Poker is not a sociable game but it is distinctly a social game. That
is, it is a game one must play with others, and we may assume that
every human being would rather be popular than unpopular and also that
every group will soon reject a player who is generally disliked by the
other players. Therefore if you are playing in a poker game and you
want to keep on playing, it behooves you to conform to the social
customs of the game and make sure that the other players do not hate
you enough to kick you out.
notably unprofitable to be recognized as a good fellow in poker
games, but it is almost as bad to be characterized as a prime
sonofabitch. The object of the winning player is to steer a middle
course. He wants to be known as a tough but fair opponent, as a
ruthless but honest adversary. The problem is, "How to be honest and
yet a winner." My advice is as follows:
1. Sandbagging is
a logical part of the game to the
thinking player, but for some
reason it enrages the average player. Many professional games have been forced to
introduce the house rule that
you cannot check and then raise. Find out what the custom of the game is and observe it. If it
makes the opponents mad for
you to check the best hand and then raise, don't do it. It may slightly restrict your style, but it
doesn't really have a great
effect on your winnings or losses in the long run. In fact, much money is lost by failure to bet the best
hand, in the vain hope that
some one will bet into you.
2. In some games
any comments you make are taken with
a grain of salt, in other
games the gentlemanly code is adopted and you are not supposed to say that you
have a bad hand when you have
a good one, that you filled a flush when in fact you didn't, etc. In such games, don't
compromise your popularity by
violating the customs. You won't lose anything by keeping your mouth
shut; the bet speaks for itself anyway.
woman wrote to Dorothy Dix and said, "Dear Miss Dix: A man wants to
marry me but he doesn't know I have false teeth. Should I tell him?"
Dorothy Dix answered with classic succinctness, "Keep your mouth shut."
poker player would be a fool to tell the truth about his hand
and may win undying unpopularity by playing the gay deceiver and the
chatterbox, this is good advice for the poker player too.
Be just a little more conservative than the
standard established in the
game. In all except the toughest games in the country, the majority of players
are more liberal
than they should be.
From curiosity, boredom, or sheer ignorance, they play too often, raise too often, and call
too often. It is neither
winning style nor good etiquette to become known as the Rock if Gibraltar in such games. If you play
them just a little closer to
the chest than the average conservative player in the game, but stick your neck out with a gambling
play now and then, you will
maintain your chances of winning and avoid being stigmatized as a greedy soul who likes money
better than good fellowship.
It is true that conservatism pays in poker, but don't try to make it pay too much.
4. Conform to the
pace of the game. Old-fashioned
poker players like to take
every step with the greatest deliberation, with close figuring before betting and
excursions into psychological
analysis before deciding whether or not to call. In distinction to this, the public game in a licensed
club or gambling house moves
with machine-gun precision and if you pause for as much as ten seconds you will be subjected to
impatient prods from the other
players. If you are by nature a slow thinker you may suffer a bit in the fast games, but not
as much as you will suffer
from violating the custom of the game.
5. Don't be a
stickler for the laws in an amateur
game. The players commit the
most horrible crimes known to poker. They drop out of turn. They want to look at
your hand when you bet and
didn't get called. They relinquish a pot and then want to reclaim it when they find out that
they had the best hand after
them get away with it. I assume your principal desire is to be a
winning player (that is the purpose for which this website
was created) and in such a game you will be a winning player just by
avoiding the more horrible of the mistakes that are made all around
you. Be content with that. They will eventually kick you out of the
game because you win too much, but if you don't hurt their feelings by
insisting on strict interpretation of the laws you will last quite a
6. Lose a few
arguments. For example, if you have put
in your ante and someone says
you haven't, why not put it in again? On this subject I would like to make one
sage observation. If you argue
and then give in reluctantly, you have done just as much damage to yourself as if you argued and
never gave in. In fact, you
have done more damage; if you decide to stand on the fact that you are right, you may win the
admiration of some players.
Equally you will win their admiration when you give in fast and graciously although it is obvious
that you were right all the
time; it is apparent that you are not picayune about small amounts. So you must either stand on your
rights or yield with no
murmuring or muttering, and you shouldn't do either of them all the time.
7. The traditional
problem of etiquette is saved for
last: Can you quit when you
are a big winner?
again the answer depends on the game. In a public game you should
have no qualms at all; in a club game you should simply take care to
give ample advance notice, such as a half-hour or an hour; and in a
truly social game you mustn't. You can nurse your stack and you can
refrain from doing anything that would keep the game going, but you
can't give the impression that you are in there for the money and not
for the sheer fun of it. At least wait until someone else quits and
then go along with him.