Poker Etiquette and Rules of the Road

Poker rules and etiquette help speed the game along and keep it orderly, not to mention more enjoyable, so poker etiquette is as much a part of the game as the cards themselves. In fact, when you play Omaha in a casino for the first time, poker etiquette is likely to take as much getting used to as the game itself. It’s unfortunate but true that you’ll find a few players willfully flaunting all of poker’s unwritten rules, as well as some of the written ones. But these players are regarded by their peers as boorish at best, “angle-shooters” at worst, and they won’t make many friends among their opponents. You wouldn’t emulate boorish behavior away from the poker table, so don’t take your cues from the bad apples. Forget about them. They’re jerks — grown adults who ought to know better, but for some reason have not only chosen to be ignorant, but to act proud of that ignorance to boot.

Act In Turn

Each player should act in turn as play proceeds clockwise around the table. If someone bets and you plan to fold, please wait until it’s your turn to act. Acting out of turn can give a big advantage to one of your opponents. If he knows you’re planning to fold your hand, it makes it easier for him to bluff, and that’s unfair to the rest of the players. In poker, as in most of life, it’s considered polite to wait your turn.

Keep Your Cards In Plain Sight

In order to maintain the integrity of the game, players should keep their cards on the table during a hand. The best way to look at the cards you’ve been dealt is to shield them with your hands, then lift a corner of each card to peek at it. It’s customary to leave your cards on the table after looking at them, and to then place a chip — or a small lucky charm — on top of them.

This alerts the dealer that your hand is still in play. If you need to look at your cards again during the play of the hand, that’s OK. just take another peek. But you should train yourself to look at your cards only once and remember them while a hand is being contested. That gives you more time to study your opponents, and gives your opponents far less time to scrutinize you.

Discussing Hands In Play

Discussing your hand with others, even if you’ve tossed your cards into the muck and are no longer involved in the hand, may provide information that would give another player unfair advantage. If you want to discuss a hand with a neighbor, wait until the hand is concluded. During WW II folks would say, “Loose lips sink ships.” and they still can sink poker hands.

Turn Your Hand Face Up At The Showdown

If you’re not sure whether you have the best hand or not, turn your cards face up at the showdown and allow the dealer to read your hand. If there is doubt or debate, even if the hand is over, casino security cameras can review the hands that were shown down in order to determine the winner. Once cards have been turned over at the showdown, it’s considered good form to point out a hand that the dealer may have overlooked. Omaha hands can be confusing, so if you see a winning hand that the dealer overlooked, go ahead and mention it. Because “cards speak” in casino poker, it’s considered proper to point out the best hands, and not permit a pot to be awarded to the wrong player simply because the dealer overlooked a winning hand. One interesting though inexplicable phenomenon at the Omaha table is that many players don’t turn their hands faceup at a hand’s conclusion, preferring instead to read the board and turn a hand face up only if it’s a better hand — high or low — than the other exposed hands. Players occasionally misread their hands — yes, sometimes even experts do this — and when that happens a winning hand can be tossed in the muck. Unless you’re purposefully trying to disguise your play and don’t want others to get a read on it, please turn your cards face up at the showdown and let the dealer and other players read your hand. To make it easier for the dealer and your opponents to read your hand, put the two cards of your winning hand together, slightly separated from your two inconsequential cards. This is good poker etiquette and will help keep the dealer from misreading your hand and mucking a winner. If that unfortunate event should befall you, you’ll need a floor decision, confirmation from other players, and perhaps a review of the hand on the casino’s security tapes before you can get the pot or the portion of it you’ve rightfully earned.

Table Stakes

“Table Stakes” means that you can’t add chips or money to the amount in front of you during the play of the hand. If you run out of money during a hand, you’re said to be all-in, and you can contest only the portion of the pot that your bets cover. If there are active opponents who still have chips in front of them, they’ll be betting into a “side pot” that you have no investment in. But you’ll be eligible for the main pot, and once the hand is over, you can reach into your wallet and buy as many more chips as you’d like.


We’re not just blowing smoke, but “toking” the dealer — poker parlance for tipping — is customary when you win a pot. Yokes constitute a significant part of a dealer’s income. The size of the pot and the games betting limits generally determine the amount of the toke. If you’re new to the game, take your toking cue from other players at the table.