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Helpful Texas Hold’em Etiquette Poker Rules You Need to Know

Don’t Be That Guy! I have seen a lack of Texas Hold’em etiquette over the last two days. I roll with it because I’ve seen it before, but since I’m usually playing in a poker tournaments in a tournament series, I have forgotten how bad Texas Hold’em etiquette can be in regular poker rooms.

Most people don’t have bad poker etiquette because they are jerks. In most cases, they don’t realize that what they’re doing is bad etiquette. That’s why I’m writing this article. It has nothing to do with poker strategy and poker tips, but I want you to know what not to do so you don’t end up being that guy.

As I write this, I’m sitting in a hotel room in Cherokee, North Carolina. It’s a three-day trip for traditional poker games and Texas Hold’em poker tournaments.

hotel room

This is day three. So far, I’m ahead, including a 2nd place finish last night in a small tournament. Maybe I can write about some good and bad decisions about that tournament in another article. There is an important message I would like to send about that experience, and it relates to why I finished 2nd instead of 1st.

Part of the reason I played it out instead of chopping is because my opponent showed poor Texas Hold’em etiquette earlier. I went the karma route, but in the poker world, karma doesn’t exist. I’m still happy I played it out because this dude did something not cool. I’ll begin with that not cool thing and that hit some other topics on poor Texas Hold’em etiquette.

Texas Hold’em Etiquette

Bubble Save

The tournament I played in last night had 36 players, which meant only four spots were being paid. I will never ask for a chop in a poker tournament, but I will always bring up a bubble save.

I do this because it’s good poker etiquette for the simple reason that we had all been sitting there playing poker for 4.5 hours. That’s not very long compared to most poker tournaments I play, but it’s a long time for a lot of people. The reason I always bring up a bubble save is so the player who comes in fifth (in this case it was fifth) will at least get their money back and will not have wasted their time.

This might be more toward good sportsmanship than bad Texas Hold’em etiquette, but when someone declines a bubble save, that’s definitely bad poker etiquette. The person who declined the bubble save might have thought it was good poker strategy, but it had nothing to do with strategy.

This was a small $45 tournament at 10 p.m. I brought up the idea of everyone taking out $20 and that small pot going to the player who finished on the bubble. This way, the player who finished on the bubble would make money. They wouldn’t make as much money as fourth place, but they would net $55 for the night. That feels a lot better than playing well for hours and leaving with nothing. You could put this in the poker tips category because it might save you some money one day.

Seat 1 declined the bubble save because he was the chip leader. He failed to understand that a bubble save isn’t about you personally. It’s about showing good sportsmanship and poker etiquette because there will come a day when you’re in that same spot and you would want the chip leader to do the same for you.

Even if I have the table covered by a wide margin with a monster stack, I’m still going to put the money in for a bubble save. It’s usually $10 or $20. I mean, come on, man! Seriously? You’re going to be that tight with your money?

You really don’t want you to be that guy (or gal) because you will look cheap. Do you really want to be pegged as cheap? Even if you’re not looked at as cheap, you’re at least going to be looked at as a jerk.

I will give Seat 1 the benefit of the doubt that he wasn’t a cheap jerk because he didn’t understand Texas Hold’em etiquette, but I’m really stretching it. And I know I’m really stretching it because this dude didn’t even tip the dealers when the tournament was over.

Tipping the Dealers

This topic is a little different because you can make an argument for not tipping the dealers in some situations. The situation that makes the most sense for not tipping the dealers is in Texas Hold’em poker tournaments where they already took tip money out for the dealers when you bought-in to the tournament.

Whenever you buy-in to a poker tournament, you will get a ticket. Make sure you look at everything written on that ticket. It will show you how much money goes to the prize pool and house much goes to the house. In some cases, it will show you how much money is being taken out for the dealers (this doesn’t always happen).

So, if you’re playing in poker tournaments where the dealers are already being tipped, then you’re tipping them twice if you tip them after the tournament. Even if money has already been taken out for the dealers, I’m still going to throw a few bucks in. That’s just me, though. I don’t feel good about myself without doing that.

poker etiquette - tip dealer

As far as traditional poker games go, such as cash games, I can make this relatively simple for you. If you want to show good Texas Hold’em etiquette, then I would recommend tipping $1 in 1/2 NL games and $2 in 2/5 NL games. If you win a massive pot, then I would recommend tipping a little more, but the above tip amounts are a good rule to follow.

You don’t need to tip when you win a $5 pot in a 1/2 NL game. Don’t worry about hurting the dealer’s feelings. I promise you that if you have played in a poker room three times or more, the dealers already know if you tip or not. If you don’t tip at all in cash games, that is poor Texas Hold’em etiquette.

