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Posted by on Jul 12, 2013 in Blog, General Poker, Rants and Raves, World Series of Poker | 18 comments

The Ten Commandments of Poker Etiquette




Now amongst my flock, I bestow upon you “The Ten Commandments of Poker Etiquette.”


[In Charlton Heston as “Moses” voiceover….]

Here all ye’ faithful!

I’ve just returned to the valley of darkness from the high summit on Mount Charleston.  Within my arms rest stone tablets etched by fire.  I bring to you light — the direct word from the heavenly poker gods.

Indeed, there is proof of divinity.  Look to the west.  The vast plumes of white smoke you’ve witnessed barreling into the sky in recent days over the desert came from the pyres of the almighty hand.

Now amongst my flock, I bestow upon you “The Ten Commandments of Poker Etiquette.”

1.  Thou shalt practice good personal hygiene.

Is anything more important than this fundamental commandment?  Think of those excruciating occasions when you’ve sat in a poker game amongst players with body odor, or skunk breath.  Or with players who dress in tank tops and have sweat pouring from their armpits.  If you play poker in public, please do everyone around you a favor:  (1) take a shower, (2) brush your teeth, and (3) dress appropriately at the poker table.

2.  Thou shalt not slow-play.

What in the hell has happened to poker tournaments?  What is it with taking two fucking minutes to make every single table decision?  If an opponent shoves and you sit there holding ace-king or a big pocket pair, go ahead — take some time.  But these purely orchestrated moments of high drama on every poker hand are sucking the life right out of the game.  Everyone gets bored to shit when the time-waster sits there like he’s playing heads-up in the Main Event, showboating his ass off when he’s probably holding jack-four off-suit.  Unfortunately, the problem of “slow play” seems to be getting worse instead of better.  Even players who make the WSOP November Nine are now taking so much time with decisions, they’re ruining poker on television.  Slow players should be stoned to death.

3.  Thou shalt stack chips properly.

How difficult it is to stack your chips consistently into even rows?  Like in stacks of twenty.  Or at least organize them in a manner where other players can determine your chip count.  By sprawling out your chips, you aren’t fooling anyone.  You’re slowing down the game at times and behaving like a jackass.  Go back and look at all the poker greats from the past and try to find me one player who piles his chips up like a garbage dump.  You won’t find any.

4.  Thou shalt not make speeches at the poker table.

Think of all the times you’re forced to sit and listen to a speech from some mook who wins a hand.  I’ve seen this happen numerous times, where the bore berates his opponent as he drags the pot.  It’s even worse when a supposedly “good” player takes a bad beat from a “bad” player, and then gives his opponent a lecture on how he played the hand completely wrong.  Save your speech.  No one cares.

5.  Thou shalt engage other players socially at the table.

Far too many poker players seem to have forgotten that poker is a game of people.  Remember that foreign concept?  Most players — especially those who are part-timers and who play recreationally — provide the game with what it essentially needs, which is the lifeblood of money.  They desperately want entertainment.  They play poker to enjoy themselves.  So let’s do this — entertain them.  Talk to them.  Engage them.  Most players who sit in total silence oblivious to social interaction are cancerous to the game.

6.  Thou shalt not tell bad beat stories.

Under no circumstances should any winning poker player ever tell a bad beat story.  No exceptions.  For a more thorough explanation of why this is so, click here:  ANNOUNCING:  FOR $1,000 I’LL LISTEN TO YOUR BAD BEAT STORY

7.  Thou shalt not blame the dealer when bad things happen.

Want to identify a total loser?  Any player who blames the dealer for the way the cards come out is the dumbest player in the room.  It’s like blaming the postman for stuffing bills in your mailbox.  Poker dealers are delivery people.  What you do with the package is up to you.  Fortunately, these bozos are so full of superstitions that they have no chance to win in the long run.  So, they end up being your perfect opponents.  Seek them out, for they will line your pockets with gold.  Any game where some idiot is blaming a dealer for a beat is a game I want to be sitting in. MORE ABOUT POKER DEALERS

8.  Thou shalt not hit on women at the poker table.

Poker needs more women players.  That goes for cash games.  That goes for tournaments.  That goes for everywhere.  Sadly, too many slimeball lizards act like the poker table is their personal nightclub.  They try to make moves on women — both players and dealers.  I have a few choice words for these jackasses.  Most women have heard every pickup line in the book, and nothing you say is either original or funny.  Frankly, you’re annoying — not only to the women but to everyone else.  Besides, you’ve got no shot at picking up the girl anyway, so play your hand and keep your creepy behavior to yourself.

