Live Texas Hold’em Etiquette
Playing Texas Hold’em live in person in the casino can be a fun, exciting, and lucrative experience. As Texas Hold’em is set up to run in the casino in a very formal and structured manner, it’s important that you’re aware of how to conduct yourself properly.
By no means does this mean you can’t have fun and enjoy your time playing. It simply means that there are several things that you can do to improve your experience and better support a smooth game flow, such as the three we’ve already listed on our main Texas Hold’em Poker guide. Here are several other etiquette tips you should know about.
Angle shooting in Texas Hold’em poker refers to trying to win a hand or gain an edge by exploiting the rules. It can be equated to finding a loophole and using it to your advantage. The difference between angle shooting and cheating is really not that far off. An example of this might be a player hiding their cards underneath their hands to try and trick the other players into thinking they have folded already. While not covering your cards is not explicitly covered in the Texas Hold’em rule book, it is highly unethical to do so. Most casinos will eject and possibly ban players that are caught in frequent angle shooting.
Aside from not doing this yourself, you should also be on the lookout for other players engaging in this sort of activity. The casino staff will not always rule against the angle shooter, so you need to be responsible for protecting yourself. Avoiding angle shooters is one of the perks of playing online instead of live in the casino. It’s nearly impossible to angle shoot a computer.
Here is an interesting story of a high-stakes poker player describing a time he was angle shot that cost him about $18,000.
For the love of everything holy, please pay attention to this etiquette tip. If you are going to play Texas Hold’em live in the casino, you are going to be in close proximity to other human beings. This means that if you smell and have not showered recently, you are going to be absolutely abysmal to be around. The reason we sound so fired up about this etiquette tip is that for some reason a lot of poker players struggle to follow this. We are not your mother, but we are about to sound like her.
Make sure you are wearing fresh clothes when you come to play. If you just got done working out or mowing the lawn or killing a deer, your clothes are no longer fresh. Take them off, take a shower (WITH SOAP!), and put on some clothes that have recently gone through the magical contraption known as a washing machine. When you come to the poker table and don’t address your personal hygiene, it makes a strong statement that you are a selfish individual who does not care about other human beings. We will climb off of our soapbox now (so you can get some soap out of it).
Acting Out of Turn
The action in poker always follows a strict and regimented set of procedures. Action always goes clockwise, and players are expected only to act when it is their turn. If you try and act before it is your turn, you can give other players an unfair advantage. For example, if a player is thinking about raising but is worried that you are in the hand behind them, they might elect just to call instead of raising. However, if you attempt to fold your cards before it is your turn, that player can now raise without any fear of what you are going to do in the hand.
The best way to ensure that you always act in turn is to pay attention to the table. If you are confused on whose turn it is, ask the dealer for clarification before you attempt to act. Typically, a good dealer will look at the player whose turn it is. If the dealer is staring at a player to your right, it is probably not your turn. Again, the bottom line is that you need to pay attention and if you are confused or not sure, ask for clarification.
Protect Your Hand
When we talk about protecting your hand here, we are not referring to betting strategy. We are talking about the actual physical protection of your two cards. If you’ve ever played live in a casino, you know that there are typically a lot of chips and cards flying across the table towards the dealer. It’s very easy for your hand to get caught up in this commotion and accidentally slid into the muck (where the dead/folded hands go). If your hand is accidentally put into the muck, there is nothing that the dealer can do and nothing that you can do. Your hand will be ruled dead, and the pot will be awarded to another player.
You can obviously tell that this would be a terrible outcome. No matter how strong or great your hand was, you will lose the pot. This is because there is no way for the dealer or casino staff to verify what cards you had. To avoid this terrible situation, you need to take a few precautions to protect your hand. The best way to make sure that this does not happen is to either keep your hand on your cards at all times or put a card marker (a small weight that holds your cards in place) on top of your cards. These will prevent the dealer from accidentally sliding your cards into the muck and killing your hand.
Here is a painful-to-watch video of someone in the $10,000 WSOP Main Event getting pocket aces (the absolute best starting hand) accidentally pulled into the muck by the dealer. Spoiler alert… Her hand is ruled dead and probably costs her thousands and thousands of dollars.
