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20-40-60 Etiquette Extra! Polite Poker?

by Helen Ford Wallace Published: January 18, 2011

YOU ASK! WE ANSWER! YOU DECIDE!

EDITOR’S NOTE: In this week’s 20-40-60 etiquette extra, the men answer a bonus question about poker etiquette. In light of recent years’ popularity of the game, online, on TV and among friends, it’s fitting that 20-40-60 etiquette would address proper card-playing etiquette of the game.

It’s not the Wild West, so typically people don’t play the game with pistols by their sides like they do in the movies, but there still is a proper decorum to follow. Callie, Lillie-Beth and Helen answer too!
QUESTION: Is there such a thing as poker etiquette? I was playing in a friendly family game of poker and my cousin played out of turn. Her dad strictly told her to wait her turn to bet and to totally pay attention because money was involved. I thought it was just a game.


20s: Nick Tanskersley: I can imagine that the father’s rebuff was a little harsh, but many people take poker very seriously, and that’s what makes it fun for them. I can’t stand playing a card game just “for fun”, I like the competitive nature of it, and that’s why I engage in it in the first place. There are plenty of ways to pass the time, but this is a completive game with an end goal and because of that, the rules should be followed.

There is an etiquette to almost every card game, but especially one where there is money involved. Many casinos set up very strict rules about table behavior, and going out of turn in those situations would almost surely get you a warning with an ejection waiting at the next mistake.

At a home game it may be a little more lax but the turn-based system of a poker game is essential to the overall strategy of the players. Perhaps one player is playing another’s bluff or is working for a bigger pot; if someone bets out of turn it could really derail that entire strategy as it adds extra money and factors to that round that should not be there.

It’s one thing to have fun while playing a game and it’s another to be annoying and think that rules don’t apply because it is only a game. Most games have rules for a reason, and without those rules all you really have is a bunch of people throwing cards at each other. It’s the same as when you were a kid and playing tag or some other game and someone would just start making up their own rules.

There is a universal set of rules for any game, and to break those rules means you’ll at least be admonished. If you are looking at playing a game where you are allowed to make up what you want to do as you go along, try some solitaire.


30s: Ford Sanger:  Anytime a game is being played there are rules/etiquette to that game — rules that need to be followed, especially if money is involved in a poker game with family members. What makes any game fun is the strategy within the rules of the game.


40s: Scott Kinnaird: When money is involved, it’s never “just a game”. But, even if there isn’t money involved, and regardless of the game, parents should teach their children to play ethically and by the rules. If the rules happen to be “no rules,” that’s fine, too.


50s: Clay Healey: All games have rules. One of the biggest problems we have today is that folks forget rules, why they exist and when they apply. Although this is a friendly card game, the rule is to play in turn. The rule exists for a reason — it affects the next person’s bet and hence the outcome of the game.

I understand that one might think that different rules apply when the game is a friendly family game, but when money is involved, the rules must strictly apply. And maybe if one never learns to play well with family, how will one ever learn to play well with others?

Remember that poker is not just about who has the best hand. It is about reading your opponent and determining whether she is bluffing or not. This cannot be done when players bet out of turn. Her dad was correct!


60s: Ron James:  I don’t have a good one on this. I don’t play, but it occurs to me that poker is not a friendly, idle game.

So, if you’re going to “play” it, then competition is your setting, follow the rules and win. Then go chat — if you’re still talking.

From the regular 20-40-60 etiquette columnists:
CALLIE’S ANSWER: YES! In poker it is a big no- no to play out of turn. This could affect the rest of the players bet, although it is just a game. Don’t take yourself too seriously!
LILLIE-BETH’S ANSWER: When I was little and my parents taught me to play poker, we learned that in the old days of the Wild West, you could get shot for playing out of turn or not playing by other poker rules. At 7 or so, that made a big impression. Even though they were joking with us and it was all in fun, I’ve always kept in mind that when I play poker, some people might be taking it way more seriously than I do.


You should be aware that when you’re playing with real money, people are serious about the game. It’s best to know the basic etiquette rules — don’t bet/play out of turn, don’t reveal your cards while the hand is still being played out and know what hands beat what as you play (even if you need a cheat sheet).


Although this is quoting the obvious cliché, even country singer Kenny Rogers alluded to gambling etiquette rules once in his song “The Gambler:” “You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away and know when to run. You never count your money when you’re sittin’ at the table. There’ll be time enough for counting when the dealin’s done.”

HELEN’S ANSWER: I was taught the rules of poker at an early age by parents who had heard stories of people being shot in friendly poker games, so they taught me to never touch the money or cards of anyone else at the card table and to concentrate on the game of cards. When money is involved, people tend to get possessive. So, truly, even young people can learn the rules and how to follow them correctly.


I think that the dad was correct in making her bet in turn. Many card players and game players choose not to play card games with people who do not observe the common courtesies of paying attention and/or playing and betting when they are supposed to. All games, with rules, should be followed.


by Helen Ford Wallace
Society Editor
Helen Ford Wallace is a columnist covering society-related events/news for The Oklahoman. She puts local parties online with daily updates. She creates, maintains and runs a Parties blog which includes web casts. She is an online web editor for...
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