Poker is not just a game played with cards – there are the people behind those cards to consider. And, if there were no rules, the result would be total chaos, arguments and complete anarchy.
Within this guide, we will explain why it is important to have those rules. Not knowing them can result in severe chip loss. Much like not knowing how to “give way” at a roundabout can lead to a massive car pile up!
Knowing how to play poker starts with the rules. For example, you can't know how to play a raise if you don't learn the rules about when, and how much to raise.;
And, if you don’t know even the most basic of poker rules then it will probably come back to bite you in the you-know-where!
The Skinny on Live Poker Table Rules
Live poker games are very different to online poker games. So you need to be more aware of the rules so as not to make mistakes.
Here's the “scoop” on some live poker rules that you just won't come into contact with online.
Misdeals are quite common in live poker but virtually impossible in online poker. Misdeals can happen when players are dealt more cards than they should be. Or when cards are dealt to the wrong player first. They also happen when a dealer flips a card up during the first deal.
If there is a misdeal, the dealer will nearly always be aware of it. They will let everyone know at the table that the hand will need to be replayed. The dealer simply takes the cards back, reshuffles and starts over again. Now, that's not so hard,is it.
The “Dead Hand”
Sometimes players fold accidentally. Unfortunately for them, there's nothing the dealer can do. Their hand is no longer playable, and they won't be able to play until the next hand is dealt. Even if the dealer unknowingly takes a player's cards, the hand is still considered a “dead hand”.
Quick Tip: Always protect your hand! Use a card protector if necessary. In some poker rooms there is a “betting” or “action” line on the table – keep you cards behind that line when you want to play a hand. And, always keep an eye on your cards! Fail to do so and your Aces could hit the muck, faster than you can say, “raise”.
The “Acting Out of Turn”
According to the World Series of Poker (WSOP) rules, if you act “out of turn” - meaning you stated what you wanted to do before it was your turn – you will be held to that play. If that act was a (non-verbal) check, you would be held to that decision, when your turn does come around. You won't be allowed to call or raise.
Any verbally stated action (check, bet, call, raise) can be negated if a later player chooses to bet or raise when it's their turn. In that case, you won't be held to your play. But why rely on that miracle.
Folding your hand “out of turn” is a bit of a grey area. In some casinos, your cards will be mucked instantly. In others, the dealer will wait until the action comes around to remove your cards. Still, constant folding “out of turn” is frowned upon because you are alerting other players, in advance, of your intentions to not play a hand. This mistake can affect the action negatively and create situations where other players feel that they have been somewhat “cheated”. Simply put, this is one Live Poker Rule you should never, ever break.
Two major things are at stake here: (1)You give your opponents open season to attack (or fold) knowing your intentions in advance and (2) It is just poor etiquette. Your image at the table could take a hit, and you could be severely penalised by the casino, too.
The “Marked Card” Trick
Marked cards are another issue in live poker games. They can happen by accident: A player's chocolate bar ends up on the back of the Ace of Spades. Or on purpose, a player uses a special pen or ink to mark certain cards in the deck.
If a dealer spots a marked card, they must remove that card from play and notify the card room supervisor immediately. Either the card is replaced, or the entire deck is replaced. Ultimately, it's the dealer’s responsibility to inspect the cards as they handle them, and casinos will regularly change decks to combat card “marking”.
If a player notices an irregularity in the deck, they should notify the dealer. It's the right thing to do.
The Burn Card
Burning a card involves removing a card from the top of the deck before dealing each street. So, for example, in Texas Hold’em, once the players' hole cards have been dealt, the dealer will take the top card from the deck and place it face down. Only then will they deal the flop from the next three cards in the deck.
If a dealer makes the mistake of not burning a card (or burning more than one card), and no action has occurred, the right cards are given to the proper players. If action has already taken place, play will continue as normal.
Dealer's breaking this cardinal rule are banished to the wastelands! No, not really, but it's a very important part of live poker. It helps combat “stacking the deck” and collusion between dealers and their customers.
The Exposed Hand
Sometimes hole cards can be exposed by players accidentally. Once again it is the responsibility of the player to guard their hand at all times. You have to look at it like this: There are up to 9 players at the table. Casino employees, waiters and waitresses as well other punters are milling around you. It's not up to the dealer to make sure your cards stay in place – or that you don't tip them up with all the excitement.