Nobody likes a bully. This is especially true at Texas Hold’em tables because it is not only rude but can actually cost you money. If you’ve ever played live in a casino, you have probably seen someone berate another player. This will usually occur after a player has lost a hand and thinks it is the fault of a bad play of another player. Most of the time, this is probably true. However, it is absolutely no reason for you to ever verbally or physically go after another player. Here are a few reasons why. You’ll notice that not all of the reasons have to do with morals and being a good person.
- It’s not nice.
- Our mothers said it best. Don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all. Every player at the table is free to play their cards any way they choose fit. If a player wants to make extremely stupid and illogical moves, they have that right. The quicker you realize and accept this, the easier it will be to stop berating players.
- It will cost you and other players money.
Since most berating comes as a result of a bad play, the player being berated is usually going to be a fish (a bad/losing player). The reason that poker is so profitable is that there are fish in the game who are not as good as you. If the fish did not exist or chose to leave, the game would instantly become not profitable. How do you think a fish who is only playing for recreational and relaxation purposes is going to react to being berated? If you said not well, you are correct.
There’s a commonly used phrase about fish that says, don’t tap the glass. This means that you need to be as accommodating and polite as possible to the bad players in the game so that they stick around. Are bad players going to make silly mistakes and occasionally get lucky to beat you? Yes. However, if you attack them after they do so, they might leave, and you will have no opportunity for your skill to excel and no opportunity to win your money back.
- It can make you play worse.
- If you are busy yelling at another player or making fun of their play, then you are clearly not paying attention to the action at hand. If you allow another player’s bad play to get you emotionally charged, you will stop paying attention and probably make costly mistakes. The quicker that you can put a bad beat (a statistically improbable loss) behind you, the quicker you can get back to winning and getting your money back.
Berating the Dealer
Texas Hold’em players are notorious for wanting to blame someone when they lose. If a statistically improbable card is dealt out and they lose the hand, players have a tendency to blame the dealer. We are going to be straightforward about this one. This is rude and idiotic and will not be tolerated by most live casinos. Poker dealers are not secretly setting the deck or choosing what card will come out. They did not specifically choose the card that would make you lose the hand and have another player win. If you don’t believe us, you have some personal things that you need to address before you take on a new hobby.
First of all, most casinos will not tolerate abuse of their dealers. If the berating is continual or severe enough, you may be ejected and banned from the casino. Secondly, we have spoken to several dealers who admit that they deal slower to passive-aggressively punish players that are being mean to them. If you don’t believe that dealers do this, you are living under a rock. Lastly, it makes you look like a complete jerk and creates an uncomfortable and sour experience for everyone else at the table.
The bottom line is that unlucky cards will come out. These are never the dealer’s fault so please don’t take out your anger on them. If you are upset, walk away from the table and take a short break until you have your emotions in check. This will also prevent you from making any costly strategical errors because you are emotional.
Splashing the Pot
If you’ve ever seen the poker movie Rounders, you are very familiar with the term “splashing the pot.” For those that have not, splashing the pot refers to throwing your bets (chips) into the middle of the table. This makes it very difficult for the dealer to verify the amount of your bet which will result in the game being temporarily stopped while they try and find all of your chips. Nothing will slow a Texas Hold’em game down more than a player who is throwing their bets into the middle of the pot. If you do this, you will most likely be warned by the dealer and then ejected from the table if you continue to splash the pot.
The easiest way to avoid splashing the pot is to slide your chips and bets across the betting line in a slow and controlled manner. You might not look as cool as Teddy KGB, but the game will go a lot faster, and you will be able to play more hands and potentially win more money. It’s very difficult to win at Texas Hold’em if you are thrown out of the poker room.
A string bet is when a player does not move all of their raising chips into the pot in one motion. If you have ever watched an old poker movie, they will typically put out chips and say, “I see your bet,” and then put out more chips in a separate motion for a raise. This is no longer legal in Texas Hold’em. Players are required to move all of their chips into the middle of the pot at the same time unless they verbally announce their action.
