How to play Poker like a Gentleman

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Poker has long had that mystique of being a game for the well-heeled, respectable men (and women) of society: many people would go as far as to say that it’s a “Gentleman’s game”. However, there are a lot of players out there who fail to live up to the game’s mystique: loud, rude, foul-mouthed, and exemplars of conduct unbecoming of a true gentleman. They turn off dealers and players alike, and they tend to kill the good buzz around a table. If you’re into poker and play it with passion; you really don’t want to be that guy. There are certain standards that you need to uphold; and there are certain behaviors that you absolutely need to avoid when you play poker; whether at a casino, a private event, or even at a friend’s house. Here are some things you need to remember when you go and play at a table:

Watch your language – one of the most annoying things at a poker table is excessive swearing. If you think that you look and sound cool dropping F-bombs here and there, think again: foul language doesn’t show off your best side. Try to be respectful to everyone at the table, especially the dealer. If you can’t say anything nice, it’s best to just keep quiet. And no, murmuring and whispering your swears isn’t acceptable either.

Observe proper decorum – Poker is meant to be a very social game: lots of light banter and conversation. When you engage in social interaction, keep your interactions friendly and pleasant. Avoid being “overly friendly”: don’t start hitting on women at the table. Also, avoid talking about your bad beats and complaining about your luck or lack thereof. Avoid polarizing conversations like politics and religion (who talks about politics or religion at a poker table? You’d be surprised.). Avoid being sarcastic and bad-mouthing other players and the dealer. Avoid hassling and fighting with the other players. Look and act professional and be polite at all times, especially when playing with strangers.

Avoid playing out of turn – When you’re playing at a table; wait for your turn before taking any action. Acting out of turn causes unnecessary distractions that may disrupt the flow of the game in progress. Use this time to gather information so that you’ll be able to make the most of your next turn. Don’t interrupt the active player with distracting banter and actions such as chip stacking and counting.

Don’t stall the game – even worse than acting out of turn is taking too long of a turn. Avoid spending too much time when your turn’s up. More importantly, avoid being distracted by anything else when it’s your turn: your phone and your non-playing friends can wait. Focus on the game at hand, and if you must make or take a call; then politely excuse yourself and take your call away from the table.

Don’t mark or mutilate the cards – not only is mutilating your cards obviously rude; it is also obviously unfair to the other players. Casino rules dictate that all damaged cards need to be replaced; creating unnecessary slowdowns and stalling the game. Treat the cards with care, and avoid card tapping, folding, and creasing.

Maintain proper hygiene – Poker players are usually seated right next to each other; which means that people will be able to smell if you haven’t showered and tidied up. Make sure you clean yourself up before hitting the tables; or the person they’ll be smelling (and talking about) is you.

Try not to Slowroll, Table Talk, or Rabbit Hole – “Slowrolling” is when you take too long to reveal your winning hand. “Table Talk” is when you make speculations and talk about the active hand. Asking for a “Rabbit Hole” is asking what the next card in the deck would have been. These behaviors annoy the heck out of most players because they stall the game and provide unnecessary distractions.

Avoid excessive displays of emotion – People hate the guy who throws a tantrum when they lose. They also hate the guy who jumps around and raises their fists with loud shouting when they win. You don’t want to be that guy. Keep your emotional displays restrained: this is not the World Series of Poker (is it?). Win and lose gracefully so that you don’t become the object of scorn.

Poker is a game of skill, wits, patience, and control. It’s a sport. It’s a form of gambling. But most of all, it can be a fun way to spend a few hours and some cash with friends (and total strangers) as you all try to beat the odds. Play like a gentleman and odds are; you’ll be welcome at every table you play.

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