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How to Act Like a Pro in the Poker Room
Just because you are new to the world of poker doesn't mean that you have to act like you are! Professional poker playing has been around for more than a hundred years, and as with anything that has lasted that long, it has developed its own etiquette and its own way of doing things. If you want to learn how to act like a pro in the poker room, make sure that you keep these rules in mind!
You can blame this one on the movies. How many times have you seen the camera focus on a messy pile of chips at the middle of the table? It's certainly dramatic, and it does make an iconic impression, but at all casinos and most private games, splashing is a sign of extraordinarily bad poker manners. When it's your turn to put your chips in, keep them in a neat stack. This allows the dealer and the other players to see exactly what you put in, and it keeps everything a lot neater. You can splash by accident; after all, poker chips are round and they will roll, but do not make a habit of it.
Stringing is another behavior that you see in the movies, and though it can be seen as building drama, you will find that it drives the pros and the dealers crazy. Stringing is defined as stating that you are going to call and then stating that you are going to raise on top of that. Someone who is stringing might say, “I'll call at 200, and raise another 200.” The first thing out of your mouth should be the thing that you do. Do not call and then raise, as it breaks the concentration of the other players, and it makes you look like you are seeking attention. Say that you call or that you raise, not both!
A good poker game is one that has a good flow. People operate at different speeds, and of course people should be patient. However, do not stall. If you know what you want to do, do it, and don't pause for dramatic effect or to make other people nervous. Professional poker players never, ever stall, and they are pretty good at telling when someone is. Play your hand, and let the play move along.
Showing Your Hand
The exact rules on when you can show your hand will vary from place to place, but there are a few hard and fast guidelines to follow. When you go out on a hand that is still in play, do not comment on your own hand. Place them face down in front of you, and do not comment on what your cards would have done as the hand is being played. Not only is this distracting, it can give some players an unfair advantage depending on what they have in their hands.
The famous Robert's Rules for Poker lay down very clear instructions on tobacco at the poker table. Many establishments have gone smoke-free at this point, but if you are in an establishment that allows smoking, keep these guidelines in mind. Remember that the seat on either side of the dealer is always a non-smoking seat. For a casino dealer, this is essential to their comfort. If you are in a closed room, cigars and pipes are not allowed. If you are watching a poker game, do not smoke at all. Remember to be polite, and also keep in mind that fiddling with a cigarette can be a major tell. Skip it in general if you can!
The rules that we learned on the playground are still relevant at the poker table. Do not do things out of order. For example, if you are playing Texas Hold 'Em, play proceeds to the dealer's left and continues around the table. By taking your turn, you are keeping your cool. Bidding and calling out of turn shows that you are not paying attention and tells the people around you how you are feeling. Take your turn and remember that there are other people playing as well!
This shouldn't even need to be said, but unfortunately, a lot of people need the reminder. If you have a phone, turn it off. Do not come to the table with a phone that is on, and if you are worried about being tempted by your Facebook updates and your texts, make sure that you leave your phone in your hotel room. Not only is smartphone use during a hand extremely rude, it is something that can get you ejected from the game in general. Do not risk it; do not take your phone out of your pocket as you play.
Though poker has a reputation for being the game for people who can stay calm and keep a straight face, it also seems to draw its share of hotheads. Don't be one of them! Stay calm, never abuse the other players or the dealer, and stay quiet. Don't make a big deal over hands that you won or lost, and make sure that you do not bother other players by being too boisterous. Don't swear, and don't crumple or fold the cards if you are irritated. These things shouldn't need to be said, but if you ask any professional dealer, you'll realize that they cannot be said enough!
When you are ready to hit the poker tables, make sure that you don't look like a beginner. Poker is a dignified game, and though your head might be full of movie poker games, remember that the real games are a lot different!