Poker Etiquette: 20 Unwritten Rules of Poker You Must Know

poker etiquette

Generally speaking, poker is a game that doesn’t have many rules. You are dealt cards and you try to make combinations with the dealer’s cards while making bets. It sounds simple, right?

But, as with every other game out there, even poker has a certain etiquette. These are unspoken rules that are designed to avoid starting arguments between players and to keep the gameplay steady.

So what is poker etiquette exactly about, and what are some poker do’s and don’ts? This article will help you get familiar with some of the most important unwritten rules in poker, so let’s dive right into the action!

What is Poker Etiquette?

Poker etiquette refers to a set of unwritten rules in poker that are meant to keep players behaving appropriately at poker tables. It promotes good gameplay and respect between poker players while improving the speed of play and overall mood of the game.

Following poker etiquette is important as you want to keep the game comfortable for everyone at the table, including the players, the dealer, and the other casino staff.

At the end of the day, by following poker etiquette, you will gain respect from other players and you will be more likely to get invited to other tables.

Poker Etiquette: 15 Unwritten Key Rules in Poker

Without further ado, here are 15 unwritten but key rules in poker:

#1. Don’t Angle Shoot

Angle shooting is an unethical tactic that allows players to gain an unfair advantage over their opponents during a poker game. Besides gaining an unfair advantage, players who resort to these strategies also gain a bad reputation.

Although angle shooting isn’t considered cheating, it’s against poker etiquette and it kills all the fun at the table. Angle shooters make everyone uncomfortable and ruin the overall mood of the game, so you should always avoid making such moves.

Angle shooting can be seen in different forms. Some of the most common examples of angle shoot tactics include:

  • Taking a peek at other players’ hole cards
  • Moving the chips forward and pretending to announce a raise
  • Hiding big chips so the opponents have a wrong impression of your stack size
  • Pretending to have used the wrong denomination of chips
  • Betting in multiple motions (also known as string betting)

#2. Avoid Slow Rolling

Slow rolling is considered to be one of the most disrespectful moves in poker and is a move against poker etiquette.

The move happens at showdown, when the player with the strongest hand intentionally takes a lot of time to call and close the round of betting after the river. Toxic players love doing this, as it makes their opponents angry and gives them false hope that they’re the ones holding the winning hand.

If you give another player the illusion that they’re going to win and tilt them, you won’t have a good time at the poker table. Instead, if you have the winning hand, act gracefully and close the action with good manners.

#3. Don’t Prolong the Game

Prolonging the game, also known as “Hollywooding”, is another move in poker that’s not against the official rules, but it’s against poker etiquette.

“Hollywooding” is a term that describes situations in which players hold up the game unnecessarily when it’s their turn to play. This includes:

  • Talking to other players, the dealer, or the waiter/waitress
  • Using your phone instead of making your move
  • Acting like you’re overanalyzing your move

Lastly, prolonging the game is not only against poker etiquette, but it also makes the game less profitable for everyone at the table. 

Take into consideration that in live poker, you are dealt 30 hands per hour on average. Slowing the game down every time you make a move will only give you fewer opportunities to play more hands and earn more money.

poker etiquette

#4. Let the Dealer Call the Clock

Have you noticed that someone at your table is prolonging the game intentionally? If so, you have every right to ask the dealer to “call the clock” on them and give them a set period of time (usually 60 seconds) to act. In fact, other players at the table will be thankful for your action.

But, if you call the clock on your opponent who isn’t Hollywooding, and you don’t give them a chance to think their moves through, you can end up being rude. So, only do this if you’re confident your opponent is being slow on purpose.

You should always be respectful of other players when they’re making big decisions, especially if the pot is large. So, only call the clock when someone is wasting time and wants to make the game longer than it should be.

#5. Wait for Your Move 

Apart from trying not to slow down the game, you should also try to not speed it up by acting out of turn. If you do this, you will accomplish nothing but disrupt the player before you, who might still be strategizing, breaking poker etiquette.

On top of that, when you act out of turn, you are being unfair to other players at the table because you are giving out information to the person before you.

Most people don’t do this on purpose, but still, some players make an early move intentionally and call it an accident. You should always wait for your turn and play respectfully.

#6. Pay Attention to the Game

Paying attention to the game will help you a great deal if you don’t want to act out of turn. On top of that, if you are constantly zoned out and not listening to what the dealer is saying, you are disrespecting everyone at the table and single-handedly ruining the game.

