In poker, as in life, there are rules, both written and unwritten. When there are nine or 10 people from different generations, different backgrounds and different world views sitting around trying to take each others' money, there is going to be tension.
When we as poker players mind our manners and follow the rules and etiquette of the game, some of the tension is reduced. The game can run smoothly, everyone can have a good time, and it can truly be a social game.
Let's discuss a few things that will make your poker experience — and that of your opponents — more enjoyable.
Almost no one likes losing. I sure don't. Another thing I don't like is being told that I'm an idiot. When you lose a big pot to someone who played their hand terribly, please don't give them a 5-minute explanation of how stupid they are.
You can have that discussion in your head. We play poker to have fun and make money. When you berate a player, they don't have fun. Other players at the table become uncomfortable, and they don't have fun. When no one is having fun, they are more likely to leave.
If you just lost a big pot and your game breaks up, you have no way to get your money back. That's no fun! Try saying, 'Nice hand,' instead.
Let the moron who is stacking your chips smile and enjoy himself. That way, your chips stay on the table and you have the opportunity to win them back.
Don't shoot the messenger. You didn't lose that hand because the dealer hates you, is unlucky for you, or put that river card out on purpose. Keep in mind that the dealers in a poker game have no vested interest in which player wins or loses. They are there to facilitate your game, keep it running smoothly, and enforce the rules. They are human. As such, they have feelings. They don't come to work everyday to have cards thrown at them, or to be told that they are the worst dealer on earth. Please keep that in mind.
Your grandmother may have a foul mouth, but my grandma wasn't raised by sailors. Keep your language and the topics you discuss appropriate for my grandma. Or better yet, appropriate for an 8-year-old. Also, try to avoid politics and religion. Bringing up either of those topics at a poker table usually ends up in at least one player being offended.
Speaking of discussion topics, don't whisper to your neighbor that you folded J5 when the flop comes 55J. Another player still in the hand may overhear you and have an advantage over players at the other end of the table.
Keep the contents of your hand a secret until all the betting is complete. Don't talk about possibilities, based on the board cards.
Have you ever lost a pot to a guy who was about to fold before someone at the table said something like, "Doesn't anyone have a diamond?" I have. And I wasn't happy.
Pay attention to the action.If you've played an hour of live poker in your life, you do not have an excuse for folding out of turn. Every poker game I've ever played in, the action goes clockwise. It isn't hard to figure out that you act after the person on your right.
Folding out of turn gives extra information to players yet to act; information that people who have already acted don't have. This applies to folding when not facing a bet, as well.
Always play your button after paying the blinds! This is both strategic and polite. Position is important in poker. Why would you walk away during the one hand where you have post-flop position on everyone?
Most dealers are instructed to move the button forward when a player leaves on their button. This affects the blinds of the other players at the table, and therefore is considered rude.
One of the best habits you can get into is protecting your hand. You don't have to have a personalized card protector — a chip will suffice.
Once you have looked at, and memorized your hole cards, put something on them. Then push them far enough out that they are visible to other players.
Poker is a visual game, and it is unfair to other players to disguise the fact that you still have a live hand.
While this list is not exhaustive, hopefully it will remind you to think of the other players in the game the next time you sit at a poker table. Just be polite. Be social. You might even have some fun!
Keith Dames is the assistant poker manager at the Atlantis Casino Resort Spa. Follow the poker room on Twitter @PokerAtlantis.