Take a Shower

I don’t visit Harrah’s Cherokee as much as in the past for regular poker, but other than this trip, I did so three months ago. When I was here during that trip, I was playing a 2/5 NL game late on a Sunday night. The player to my right had body odor because he was a self-proclaimed hippie who lived by the river and openly told me that he didn’t believe in showers. He told me that people were taught incorrectly and that people didn’t need to shower as much as society has taught them.

To my left was another guy who had body odor. He told me that he had been playing on and off for three days and had been napping in his car between sessions. He said he hadn’t showered since four days prior.

I had never experienced anything like this, where two players sitting next to me hadn’t showered for days. What’s even crazier is that they both justified their actions (or inactions). And, yes, it was so bad that I had to ask both of them if they showered. Here’s what’s even crazier…

I posted about this on my Facebook Friends page and about 10%-15% of the people defending these non-showering folks. Their defense was that not everyone can afford a hotel room. I understand that, but why are they playing poker if they can’t afford a hotel room? And even if that’s the case, there are truck stops that have showers. And the hippie by the river has access to water yet doesn’t use it.

I’m sorry for the mini-rant, but I’m still going to be blunt here. If you’re going to play poker games, please take a freaking shower! If you don’t shower, it’s absolutely bad poker etiquette. In my opinion, not showering should be against the poker rules. And I’m referring to showers with soap and stuff.

Hit & Run

Before I played in the tournament yesterday, I was playing in a 1/2 NL game. Wanted to play 2/5 NL, but apparently there is usually one 2/5 NL game on Monday-Thursday at the Harrah’s Cherokee Poker Room during the day and that table was full. I tried to walk around the casino for a while to see if a seat opened up, but no luck.

I don’t mind playing 1/2 NL. It can be fun, but 1/2 NL at the Harrah’s Cherokee Poker Room is very challenging because it’s a $7 rake with a $200 max buy-in. This makes the game extremely difficult to beat. That has nothing to do with the players. It has to do with beating the house.

During this session, a newbie sat down in Seat 9. He didn’t play many poker hands, but when he did choose to play poker hands, he did so poorly. I was waiting for the right spot to take all of his chips, but he ended up in a big hand vs. another player where he put all of his chips in the middle.

Seat 1 called. When they tabled their hands, Seat 9 had top pair and Seat 1 had a nut flush draw. Seat 9 won the hand with top pair. He collected $178 dollars, didn’t tip the dealer, and left the game. He had been there for approximately 25 minutes.

You have the right to do as you please as far as coming and going in poker games goes, but just so you know, this is poor Texas Hold’em etiquette. If you want to pull off a hit and run, then I would at least recommend doing it the right way. You don’t just win a big pot and leave. That’s pretty obvious and people will remember you. They will also remember that they don’t like you.

Pulling off the hit and run correctly is easy. After you win that big pot, pretend to still be involved during the next orbit but only pretend to look at your hole cards, fold every time, and then leave.

Celebrating Victory

When you play in a poker tournament series, it’s very rare that you see someone celebrate a winning hand. It will happen from time to time, but it definitely stands out because it’s bad etiquette. Over the past two days, I have seen (and heard) several people celebrate their winning hands. I’m not just talking about a fist pump to go along with a “Yes!” I’m talking about standing up, fist pumping, smiling, and shouting, “Yeah, baby! That’s what I’m talkin’ about!”

It’s pretty easy to figure out why this is bad Texas Hold’em etiquette. I’ll put it to you this way: Would you want to be the player who lost that hand and then have to witness that? This doesn’t happen to me often at all, but when it does, I look at the person in bewilderment and wonder what’s wrong with them.

Celebrating winning poker hands is amateurish. If you do it, it’s a tell to a poker pro. From that point forward, they’re going to know what kind of player you are, and that’s going to be bad news for you. They know that strong players don’t do that, which means they’re going to peg you as a weak player and they’re going to want to play more pots with you.

Final Thoughts

This is one of the fastest articles I have ever written. There is no way you could know that, but it’s a fact. There are two reasons for that. One, I have to check out of my hotel room in 45 minutes and I haven’t showered yet, and that shower is really important. Two, I’m really into the topic. I even ran out of room. I covered some important topics on poker etiquette, but I have a lot more to write about on the topic. I’ll see if I can write a Part II. (Part 2.0 below)

Texas Hold’em Etiquette 2.0: Don’t Be That Guy

If you didn’t read the first part of this Texas Hold’em etiquette article, I recommend doing that now. Then come back here for the rest of the story. This will make it a more enjoyable experience. If you begin here, that’s fine, but it will be like eating the ice cream before eating the steak.

Regardless of which part you read first, this article will focus on Texas Hold’em etiquette. You will definitely see some poor poker etiquette with PLO due to the stakes and swings, but that’s a whole different article. Most of what you read here will stem from experiences in Texas Hold’em poker tournaments.

