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Texas Hold'em No Limit Beginner

Poker Etiquette for Beginners

10,102 Views on 24/5/15

Learn the rules of poker etiquette and stay classy at the tables, to avoid confrontations and earn respect of your fellow players

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So you've read the rules Poker Quiz of the game and you are ready to go. You've also picked up a few tricks from some of your favourite movies that should have you table captain in no time. You sit down at a live $1/$2 game and the following scene unfolds.

A few hands in we are dealt a decent stealing hand on the BTN. We can probably take the blinds down with this hand, so we'd prefer if no-one raises before us. We decide to announce out of turn that we are likely going to be playing this hand. Perhaps that will discourage players from opening if they think we are strong.

One of the players in early position gives us a brief stare before open folding. What's his problem? The action is on us unopened and we make our planned steal attempt. A player in the blinds call and we fire a continuation bet on the flop. We follow up with a double-barrel on the turn after spiking a lucky card to make the nuts. Our opponent check-raises. Now we have him. We decide to take our time to represent that we have a difficult decision.

About a minute goes by after which we decide we are finally going to act. β€œI call your bet”, we announce placing the chips in the pot, β€œand raise you another $30”. We place more chips in the pot to signal our raise amount. The dealer tells us that we have made a string-raise and that our original action of calling stands. Who the does he think he is?
I see your $100 sir, and raise you another thousand... What string betting?

This dealer is clearly incompetent and we have no problem letting him know that in front of the entire table. We have paid good money to get into this game, if we want to raise we should be allowed to raise. Finally we give in to pressure from the rest of the table to let the dealer's decision stand.

On the river Poker Quiz our opponent makes a large bet and puts us all-in. Great, we still have the absolute nuts. He isn't going to know what's hit him – it's probably a huge cooler situation. It's an easy call, but we are still annoyed at the dealer and especially the other players for taking the dealers side. We decide we are going to make our opponent sweat for a while. 2 minutes passes by as we feign a difficult decision. Finally, just as we think our opponent may ask for the clock, we call, and turn over the stone cold nuts with a huge grin on our face. That showed him.

We look at the hand that our opponent shows down, ignoring the look of disgust on his face at our obvious slowroll. The real question is, why was he raising that hand on the turn? Someone as bad as this should not be at the table. We decide to let our opponent know how badly he has played the hand and start to give him instructions on how to play the hand in future.

Despite the inexperienced dealer we feel that things are going pretty well for us, we are up a stack and more. As the evening progresses we get into a tough decision in a three-way pot involving the bad player we won a pot from earlier. We begin to realise by the turn that we are likely beat. After much deliberation we fold, feeling a little bit frustrated. We fire our cards back to the dealer with enough force that one of the cards flips over, exposed to the entire table while mid-hand. The guy with the attitude problem in early position gives us another look.
We fire our cards back to the dealer with enough force that one of the cards flips over, exposed to the entire table while mid-hand.
We decide to play one more hand for the night where we get into a huge pot. We think we have an edge here despite the fact that we have nothing. Our opponent seems to be giving off tells that he is weak. It's probably a decent time for a big bluff. We've seen it before in the movies and know how to pull off a convincing bluff. We announce β€œall-in” and give our chips-stack a firm shove sending chips flying and rolling all across the table. Subconsciously that should let our opponents know that we are very strong. Attitude guy in early gives an exasperated sigh. We decide we've had enough of him for one night.

Our opponent calmly calls and turns over the nuts. What?? How could he possibly play the nuts this way? What a total idiot!!! We storm from the casino, shouting insults as we leave. It's a shame, because the night had started off so well.

Poker Etiquette Pointers

So while we knew Poker Quiz the rules of the game and were able to successfully complete several rounds, hopefully you realised that many of our actions were in breach of etiquette! We could quickly become an unpopular person to have at the table if we don't observe some of the unwritten protocol. At the very least we are going to identify ourselves as a newer player, and in the worse case scenario we might upset some of our opponents or even be ejected from the casino. So what exactly did we do wrong in the scenario above?

Telegraphing – Giving signals regarding the strength of our hand, or our intentions before it is our turn to act. In the example, we verbally indicated that we intended to play the hand before the action was on us. There is likely nothing in the rules that covers this but it is considered a form of angle-shooting. Angle-shooting is a term which implies looking for an unfair advantage while not strictly deviating from the rules. 

