How to Host the Perfect Home Game: Good Poker Etiquette

For our eighth article in our How to Host the Perfect Poker Home Game we’ll look at how to be a proper poker gentleman and ladies.

We'll give you nine poker etiquette rules to adhere to in your game. We can’t guarantee your friends won’t resort to childish name-calling, but we can promise you’ll finish the game with your honor in one piece. Etiquette is all about respect and it’s what separates the civilized world from the animal kingdom -- and Atlantic City.

Top 9 Poker Etiquette Rules

If you’ve played in many home games you know not everyone abides by a universal poker rulebook.

In fact, it’s a lot like playing pool in another country. If you don’t ask beforehand you might have to bank the eight ball three times and once off the jukebox before potting it.

Some of these tips straddle the line between poker rules and poker etiquette, but they’re all important if you want your game to run smoothly.

It’s up to you how strictly you want to enforce them.

Teddy KGB
Don't do this.

1) Don’t eat food with your hands and play poker: This is a rule so steeped in common sense it shouldn’t have to be included but a quick trip to your local casino will prove people still do it. Don’t let your home game suffer the same fate! Ban all finger foods or, if you just have to have nachos, make sure it’s on a break from the poker game.

2) Don’t splash the pot: No matter how many times your friends quote Teddy KGB, telling you that in their club they splash the pot whenever the *** they please in a terrible Russian accent, it doesn’t make it okay.

Splashing the pot is when, instead of placing your bet or raise in front of you like a sane person, you fling it directly into the pile of chips already amassed in the middle of the table. It makes it hard to see how much really went in, and gives unscrupulous types an easy way to short the pot.

3) Always keep track of the action: Nothing ruins a home game more quickly than people who sit staring into space when it’s their turn to act. Trust us, an oblivious punter can look much the same as a contemplative grinder in those moments so do everyone a favor and keep track of when it’s your turn to act.

4) Never talk about a hand in which you’re not involved: If you’re not involved in a hand just sit there and sip your drink. Under no circumstance should you make comments about what you think people have, what they should do, what you would do in their spot, or what Phil Hellmuth would do in their spot. Wait until you’re in the hand, when it’s more acceptable to run your mouth.

new friends
Zip it.

5) One player to a hand: This is a reformulation of Rule 4 but it’s so important it warrants its own entry. No one appreciates you trying to coach a beginning through a hand, not the beginner themselves or the player on the other side of the hand.

Show every player in your game the basic courtesy of letting them play their own hands.

6) If you get called on the river, you must show first: If there’s a mix of experienced and inexperienced players in your game this is a situation that’s sure to come up.

Picture this: Your friend who fancies himself something of a rounder makes a big hero call on the river and demands to see the cards of your much less experienced friend. It might be rude but the rounder is in the right. If you bet or raise and get called on the river, it is incumbent on you to show first.

7) Show one show all: There’s nothing wrong with showing your cards after your opponent has folded but the rules state that if you show your BFF sitting beside you, the rest of the table has the right to see them as well. If you and your besty just have to have a secret, restrict it to your common love for the local sports team.

Check out deez nuts!
That's right, show 'em to everyone.

8) Never make string bets or raises: String betting is one of the most commonly known nitty poker rules but it’s also commonly misapplied. Think back to all those old movies with poker scenes, when the savvy poker player would drawl, “I’ll call your bet … and raise you!” In fact that is an example of a string bet.

Another common instance is when a player fails to announce raise, puts chips over the line for a call and then reaches back and makes a raise. The easiest way to never string bet is to just announce your raise and the amount. Then you can make as many motions as you want. If you don’t announce it, you must put in your full raise IN ONE FORWARD MOTION.

10) English only at the table: This is mostly directed at those Trekkie goons you know from high school who keep showing up at your home game and quoting Rounders in Klingon. You know the ones.

To avoid collusion and to keep an inclusive atmosphere English is the only acceptable language at a poker table.

If you’re not from an English-speaking country and no one you know speaks English you’re pretty much out of luck. Accept that it’s going to be a quiet game.

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