Poker Strategy
Monday, May 20, 2019
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Gary Trask

Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has worked as a writer and editor more than 20 years. The Boston native was a member of the Poker Hall of Fame's inaugural Media Committee and a current member of the Women in Poker Hall of Fame voting panel.

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Top-10 poker table etiquette mistakes

Jena Phillips and Shaun Harris have pretty much seen it all at the poker table. They've both been chosen to deal at the World Series of Poker Main Event final table the last few years and have been able to witness first-hand some exciting moments. Unfortunately they've also watched both experienced and inexperienced players make the kind of gaffes at the table that can make everyone cringe.

"As a dealer you really have to be able to read your table," explains Phillips, a 27-year-old from Missouri who won the honor of WSOP Dealer of the Year in 2008. "I can usually do it within five or 10 minutes. And then I can tell when a player is intentionally doing something or not. Inexperienced players make mistakes sometimes and when I correct them they are always apologetic and really try hard not to do it again.

"But the experienced player tends to do things just to see how much they can get away with. And I always try to stop things early before they get out of control. You can never lose control of your table."

So the next time you sit down at the poker table, try to remember not to do any of the below actions. Remember, the dealer has spent just as much time or probably a lot more time at the poker table than you. Push their limits and it could cost you.

10. Splashing the pot
Phillips says that this can happen accidentally, but if the same player does it more than couple times she knows he or she is doing it on purpose.

"Look, we realize that the chips are round," she says. "They can roll or take a funny bounce and it happens sometimes. But you can tell when a player is doing it on purpose and it's just a very rude thing to do."

9. Eating at the table
Harris, a 31-year-old native of Harlem who moved to Las Vegas to become a dealer in 2005, knows what it's like to be stuck at a poker table for hours upon hours. He realizes that people need to eat. But if you do decide to snack or have your lunch at the table, choose your food wisely and have a napkin.

"It's probably not a good idea to eat fries or anything else that's greasy," he says. "First off, it gets on the cards and chips and that gets everyone pissed off. Then you gotta remember that the chips and cards aren't very clean to begin with. So it's probably not a good idea to eat finger foods because of all the germs. If you have to eat, try and eat something that you down with a fork."

8. Making string bets
Phillips explains that there are times when it's OK to go back to your chip pile more than once, especially if you verbally announce your bet before making a move. But for the most part it's probably a good idea to push your chips onto the table all at once just to be on the safe side.

"Every dealer should be able to recognize a string bet," Phillips says. "Not only is it unethical, but it's against the rules and it can cost you."

7. Grabbing the chips after winning a pot
"This is a major no-no," Harris says with a laugh. "But people do it all the time."

Harris said the main culprits here are players who are either used to online poker or play a lot of home games rather than at a casino.

"They don't know any better," he says. "But usually the first time they do it and they're told not to do it again, they listen. It's understandable, but it's something you shouldn't do."

6. Showing your cards
Phillips says that it's in the Tournament Director Association rules that you can't show your cards when the action is still live at the table. And even though it's not against the rules to show your hole cards when the action is dead, it's still not a good idea.

"I'm a poker player as well as a dealer and I just don't see any advantage to showing anyone what you were holding unless you have to," she adds.

5. Excessive table talk
Harris says that this really doesn't bother him because he's pretty good at tuning things out and that it's part of the game. But Phillips said that this is one of her biggest pet peeves.

"A lot of players watch poker on TV and try to be like their favorite pro players," she says. "But in reality too much talk is not a good thing. Sometimes players just can't help themselves from talking about the board while other players are still in the hand and that's against the rules. You can't say anything that could influence the action, but it happens all of the time and it's something that as a dealer I really try to contain."

4. Being rude to other players
Once again, this goes back to watching the pros on TV (Hello, Hellmuth and Matusow).

"There's just no need to berate or needle another player; that's just common courtesy," Phillips says. "I realize that everyone is there to make money and things can get emotional. But if you can't contain yourself, get up and walk away. Take your loss like a man. You have to be careful because this is another thing that can cost you because if you get out of hand you will be penalized."

3. Cell phone use
According to Phillips, the major reason for not using the cell phone at the table is that people could actually use it as an advantage. She says that she has seen players at the same table text each other about hands or someone on the rail, which is obviously against the rules.

But Harris adds that using a cell phone or Blackberry while at the table is a big problem.

"It's frustrating for the dealer and the other players when someone is more concerned with their phone call than they are with the game," he says. "It slows the game down and then I start getting complaints from the other players and I have to step in and be the bad guy."

2. Not knowing when to act or acting our of turn
The reason for this may very well be that you are on your cell phone. But whatever the case, this is something that aggravates everyone at the table because it not only slows the game down, but it can influence the action.

"People get distracted by everything from the iPod to their cell phone to their friends on the rail," says Phillips. "I even have people reading books from time to time and they just aren't paying attention and that's just plain rude. And if you act out turn it can change the action on the table and that's when things really can get the other players livid."

1. Folding instead of checking
Phillips says that she is amazed every day at just how often players fold when they have the option to check. Not only is it a bad strategic move because you may get a chance to see some free cards, but it also influences the action on the table for the other players.

"If you have the option to call instead of folding, make the call and I don't care how bad you have to use the rest room or how bad your cards are," she says. "It really makes a huge difference on the game. If I'm sitting there getting ready to bet and the person with the big stack folds before he has to, I might increase my bet size just knowing that person is out of the hand.

"This is especially true when you've got three players and then somebody folds out of turn. Now it's heads-up instead of three-way and it's a whole new ballgame."

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