I still play traditional poker games as well, but not nearly as often as in the past. The Texas Hold’em poker tournaments have helped me build my brand. I think it’s easier to win in traditional poker games for most players, but if you’re brand-building, then you need to be on the bigger stage.

That said, not all of what you read here will be from a big stage. For instance, my most recent poker trip was to the Harrah’s Cherokee Poker Room. There was no WSOP Circuit there at the time. And it wasn’t even a weekend. It was Wednesday-Friday. Prior to that, I spent six days at The Lodge Poker Club, which is a poker club in Round Rock, Texas.

There was plenty of action there, but it’s not the Venetian. And prior to that, I was in Tunica, Mississippi for RunGood. That was my first RunGood event and it was a great experience. RunGood is bigger than the Harrah’s Cherokee Poker Room and The Lodge Poker Club, but it’s not massive. At least not yet.

I wanted to mention those locations for two reasons. One, it gives you a mental image of where I was playing. Two, it’s letting you know that the things I have seen and heard related to Texas Hold’em etiquette happened in regular places, such as places you might find yourself playing one day. The Texas Hold’em poker etiquette I write about below didn’t take place at a WSOP Circuit Main Event or at the 10/20 NL game at the Bellagio poker room. These were regular people in mostly low-stakes poker tournaments.

Now let’s look at other ways some people demonstrate poor poker etiquette.

Texas Hold’em Poker Etiquette

The Slammer!

I played five poker tournaments at Harrah’s Cherokee last week. During the first poker tournament, which was on a Wednesday night, I sat next to a guy who said it was his first time playing poker in a live casino. This was easy to tell if you looked carefully. He handled his chips awkwardly, he was uncomfortable when looking at his hole cards, and he played his poker hands poorly.

In regards to the latter, this doesn’t mean that all online-only players play their poker hands poorly. Was just one of many online-only players who played his poker hands way too fast. He apparently believed that putting constant pressure on his opponents was the way to go. He couldn’t be more wrong.

Despite being on the topic of Texas Hold’em poker etiquette, I’ll drop a poker tip for you right here. If you want to guarantee that you will be a losing player, then be sure to constantly put pressure on your opponents. The reason this doesn’t work should be obvious.

If you’re constantly putting pressure on your opponents, then you’re eventually going to run into a spot where the cards don’t work in your favor. Combine that with the fact that your opponent will have picked up on your betting patterns and set a trap for you. Once you fall into that trap, you won’t get out. This is 100-foot well and the side walls are covered with grease. Therefore, if you plan on being a bully, you’re going to get yours.

This particular character was trying to be a bully. In his mind, it was highly effective. When he first sat down, his Ego was the size of a walnut. By the middle of the poker tournament, his Ego had grown to the size of Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. And just like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, he was destroying everything in his path.

This got to the point where every time the bully (a.k.a. Bandana Bandit) knocked someone out of the tournament, he would stand up and slam his cards face-up onto the table. What he was trying to say was, “Take that!” That might be the nice version. I think it was more along the lines of, “Take that, CHUMP!”

The losing party never said anything back. They just stood up and walked away, sometimes with their heads down. This is how some people react to bullies. While on this point, there is a dude at my gym who looked at me in a nasty way all the time. He is much bigger than me, but he kept doing it, and then he started getting close to me and slamming weights.

Yesterday when he did this, I pointed to his earbuds so he would take them out. He took them out and I said, “Did I piss you off or something?”

This led to a conversation where he explained he was only pissed at his ex-wife, never anyone in the gym. This is a side lesson about life, though. I used to choose flight in the fight vs. flight response. Since something about me changed/clicked a few years ago due to undisclosed events, it became the opposite. It feels amazing to nip it in the bud. I don’t care if a bigger dude beats me up. That’s not what it’s about.

It’s about standing up for yourself but without overdoing it. You need a balanced response. You’re friendly but not too friendly. You don’t want to attack too much so it escalates, but you don’t want to sit back too much so the bully keeps treating you poorly. You want to find that perfect balance and pick the right spot to attack.

Do you see my point? If not, read that above paragraph again. It had everything to do with poker strategy. I’ll put it in simpler terms. If you attack a bully without a plan or controlled emotions, you’re putting yourself at great risk. If you sit back for too long, the bully will keep attacking you.

However, if you wait patiently while eager and prepared to attack when the opportunity presents itself, then you are playing it correctly. This fits within our poker rules for winning.

The: “I Folded an Ace” Guy

These people are annoying. Don’t ever be this guy. I’m referring to when you’re all-in in a hand vs. one opponent, both hands are tabled, it’s AK vs. 99, and a third player not in the hand says, “I folded an ace.”

What I want to say is, “That’s great, but you’re a douchebag.”

