Poker Etiquette: How to (Politely) Take Your Friends' Money

Act right on poker night and no one will resent you for cleaning up at the tables.

Poker night might be a rare opportunity to unwind with familiar friends and not have to worry about strict social cues, but that doesn’t mean you can forget about etiquette altogether. Just like for any other occasion, make sure you’re polite, accommodating, and not violating any unspoken poker night rules -- like the ones below.

Be a good guest

Exercise your good manners by making sure to pull your weight even on the nights when you’re not hosting. Show up with a six pack of the host's favorite beer, cigars for everyone, or some food for the table, since arriving empty-handed and then stuffing your face while winning your friends' money isn't exactly polite.

No obnoxious head games

This isn't the World Series of Poker, so regardless of how much Hold 'Em you've watched on ESPN, just play your hand and keep things casual. There's no need to audibly psychoanalyze the guy across the table, or mask your off-suit 2/7 with wraparound shades and obnoxious bravado.

Don't splash the pot

Shouting "I'm all in!" and excitedly pushing your chips into the carefully stacked towers on the table is a great way to get yourself uninvited to next month's game. It makes it extraordinarily difficult for the dealer to count how much you just bet and disorganizes the pot into an indecipherable heap of chips, which slows down the game when you could have simply slid forward your stacks to the center of the table.

Keep up with the pace

Unless you're playing with someone who's especially strict, no one is going to get too upset if you're new to the game and need an extra few seconds to think through your hand. Just make an effort to absorb information rather than referencing your pocket guide every turn, since you'll slow down the rest of the players who are eager to take your money. Even worse -- and more common -- are players who don’t realize that it’s their turn or that they’re even still in the hand. If you don't pay close enough attention, you'll be wondering what everyone's staring at while the rest of the table is not so patiently expecting you to make a move.

Leave the phone in your pocket

Your significant other and Twitter feed can wait a couple hours -- this is your night to hang with your friends face to face rather than through a screen. And while we’d hope that everyone at the table has a high enough opinion of you for this not to be an issue, it could be misconstrued as you Googling for extra help on how to bet.

Don't slow roll

It might -- might -- be funny as a one-time thing for an especially low pot, but at a serious game, whether it's at your friend's house or on the strip, this is considered one of the the rudest things you can do at a poker table. Slow rolling is you’ve won a hand that just finished but you intentionally hesitate to declare it, waiting instead until the guy across the table goes to collect before you turn over your pocket aces. Don't do it, unless you enjoy being severely disliked.

Pay up

It may only be a casual game among old friends, but don't bet if you can't foot the bill at the end of the night. Haggling over your debt, or calling attention to in any way, will turn things very awkward very quickly. Just make sure only to bet what you can afford, and don't be a sore loser when you get taken for a run.

Remember: this isn't your therapist's couch

Yes, it's a booze-filled chance to hang out with all of your friends and shoot the shit, but that doesn't mean it's a good time to bring up your relationship problems or fear of death. Save it for your shrink.

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