Table Manners

Aggressive play and mind tricks are part of the game, but good manners cost you nothing. Dave Woods takes you on a poker finishing school…

If someone’s totally off, report them and get their arses banned. In the real world no one likes a grass but online no one will ever find out

Let’s get a few things very clear from the off. We don’t always behave ourselves. We’ve been known to cause the odd bit of kerfuffle in our time. And we’re certainly not advocating you behave as if you’re playing poker with your parents. Far from it. We love the loudmouths and the crybabies, and we’re also partial to the odd outburst of colourful language (the more inventive the better).

But – and it’s a big but – everyone plays poker. Which means that if you want to gain respect and not risk getting your account suspended, or getting ejected from your local casino, there are certain rules you’re expected to follow. And occasionally that means pandering to the lowest common denominator.

If you want to be loved like Jesus then by all means follow them all. But the bottom line, as always, is common sense. You’re the master of your own destiny and you should do as you see fit in any given situation. Unless you’re a deeply depraved individual you should be fine.

Know your game

It sounds obvious but make sure you learn the basics of the game before you play. Other players won’t appreciate it if you constantly ask them questions while playing a money game, and they certainly won’t respect you if you go all-in before the flop in the first hand of a tournament with only the blinds up for grabs.

Follow our regular tips and strategies and you’ll avoid rubbing people up the wrong way, improve your game and start winning. If you’re still not convinced, try a few games for play money before you take the leap and start playing for hard cash. Players on these tables are a lot more forgiving and the play is so erratic you’re not going to stand out even if you sweep all your chips in with 7-2 off-suit. (And more importantly, you won’t lose any money.)

Mum’s the word

Keep your hand secret until all the action’s finished, even if you’ve already folded, as you could end up givingsomeone a vital piece of information they shouldn’t have. Someone might be trying to pair-up with one of your cards and are more than likely to fold if they know you’ve mucked one of them. Similarly, if a flush draw appears on the flop, remarking that you’ve ‘just folded the Ace’ could have serious repercussions on the betting. A lot of poker players say you should never ever reveal your hand – the golden rule here is never ever reveal it before the end of play.

Be gracious in defeat

No one likes a bad loser and if you’re going to play poker you have to accept that you’re not going to win every hand, no matter what your percentage likelihood is. Every poker player has a bad beat, every poker player thinks his is the worst, but if you’re any good you’ll know that you’re likely to get more than anyone else, simply because you’re only playing the right hands.

Play a solid game though and the luck will even out, so don’t explode when someone picks up card on the river that KOs your percent money-in-the-bank shot that they should never, in a million years of playing poker, have called in the first place. Instead, why not just say ‘nice hand’? Or, if you really can’t bring yourself to say something just don’t say anything at all. Just like your nan always told you.

Remember, too, to keep your eye on the player that’s making the bad calls. Taking his money is by far the best way of exacting your revenge. Abuse him too much and he’s going to end up walking from the table with your money. If you really think he’s that bad you want to keep him playing for as long as possible and the way to do that is to make him feel like a poker god.

Don’t be a bore

Online poker games have timers for a reason, but that doesn’t mean you should keep people waiting every hand. Online poker is, generally speaking, a lot faster than its real-world equivalent, and you’re going to have virtual eyes boring into you from every seat if you take the maximum amount of time to make every decision, no matter how easy.

If you have to go to the toilet or you want to make yourself a cup of tea, hit the Sit-Out button, which folds your hands automatically until you get back. And if you’re a bit of a dandy and like playing multiple tables, try to keep an eye on all of them and only take on as many tables as you think your brain can safely cope with.

Watch your language

There’s a place for bad language and it’s not at the poker table, unless you’ve rounded up your mates for a post-pub game. If you’re playing in a casino, you’re playing against real people who might be offended at the ‘f’ word and are more likely to take umbrage at the ‘c’ word than they are at you beating heir pocket Aces. If you’re playing online, the same goes, except you can say/scream whatever you want (and believe us we have) as long as you don’t type it (and as long as you’ve got tolerant neighbours and/or doubleglazing). Oh, and it goes without saying that racism, sexism and homophobia are all as completely and utterly unacceptable as they are in the real world.

On a lighter note, remember not to stick your Caps-Lock on. IT MAKES PEOPLE THINK YOU’RE SHOUTING AT THEM!

Be humble in victory

There’s only one thing in poker worse than a bad loser, and that’s a bad winner. Yes, emotions are running high. Yes, you can look pleased. And yes, you can pump afist into the air when you win a particularly nail-biting tournament. You can even start running around the room waving your arms around your head, before pulling your shirt over your face and sinking to your knees. So long as you’re playing online. Again, just don’t type it – it would take far too long for starters. If you’re playing in the real world and do it, don’t expect your opponent to respect you. Take the win, shake your opponent’s hand and save the celebrations until you’re away from the table. Then buy the biggest bottle of bubbly you can find, down it in one and keep at it until you wake up the next morning with a huge smile on your face.

Don’t be the snitch

Common sense. Apply it to every area of your life and you’ll be precisely 62 percent better off than you are at the moment. Apply it when you’re playing poker and you’ll receive 62 percent more respect from other players. If someone offends you, ask yourself whether it deserves reporting, or whether you can ignore them (and remember that all online sites come with a mute button if someone’s real riling you). What’s acceptable and what’s not is up to you, but as a general rule ignore most cases of foul and abusive language. It’s really not that big a deal. If someone’s said something that’s totally off, report them and get their arses banned. In the real world no one likes a grass, but online no one will ever find you out.

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