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How Poker Works

Poker Etiquette

The rules of poker involve more than just the mechanics of play. Poker players are expected to follow certain customs, most of which ensure a fair game.

Play in turn. In most games, betting begins with the player to the left of the dealer, and moves around the table clockwise. Don't place a bet or ask for cards from the dealer until it's your turn.

Don't talk about the hand in play. Even after you've folded, wait until the showdown is over if you feel you must discuss what you had and what you thought the other players had.

Don't be a rabbit. When a hand is over, don't dig through the deck and the hands the other players have folded to see "what you might have had." This slows the game down and is annoying. The exception is if you genuinely think something was done incorrectly during the hand. Then you can call "time," and play will stop until your problem is resolved. This should be done very infrequently, however.

Don't hold your cards below the table. Although the vast majority of poker players do not cheat, it looks suspicious when you hold your cards out of sight. You could be marking them, or switching them with a holdout or a card up your sleeve.

Don't hold your cards where other players can see their faces. You might think it doesn't matter, since you're only hurting yourself. That's not true. If one player can see your cards, she has an advantage over the other players, which hurts them. Keep your hand face down, or held very close to your chest (the origin of the phrase, "playing it close to the vest"), and take a careful peek when you need to look at it.

Don't string raise. When you raise someone's bet, announce your call and your raise at the same time. Then gather the chips and place them in the pot. If you say, "I call that bet," and then pause before finally saying, "...and raise it $20," someone will likely call, "string raise." A lot of poker strategy is based on the other players' reactions to bets and raises. A string raise gives a player an advantage by allowing him to see the other players' reactions before making a raise.

Don't splash. When making a bet, slide your stack of chips in front of you, but not into the pot. Putting them in the pot ("splashing the pot") makes it hard for the dealer and players to know how much you're betting.

Now, let's look at some common poker games and examine the rules, regulations and jargon associated with each.