The reason these are illegal is that they can be used to elicit a response to gain information from your opponent. If you are still unsure of what a string bet looks like and what a legal bet looks like, just ask your dealer or a member of the poker room staff to show you the difference. They will be happy to help.
Agreeing to Check a Hand Down
Agreeing to check down a hand refers to when players decide that they will see all of the remaining community cards and go to showdown without anyone betting. You will see players attempt to do this often when another player is all in. If the players check the hand down to the river, they will all have a chance to beat the player that is all in. This is completely unfair to the all-in player. If you are caught trying to make one of these arrangements, your hand may be ruled dead, and you may lose the pot regardless of how strong your hand is. You may also receive a penalty or be kicked out of the poker room if it is habitual.
Does this mean that all of the players can’t check the hand down when someone is all in? Nope. They are more than welcome to do so to try and eliminate the player if it is a tournament. The difference is whether or not the player’s verbally or motion to make an agreement to do so. That is what makes it against the rules.
Act Like You’ve Been There
It’s completely acceptable to get excited when you win a poker hand. There are no rules about how much you can celebrate, but modesty is the suggestion here. Remember, when you win a big hand, someone else at the table has just lost a big hand. If you are dancing around the table screaming and cheering, it can be like rubbing salt in a wound for the other player. If that other player is a fish, they may get angry and choose to leave the game. If this happens, you can’t win any more of their easy money.
Again, we aren’t saying that you can’t celebrate or be happy when you win a big pot. Just remember that you are in public and that someone else at the table has just lost a big hand. You would not be happy if the other players were dancing and screaming after they won a big pot off of you. Offering other players the same courtesy that you expect will go a long way.
Players always ask us what the rules are when it comes to tipping in the poker room. To be clear, you are never obligated to tip anyone in the poker room. That being said, there are several situations where it is customary to tip. This is a lot like when you go to a restaurant. You are not required to tip your server, but it is customary to the point that it is almost expected. There are similar situations in the poker room that we will address for you now.
- Chip Runners – In some casinos, you buy your chips directly from the cashier at the casino cage. It is not customary to tip in this scenario. In some casinos, you buy your chips directly from the dealer. It is not customary to tip in this scenario. A lot of casinos use chip runners to get your chips for you. This is typically someone who will come to your seat and take your money to the cage to retrieve your chips. Tipping this person is fairly customary in the casino. Regarding tip size, anywhere from $1-$5 per trip is plenty.
- Winning a Pot – It is customary to tip the dealer whenever you win a pot. This typically excludes pots where you win the pot pre-flop. If you raise and everyone elects to fold (you only win the blinds), it is not customary to tip the dealer. If the hand goes to a flop or further, it becomes customary for the player that wins the pot to tip the dealer. If you are playing in a $1-$2 game, $1 is usually the customary tip. If you happen to win a large pot, you are more than welcome to tip extra on that pot. Frankly, you are welcome to tip as much as you would like. We are just giving you guidelines as to what is customarily given from most players.
Cashing in a Tournament – Tournament tipping is a widely debated topic. Over the past years, poker rooms have begun taking additional money out of the prize pool automatically for dealer gratuity. You can find out if a casino is doing this by asking the staff or by looking at posted tournament information. If you are playing in a tournament where they have already taken out money for gratuity, it is completely up to you whether or not you want to tip additionally. If you choose not to tip additionally, this is fairly common and completely acceptable. If you do choose to tip additionally, anywhere from 1% to 5% is fairly standard.
If you are playing in a tournament that does not take out additional money for gratuity, a tip is typically customary. Again, 1% to 5% is fairly standard across the industry. Usually, the larger amount won, the closer to the bottom of that scale the tip will be. If it is a small payout, local, recreational tournament, players will typically tip towards the top of that range, if not higher. This is because these tournaments are typically played for recreational purposes and not for “making a living.”
- Drinks – Many casinos offer free beverages to their players, including poker players. A cocktail waitress will usually come around and take your order and then deliver your free drink to you. It is customary to tip the cocktail waitress for delivering your free drink. The standard tip is usually $1, though, you are more than welcome to tip more if you’d like.
Again, there are no requirements or rules that say you must tip. It is completely up to your discretion, but we do recommend the above guidelines for a better experience.