Even though some people think it isn’t disruptive, forgetting to bet, not acting on time, talking on your phone, etc., is against poker etiquette and won’t get you invited to any poker table ever again.

Most importantly, if you don’t have any concentration and can’t focus on the game in front of you, you should simply leave the table and take a break, as you’re bound to make some costly mistakes.

#7. Respect the Dealer

poker etiquette

Having respect for the dealer, as well as other players at the poker table, is a big part of poker etiquette. If you let your emotions get the better of you and you blame the dealer for a bad hand or a loss, you’ll just make everyone feel uncomfortable and ruin the dealer’s day.

You must always keep in mind that it’s not the dealers who control the outcome of the hand, it’s just the odds. The dealer is also not the one who is responsible for your opponent’s big win, so don’t blame it on them.

But, as we all make mistakes, so can a dealer make one too. If you notice that happening, try not to be disrespectful and politely explain the situation.

At the end of the day, we’re all humans, regardless of our role in a poker game, so try to remember that.

#8. Keep Your Chips Tidy

One of the unwritten rules in poker that not everyone might know, especially new players, is that your chips need to be laid out on the table clearly visible to everyone. This rule is very important for high-stakes tables, where players are gambling with large denomination chips.

This rule in poker etiquette is meant to allow the dealer and all players at the table to see their opponents’ stack and know how much they’re playing with.

If someone asks you how much money you have left, you’re not obligated to answer, but they can ask the dealer. The dealer will then count your stack and inform your opponent about its size, but if your chips aren’t tidy, you’ll just make it harder for them to do their job.

#9. Tip the Dealer

Amidst all the action at the poker table, many players forget to tip the dealer. This is basic poker etiquette. You should also tip the servers after receiving a meal or a drink, as it’s a custom. They will appreciate it and make sure everything goes accordingly during your game.

Don’t know how much you should tip? Here are some tips for that (pun intended): 

  • Tip the same amount, e.g., $1 after every hand you win, and increase the size of the tip as the size of the pot increases.
  • Consider the amount of rake and your win rate, and tip your dealer accordingly.
  • See how much the other players are tipping the dealer and mimic them.

#10. Respect Other Players

The saying “Treat others the way you want to be treated yourself” is especially true in poker. The most important rule in poker etiquette is to treat other players with respect. 

An average game of poker can take anywhere between 3 to 12 hours, so having a good time and making everyone at the table feel comfortable is crucial if you want to have a nice game.

This is especially true when it comes to new players. You don’t want to mistreat any fish in poker, even if they make mistakes, act out of turn, etc., as they’re likely not doing it on purpose. If you make fun of them or make them feel unwanted, they will feel discouraged.

So, no matter how someone plays, and no matter how bad another player might be acting, treat them with respect.

poker etiquette

#11. Don’t Splash the Pot

You might have seen it in the James Bond movies, but splashing the pot as they do it on the big screen is actually against poker etiquette.

Splashing the pot refers to tossing and spilling chips over the table instead of placing them neatly. Players do this when they let emotions get a hold of them, but it accomplishes nothing except making the dealer’s job even harder than it already is.

That’s why you should always try to keep the chips in neat piles and simply move them to the pot when you place a bet. The dealer will appreciate it as they’ll count the bet more easily and the game will continue at a swift pace.

#12. Don’t Give Advice or Ask for it

Giving other people advice when you’re not asked for any can be bothersome in any game, not just poker. Teaching others how to play, pointing out their mistakes, or even making fun of them is simply irritating and is often considered against poker etiquette.

Remember that everyone is playing with their own money, which means they get to play the way they want. 

At the end of the day, if your opponents keep making mistakes, the favor is yours.

#13. Keep Quiet at the Poker Table

One of the most commonly seen examples of poor poker etiquette is talking when it’s not your turn.

By talking when you’re not in the hand, you only distract other players and complicate their decision-making process. Bad-mannered people love discussing the bet sizing, position, cards on the table, previous hands, etc. while it’s not their turn to play.

Even when it’s your turn to play, you shouldn’t go into long discussions and chat with other players. Simply place your bet and allow the game to proceed smoothly.

#14. Fold With Respect

poker etiquette

Folding is a big part of poker. On the other hand, knowing how to do it adequately is a big part of poker etiquette.

The worst thing you can do when you fold is let emotions get the best of you and start swearing, slamming the table, or throwing your cards around. Such actions are simply immature and you should remain calm when folding.

Complaining is also bad, as you will just get on the nerves of other players. Whether you’ve faced a bad beat or a cooler, remain calm and accept that these are all a part of the poker game.