If another player sees your cards, or you accidentally flip a card over, you don't get a new one. Now if the dealer exposes a card during the initial deal, that's a whole different matter. The exposed card will be used as a burn card on future streets.
Table Ethics/Player Courtesy
There are many unwritten rules in live poker games. Table ethics and player courtesy are a big part of poker. For example, showing a lack of respect for the dealer is a big no-no!
Do unto Dealers as You Would Have them Do unto You...
Do not berate the dealer for simply doing their job. If they make a mistake offer support and understanding, instead of throwing them under the bus. And, if that river flush card gives you Quad Aces and your opponent the Royal, try not to reach across the table and throttle them. They are doing what they're paid to do, and the majority of them do it very well.
You've Gotta Give Respect to Get Respect!
The same goes for your opponents at the table. Never lecture players for bad play. Poker is a game with many types of people, with completely different skill sets. So if a player acts badly in a hand – you'll be acting just as badly if you jump all over them for it.
Now, if you find yourself on the receiving end of some disrespect, tell the dealer, pit boss or floor manager. Don't take matters into your own hands. Remember that bad behaviour will not be tolerated on either side. Getting kicked out of a casino (or banned) is no fun, especially if you didn't start the argument in the first place.
Knowing the Right “Angles”...
Unlike in online poker, live games have plenty of opportunities for players to make what are called “angling” moves. This term is used to describe a player who uses unethical means in order get an edge. One such example would be to hide higher value chips, behind lower ones. So that you don’t know how much money they have on the table. Another could be to hide their cards, or pretend they don't have cards to get players to act out of turn. Anglers then use that information against their opponents.
All angling methods are considered to be bad form and are frowned upon by most players.
It is your duty to be courteous and respectful at the tables. Make sure you know the poker room or casino's code of conduct and follow it to the letter!
Inside Look at Online Poker Table Rules
Online poker has some rules that only apply to online play. It is still possible to berate opponents, for example, using the chat box. Or to tell a fellow player what cards you hold. But site moderators are always on the lookout for those not complying with the rules. And, if you see any rule-breaking, you should report it to the online card room, immediately.
Chatting Up a Storm!
Table ethics and courtesy apply every bit as much in online poker as they do in live poker. Just because you can't see your opponent, and they can't see you, doesn't grant you a licence to be disrespectful.
Make sure you steer clear of these big no-nos in the chatbox:
- No colluding – In multi-way pots, no telling other opponents what you have or that they should fold – even if you don't know them!
- No Insults – Keep nasty comments about an opponent's family out of the chatbox and to yourself.
- No “Talking” about the Hand in Play – Similar to No Colluding. Don't tell another player that their opponent is weak, bluffing, “has a monster” etc. Keep that sort of info to yourself to use when you're in a hand with them!
Stackin' Em and Trackin' Em!
Online poker is just that – online! So, unlike live poker, tracking software like “Poker Tracker” and “Hold’em Manager” are allowed. They are not seen as cheating but a good way to track your statistics and get better at the game.
Staying on Time...
To combat “timing out”, all online poker games have some form of action countdown clock. This system makes sure that a player doesn't go to answer the door, forget that they are in a game and keep everyone waiting hours on end! If you don't act within that set time limit, your cards will be folded.
You also need to be mindful of your own internet connection. You do get extra time when disconnected, but eventually even that runs out, and your hand will be mucked.
More Tables, Please!
Most online poker rooms allow players to play multiple tables at the same time. This feature is a big plus for playing online poker over live poker. Players may play as many tables as they possibly can at once. However, some sites set a maximum number allowed.
One big etiquette rule that applies when multi-tabling is to make sure that you don't keep players waiting too long. If you can't handle the action and keep timing out, then you need to downsize in a hurry.
Sit In, Sit Out, Post or Wait?
In online poker games, you can choose to sit in and play straight away, or sit out and wait. Sitting in will cost you, though – one big blind, for the pleasure. And, it can be a good thing to get straight back in – especially if you were sat out and already familiar with the table. However, sitting in early means that you don't get a full round before having to post again.
If you're a bit more on the penny-pinching side, you can wait until the big blind reaches you. That way, you get to see a whole round of hands for the price of the blinds.
Now that you've got the rules down pat, it's time to get into a game!