Another way we can telegraph our intentions before it is our turn to act is by acting out of turn. We might announce a raise when it is not our hand to act. This can be a genuine mistake – and it's probably not a big deal if we end up doing this mistakenly. It's considered unprofessional but the players at our table will likely overlook this and put it down to human error.
Of course angle-shooting might not be our intention at all – but since our opponents will never know this for certain it's best to make sure we pay attention to the action and avoid acting out of turn too frequently.

However what if we are routinely acting out of turn? Then our opponents might start to become suspicious that we are doing this intentionally in an attempt to gain an unfair advantage. Perhaps we want to discourage our opponents from betting so we announce a raise even though we know it is not our turn to act. We then act as if it was a mistake and that we simply didn't realise it was our turn. Secretly we were hoping to influence the betting action. 

Of course angle-shooting might not be our intention at all – but since our opponents will never know this for certain it's best to make sure we pay attention to the action and avoid acting out of turn too frequently.

String-Betting – In the example we actually got called out by the dealer for this one. What exactly is string-betting and why did the dealer tell us that our raise would not stand? It's considered correct to announce your decision in one smooth action. The first word that comes out of your mouth will be your decision. If you say the wrong word, tough luck. Unless you are in a home-game your original statement is likely to be the action you are forced to take.

So hopefully Poker Quiz we can see the problem with imitating what we might see in certain movies with a poker scene. β€œI call your bet and raise you another $20”. The first words that came out of our mouth here? We indicated that we wanted to call. Any addition to this is no longer consider valid. If our initial intention is to raise, the first word that should come out of our mouth is β€œraise”. 

We don't even have to vocalise our decisions at the poker table. This is completely our choice. We can opt to simply place the amount of chips into the middle that we want to bet which will indicate whether our decision is to call or raise. Again, the first group of chips to cross the line marking the centre of the table is what counts. So if we want to bet $20 we should place $20 worth of chips into the centre of the table in 1 fluid motion.

We can't add $5, then reach back into our stack for another $5 and so on. Again we see this in movies. Think of the classic ending to the movie Rounders where Teddy KGB is dropping his chips from a height one at the time into the pot. Obviously Teddy can get away with doing this since he owns the entire establishment, but employing such antics in a modern day casino will make you an unpopular player. Even though Teddy was within his rights to act the way he did since he was the game host, he still showed disrespect to the hero of the movie Mike by acting the way he did.

Slowrolling – Slowrolling is the act of taking a long time to call when closing the action with a hand that is clearly the best hand, especially the nuts. The important part is that we have absolutely no doubt that we should be calling, and we are simply taking our time in order to aggravate our opponent when we finally call. The longer we take to make the call the more likely he is to think his hand is good, so the idea is that it hurts a lot more when he sees that we were deliberately tricking him into thinking our hand was weak.
We were not slowrolling when we turn the nuts and faced a raise. Our delayed action which was designed to feign that we had a difficult decision is a valid and accepted part of poker strategy
However keep in mind that deception is an important part of poker and that we are purely referring to situations where we are closing the action. So in the example above we were not slowrolling when we turn the nuts and faced a raise. Our delayed action which was designed to feign that we had a difficult decision is a valid and accepted part of poker strategy. It was specifically on the river where there was no possibility for further action that our delayed call was considered in poor taste. There is no strategic benefit to taking a long time in such situations, it is purely done to upset our opponents.

Berating the Dealer/Players – Notice that there were multiple occasions in the above scenario where hero was either arguing with, or berating, other people people at the table. This is not a recipe for becoming a popular player.

Initially we began by berating the dealer after he told us we couldn't string raise. As it happens here, the dealer was right and we were wrong. We still launched a verbal assault on the dealer and also began arguing with the other players when they told us to listen to the dealer. Generally what the dealer says will stand unless you have conclusive evidence that the dealer's actions were out of line.

Arguing with the dealer will in extreme cases get you ejected from the premises, but in most cases simply make you unpopular. Let's just hope that the dealer is not some kind of card mechanic or you are going to be getting cold-decked for the rest of the evening.