So, instead of complaining after you fold, or even worse, swearing, say “Nice hand” to the player who won the hand. You might have lost, but at least you’ll be a moral victor.

#15. Don’t Celebrate Overly Hard

Knowing how to fold with respect is one thing, but being a gracious winner is another.

Whenever you win a big pot, or even better, end up being the winner of the entire game, you should keep it contained, and save your celebrations for the after-party.

You should also restrain yourself from criticizing your opponent’s gameplay and strategy. They already feel bad enough from losing, so why add salt to the wound?

The best way to celebrate a huge win is to just smile, quietly stack your chips, and tip the dealer.

Online Poker Etiquette: 5 Do’s and Don’ts at Virtual Poker Tables

Although most poker etiquette rules can be applied regardless of whether you’re playing live or online poker, here are some do’s and don’ts that apply specifically to playing at virtual poker tables.

#1. Don’t Overuse the Chatbox

Whether you’re on a winning streak and want to express your emotions, or you’re angry after facing a bad beat, you should never overuse the chatbox. No one enjoys being pinged every second while trying to decide on their next move.

This unwritten rule in online poker etiquette is even more important if you’re just on the rail and observing a table. As a spectator, you have no right whatsoever to indulge in prolonged discussions with players.

Instead, keep your conversation in the chatbox to a minimum, and most importantly, never use all capital letters. When you use all caps, people will think you’re shouting at them, and you’ll be irritating them.

#2. Don’t Get Into Virtual Arguments

On the other hand, if someone is overusing the chat box, all you should do in such a situation is to remain calm and mute the annoying player.

The worst possible way of approaching this problem is to get into meaningless fights with players who talk too much in the chat box, as it’ll get you nothing except more frustration.

The mute button exists for a reason, and you should never refrain from using it. It’ll help you tilt less and quite possibly improve your win rate against people who are out there to distract you using the chat box.

poker etiquette

#3. Don’t Fake Misclick

A fake misclick is a term that can be used both in live and online poker. It refers to a move when an angle shooter places a comically large bet and then pretends they’ve done it by accident.

In reality, they do it intentionally to provoke their opponents into calling large bets as they have strong hands.

Although a fake misclick isn’t against the rules, it’s against poker etiquette. It isn’t considered fair play by the majority of players, as it involves manipulation and lying.

Fake misclicking will earn you a bad reputation and might even get you kicked out and banned from certain online poker rooms, so avoid it at all costs.

#4. Congratulate Your Opponents

Even though we have advised you against abusing the chat box, there are some moments when you should certainly use it.

For example, there is a tradition among online poker players in which you congratulate your opponents when they win with a strong winning hand. That’s why you’ll often see players typing “nh”, meaning “nice hand.”

So, whenever you lose against a strong hand, or you’re simply feeling good energy at the table, feel free to type in “nh”. You’ll lift the spirits of other players, and the general mood of the game will improve.

#5. Don’t Hit and Run

Winning a big pot at the beginning of an online poker session and then disconnecting so you don’t spend your winnings is called a “hit and run.” This is one of the most annoying and pointless moves you can pull off in online poker.

Winners respect other players at the table and stay until the end, even if they earn big pots, whereas players that are only there to earn a quick buck often turn into losers.

Some people argue that they don’t want to play deep stacks, but that’s just an excuse to hit and run.

Key Takeaways

By now, you should know all about poker etiquette and how to properly behave at poker tables, whether live or online.

Here are the unwritten poker rules that we talked about, summarized:

  • Poker etiquette is designed to avoid arguments between players at poker tables and maintain a positive game.
  • The most important unspoken rules of poker include:
  1. Not angle shooting.
  2. Avoiding slow rolling.
  3. Not prolonging the game.
  4. Letting the dealer call the clock.
  5. Waiting for your move.
  6. Paying attention to the game.
  7. Respecting the dealer.
  8. Keeping your chips tidy.
  9. Tipping the dealer.
  10. Respecting other players.
  11. Not splashing the pot.
  12. Not giving advice or asking for it.
  13. Keeping quiet at the poker table.
  14. Folding with respect.
  15. No celebrating overly hard.
  • Do’s and don’ts of online poker include:
  1. Not overusing the chatbox.
  2. Not getting into arguments.
  3. Not fake misclicking.
  4. Congratulating opponents.
  5. No hit and runs.

Gordon Dyke

Poker Expert

Gordon Dyke has served as our poker expert since 2017. Gordon has been playing poker professionally and recreationally for nearly two decades.