I can’t say that because of my image and brand, but at least now you know I’m thinking it. It doesn’t matter if it’s me or someone else. When you folded your cards and you’re watching an all-in, don’t tell one of the other players that you folded one of their cards. That’s poor Texas Hold’em etiquette.

Bubble Save

These people drive me nuts. I keep writing about it because I really want it to get through. It DOES NOT MATTER if you’re the chip leader at the final table, always participate in the bubble save. You’re going to be seeing a lot of the same people down the road. If you don’t participate in the bubble save, people will remember, and they will not offer it to you when you’re the short stack next time.

For instance, I will remember the guy I played against heads-up the other night. He wouldn’t participate in the bubble save because he had the chip lead at the time. I wasn’t the bubble, but I will remember this character without a doubt, and I will not participate in a bubble save when he’s the short stack. It’s about Texas Hold’em etiquette and poker etiquette in general. It has nothing to do with the financial aspect.

Take a Shower

I have written about this before, so I’ll be brief: Please shower prior to playing poker. If you don’t shower, then you are breaking our poker rules for winning. Okay … that’s not 100% true, but I really want people to shower prior to sitting next to me. I needed to write about this again because the person who reads part two without reading part one might be the person who doesn’t shower.

Tank-Folding

Dude … if you’re truly thinking about what you’re going to do, great, take all the time you need. On the other hand, this tank-folding thing has got to go. It has improved over the years, but it still exists.

poker etiquette - player tanking

For those of you who play poker regularly, you know what I’m talking about. I’m talking about when you can tell the player is going to fold but just sits there and pretends to contemplate. Sometimes he will hold his cards a little bit toward the muck and tap them on the table while ‘thinking.’ Just fold, bro. You’re wasting everyone’s time.

Acting Out Of Turn

Everyone is going to make this mistakes once in a while. It’s an accident. However, there are some people who do it way too often. Be sure to pay attention to the action so you know when it’s your turn to act. If you continuously act out of turn, its bad Texas Hold’em etiquette and it will not be appreciated by others.

Critiquing Other Players

Never do this! And that is a serious poker tip. When you critique other players, you come off as an ass to other people. Not only that, if someone is making bad decisions, why would you tell them? That’s terrible poker strategy. It’s also referred to as tapping the glass. This means you’re letting the fish know that they’re fish. Please do not let the fish know they’re fish. Thank you for your cooperation.

Tipping

I have written about this before as well, so I’ll keep it brief. Tip 2% for poker tournaments, $1 in 1/2 NL games, and $2 in 2/5 NL games. There are exceptions to these rules related to tourney fees and pot sizes in cash games, but those are general rules to follow. Tipping is definitely good Texas Hold’em etiquette.

Slow-Rolling

I have saved the most important topic on Texas Hold’em etiquette for last. I try to be a polite and respectful individual, but if you slow-roll, you’re an asshole.

Let’s back up a minute first. If you don’t know what slow-roll means, it means that you see that you have a winning hand after your opponent reveals their hand and then take your sweet time revealing your winning hand. The reason this is bad poker etiquette is simple. By taking a long time to reveal your hand, it makes your opponent think that he has the winner.

I have had this happen to me many times. Sometimes it’s on purpose and sometimes it’s an accident. Either way, it’s not cool. The worst ones are when someone slowly turns over one card at a time.

However, I experienced the worst slow-roll of my career in Texas. After I showed trips at showdown, my opponent slowly moved his arm forward with his cards face-down, then turned them over to reveal a straight while singing the SportsCenter theme. Biggest poker douche I have ever met.

Final Thoughts

To review, don’t slam your winning hand on the table, don’t tell another player that you folded one of their cards when they’re all-in, always participate in a bubble save, always shower, ease up on the tank-folds, pay attention so you don’t act out of turn, never critique other players, always tip, and NEVER slow-roll!

♠ pokerjournal.org / Tyler Nals

Poker Etiquette – FAQs

Q: What is poker etiquette?

A: In a general sense, it’s showing respect to your opponents at the poker table. It also relates to speeding up game play and establishing a healthy and enjoyable atmosphere.

Q: Why can’t you talk about your hand in poker?

A: It’s against the poker rules unless you’re heads-up in a cash game. In all other situations, it can reveal information, which can be seen as influencing action. This is against the rules and can lead to a penalty.

Q: What is a good ethical angle shot in poker?

A: No such thing. An angle shot is unethical. If you’re still searching for something, you are allowed to tank with the nuts when someone is all-in and there is a player behind you. The objective is to make yourself look weak to the player behind you.

Q: What is sandbagging in poker?

A: It’s the same thing as slow-playing, which is not unethical. This is also referred to as trapping, which is when you have a winning hand and check in order to induce bets from your opponent(s).

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