After we won the hand Poker Quiz we also decided that our opponent's play is sub-optimal. Great, we can use this to our advantage in the future. There is absolutely no benefit to telling players at the table how they could have played a certain hand better. Maybe we are completely correct and our opponent played the hand terribly.

We want him to go on making that same mistake over and over. Attempting to educate our opponent is simply going to lower our own winrate. The discussion we have in the process may also give the rest of the table hints on our we approach the game, allowing them to make better decisions against us in the future.

The final blowup was at the end of the game where we lost most of our stack. This can sometimes burn a little; it's understandable that we are upset. But the best players strive to conduct themselves graciously and show good sportsmanship at all times. Unfortunately not all professional poker players set us a good example in this regard.

There are countless videos online of players like Phil Helmuth berating others at the table after their play has been judged to be sub-optimal. This may lead us to feel that angry banter at the tables is acceptable and a standard part of the game. It's not.
There is absolutely no benefit to telling players at the table how they could have played a certain hand better, even if we are completely correct and our opponent played the hand terribly.
Exposing live cards – We should be very careful about exposing our hole-cards to anyone while a hand is still progressing. There may not be direct rules on this – and in some situations it can be acceptable, but keep the following in mind.

- If we expose a card when folding, we are influencing the outcome of the hand for the remaining players in the hand. They might just see that we have folded one of their outs and give up on the hand. While this will effect all players equally in the long run: the guy that loses money as a result of you accidentally exposing a card is not going to be favourably disposed towards you.

Naturally this kind of thing may happen accidentally and you will usually be forgiven for this. However, in the scenario above this really happened as a result of negligence on our part. We took absolutely no care to ensure the value of our hole-cards were not exposed when we folded.

- If we show our hand to one player at the table and not the other players this could be considered a form of collaboration.

The best policy is not to show any cards whatsoever unless the hand is already over or we are at showdown.

Splashing the Pot – When we pushed all-in on that final hand our chips went flying everywhere. This can get confusing and can also waste a considerable amount of time. Either us or our opponent is now going to need to spend the time neatly stacking those chips up again. It's so much easier if large stacks of chips are kept in neat stacks where possible. We can push chips around with the minimum effort needed to restack them.

Chip Stacking – Our opponents do Poker Quiz not want to ask us every hand how many chips we have left. They'd prefer to simply look at our chip stack and make a rough estimate. We can stack our chips in such a way that the bigger denominations are easily visible. It would be considered bad etiquette to hide the bigger denomination chips behind the lower denomination chips and mislead our opponent into thinking we have a smaller chip stack than we actually do.

Speaking in a Foreign Language – This applies to online games aswell as to live. It's not considered good etiquette to speak in a language that not all players at the table understand. Even if it is just idle banter, other players may being to think we are collaborating.

Unnecessary Apparel – While there are no hard and fast rules on this it may not always be necessary to wear a huge hoody and gigantic sunglasses in a casual game of poker. These have their place in high-level competition but can be irritating or intimidating in a casual game.

Distracting Talk – Again there is no set rule for this, just keep in mind that if a player at the table is in the middle of a difficult decision it is not necessarily fair to be making loud jokes or having a loud distracting conversation at the same time.

It's also extremely bad etiquette to give a thinking player advice. Perhaps giving our own opinion on what we think his opponent is holding. This could influence the outcome of the hand and poker is an individual effort not a team sport.
While there are no hard and fast rules on this it may not always be necessary to wear a huge hoody and gigantic sunglasses in a casual game of poker.
Unnecessary Hollywooding – Hollywooding is the art of spending a long time on a decision making it look like the decision is very tough when the decision is actually very simple. There may be situations where hollywooding is useful, but overdoing it can get annoying. If players know that every time the action is on you they have to wait for 2-3 minutes while you sit there without moving, they will start to get fed up quickly. Hollywooding has its place, but don't overdo it.

The etiquette list is by no means exhaustive. There are doubtless other things we might do that are considered bad etiquette. If a certain action
  1. might confer an unfair advantage even though its not directly against the rules
  2. might irriate or annoy other players
then think twice before doing it.



I am of British nationality and go by the online alias w34z3l. I am considered one of the top consultants in the field for technical analysis (i.e. database work) and application of game theory concepts to various card games. I make a ... Read More


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