronger hand who was hoping to tempt them into betting.
That player, who may have a pair of aces or jacks in this example, will therefore not be too pleased at you handing the other player such important information meaning that they will not be able to extract the maximum value out of the hand as they would have done without the other player seeing the cards. The normal forms of online texas holdem are called pot limit hold em, limit hold em and no limit hold em and understanding each of these poker forms is essential to playing successfully.
Therefore, the golden rule of poker is, never ever show your cards until the final moments of the hand.
2. Don’t react to a theoretical hand that you are no longer in, especially post-flop.
So you were dealt the dreaded 2♥ 7♣ and decided to fold the hand. It looked like a wise move at the time considering the money others were committing to the pot. Only when the flop comes down, it couldn’t be much worse, 2♦ 7♦ 7♠. It would have been a full house. It’s only natural to show your frustration, right?
Wrong! Few things will annoy players more than players out of a hand moaning and whining about what would have happened ‘had they stayed in’. Worse still is exhibiting signs of annoyance such as moaning and banging the table. As simple as this may be, you are giving opponents valuable insights into how you behave when the cards are dealt and this may be used against you at a later date.
So, take Lady Gaga’s advice and keep that poker face in place whether you are in the hand or not.
3. Don’t advise, mock, laugh at other players or moan about their ‘luck’.
There’s nothing guaranteed to rub opponents up the wrong way more quickly than a player who is fond of hearing their own voice. Keep your guidance to yourself, the other players are unlikely to want to hear it. Certainly don’t mock them or laugh at other players who lose a key hand. You’ll win few friends and plenty of enemies that way.
By the same token, keep a lid on whining about your luck, or bragging about how the cards are going your way. Every experienced player has had good and bad runs and continually harping on about it at the table will win you no friends.
4. No matter what you are dealt, never disrespect the dealer.
The dealer is there to do a job and oversee fair play between players. They are not responsible for the value of the cards you are dealt, merely that you are dealt the cards you need. Always be respectful to the dealer no matter whether you are on a good or bad beat and certainly avoid not tipping a dealer because you have had a bad run of hands; that’s just petty and small-minded.
5. If you are not in a hand, keep quiet
Nobody playing in a hand wants to hear about what you would have done in that situation, especially when a player is still considering all their options. You may think you are just showing your poker smarts at the table when spouting off about what you may have done in that situation, but in reality, you are likely to be boring all those playing against you. Play it respectfully and quietly and speak only when the time is right and you’ll make far more allies than enemies.