One of the great problems of playing poker is that there is not as yet a standardised set of rules. There seems to be a slightly different set of rules existing across every casino. There does not even seem to be consistency across the same casino chains and for casino’s in the same area. However, because it would take up considerable space, I will not attempt to give a detailed listing of the rules. You would be well advised however to check the rules in every casino you attend and assume that because there is a rule in your usual poker club that this will apply in another. Disputes at the poker table are another big problem. What I would like to do here is to set out some general rules and suggested rules which might be helpful for players to use as guidelines in the event of a dispute.
The sit-down, buy-in-for-cash games should apply to a player’s initial and subsequent re-buys if all that player’s chips are lost. Players buying in short (i.e. for less than the minimum) are the cause of many card room disputes. The player can sit down with any amount of money, no matter how much, as long as it is at least the minimum buy-in. A player with chips may add additional chips to his stack as he desires, when he is not involved in a pot, but he may not take chips off the table until quitting the game. Chips and/or money should be in clear view of every player and a player has the right to ask an opponent how much he is playing and to be told. Hidden cash, such as under a cigarette packet or ashtray, cannot be bet. Money and/or chips from the table are not allowed to be transferred from one player to another (this makes collusion more difficult).
Courtesy should be paramount at the table but unfortunately it is sometimes lacking. Indeed, there are many examples of bad conduct witnessed at the Poker table. Here are a few tips on how to conduct yourself with courtesy in the game. Try to remember that when your conduct is above reproach players will respect your opinion and will seek your guidance when there is a dispute.
- Do not pass your cards out of turn, even if you are no longer interested in staying in contest for the pot. It can affect the fortunes of one player over another when the field is shortened and a player has a difficult decision to make. It usually gives an advantage to the players seated beside you who have yet to make their plays. You may see other players fold, or call out of turn, but please don’t do it yourself. If you do, be assured you will be pulled up by the other players for it.
- When discarding your hand, do so at a low level of flight so that no other player can see what you have discarded.
- Leave your cards in plain view at all time, preferably on the table in front of you. Holding them against your shirt or showing them to “railbird” friends (See Glossary) is not approved behaviour.
- Likewise keep your chips in plain view at all times.
- Refrain from criticising other player’s methods standard of play.
- Do not abuse the dealer, verbally or in any other way. Bad behaviour, such as throwing cards at the dealer, while mercifully rare, is totally unforgivable. Remember it is not the dealer’s fault you are losing.
- Forget post-mortems. It is irritating for other players to have to listen to discussion on what happened in the last hand, or even several hands before.
- If you are plagues by the need to show someone what a good hand you had, when not required to do so at a showdown, make sure all the players enjoy the same experience. The correct guideline often quoted is “show one show all”
- Showing your cards, except at the showdown, even without bad intent is bad etiquette.
- Players, must not show or reveal the contents of their hands when all-in before betting is over. A player who shows that he has a strong hand for the centre pot hinders the chance of a player who bets into a side pot. There is less likelihood of a call. If an all-in player shows that he has a weak hand he increases the chance of a call.
- Likewise, please don’t feel that you have to tell everyone what your last hand was and what you would have bet if only you had stayed in the pot, some polite people might feign interest, but few really are.
- Do not splash the pot. This is where a player throws his chips into the pot when making a bet. It takes extra time fort he deal to re-stack and count the bet when you splash the pot. When you bet, place your chips directly in front of you. The dealer will then be sure you have bet the right amount and when betting is complete will place them into the pot.
- Soft-play agreements have a negative effect on the game. This is where a player bets less than he normally would or checks good hands when against friends, husbands or wives. Don’t enter into these types of agreements. Every player should play in his/her own self interest – it’s the essence of poker.
- Do not handle other player’s chips or cards.
- Speech play (often called “coffee housing”) is the term used to describe what happens when a player makes comments about a hand when it is in progress. This is not prohibited in the terms of the rules but is considered unethical in the UK (not so in the USA). So be careful what you say during the play of a hand and resist the urge to talk about a hand during the action or when someone is thinking.
- Do not try to educate players at the table by pointing out what you think are mistakes. Its odd and they will resent it and mark you down as a smart Alec, or worse. Why not let people pay for their education – its how I had to learn.
- Players should speak up and assist the dealer by calling attention to an error in the amount of the bet or the improper reading of the hand etc. Likewise, any player who sees as error about to be made, such as awarding the pot to the wrong person, has a duty to speak up.