9.  Thou shalt not talk loudly when others are involved in a big hand.

It’s terrible etiquette to disrespect others at the table, especially if they’re involved in a big hand.  Keep your voice down, or better yet, keep quiet when there’s significant action.  Sure, the conversation should be encouraged between hands.  Moreover, table banter can be a lot of fun.  However, the more chips in the pot, the lower your decibel level should be if you’re not involved in the hand.  Respect the game and its players.

10.  If thou art a poker pro, thou should act like a poker pro.

If you really are a poker pro, then try acting like one.  Read up on the games’ incredible history.  Honor its greatest traditions.  Respect others who achieve success.  For instance, the behavior of many so-called “pro poker players” who act with complete indifference to things like the WSOP gold bracelet ceremony is disgraceful.  Can you take two fucking minutes of the day — about what it takes you to tank one poker decision if you’re one of the slow-players — to honor someone who is enjoying the thrill of a poker lifetime?  Two fucking minutes!  By not honoring the game or its players, you’re acting unsportsmanlike and unprofessional.  You are blessed to play poker for a living.  With this unusual career choice comes certain obligations to lift the game and everyone in it.  Try to think of someone other than yourself for a change.

TAG: Nolan Dalla writings
TAG: How to play poker


  1. Amen!

  2. 11. Anyone who says “I’m sorry” after administering a beat on someone should be slapped out of the chair .

  3. 11. Anyone who says “I’m sorry” after administering a beat on someone should be slapped out of the chair .

    • It’s possible to have two emotions simultaneously. In addition to being happy to have won the pot, one may feel empathy for the player who lost it due to bad luck. “Sorry” is an expression of the latter, not an apology.

  4. I have an exception with number eight.

    • I’m with you! Love it when a guy tries to hit on me at a table – makes it all the more enjoyable when I take his money.

  5. Don’t agree with #5, poker can be a social game but its fundamentally a game where your trying to win someone else’s money. If you find it easier to concentrate when keeping quiet then fair enough I say.

    • Joe,
      I respect your decision to want to concentrate while wagering your hard earned money. Please consider the +EV that is derived from a sociable atmosphere at a poker table.
      Mike Caro has been saying for decades that the loudest/most talkative table in the room is often the most profitable.
      In @TheTommyAngelo’s “Elements of Poker,” Tommy talks about ‘Mum Poker.’ Seek out the book and I believe you’ll find a great happy medium when it comes to table talk.

  6. I am ok and that s why Daniel Negreanu is the best !

  7. Great list. I especially like #5!

  8. In my humble opinion, #5 and #6 are incompatible. Sometimes the only thing you have in common with the person across form you is an enjoyment of poker. If that person starts to tell you about a bad beat and you ignore them, tell them off or berate them then how are you different from the folks in #5 who cause such a bad reputation for poker?

    If you are at the table, use the fact that they are talking about that to get info about them. Maybe say a word or two about how that is part of the game, and move on. Don’t tap on the fishtank. If you are away from the table, then take a moment like Bill Hubbard did with Justin Oliver and help thier thinking back into the right track. If it is a casual, entertainment only player, then they won’t be helped by your cold disregarding of thier percieved wrong. Let them know that it is part of the game and that they should expect that from time to time. Use it as a chance to engage the player and impart some wisdom.

    But you cannot, in my opinion, critisize players for not engaging and the follow it up with saying that you will not hear bad beat stories from anyone ever. The two are in conflict. Just my $0.02.

  9. This should be put on stone tablets and put on prominent display at every WSOP and WSOP circuit event. It should also be put on the back of every seat card given out at the WSOP and WSOP circuit event. What a great post! Not only humorous but informative.

  10. Carlos Mortensen and his chip towers get an exemption from Rule #3. Unfortunately enforcing Rule #4 means Phil Hellmuth and several other notable ‘professional players’ are out of the game completely; not saying that’s a bad thing.

  11. If you spent as much time posting things about poker and applied the same to the true messsage more people would be better off. Knowing you do not believe in God because of this post is clearly stated. I would suggest that you give 20% of your winnings and ask God for forgiveness and never do it again.

    • NOLAN REPLIES: Thanks for writing, Mark. As for giving 20 percent of my winnings, that does seem a bit excessive don’t you think? And what if I have a losing year, will your god absorb 20 percent of my losses? Seems only fair.

      — Nolan

  12. I entertain people like a rock star.

  13. Umm, etiquette list without “no revealing what you mucked while betting is still active.” Hope your list isn’t in stone, because to include some of your list while excluding this is rather silly. Shouldn’t even make non verbal indication your mucked cards hit anything. Should be top of list.

  14. Question on etiquette. My understanding is that if I make the final bet and my sole opponent calls, etiquette dictates that I show my cards first. But what if I check and my sole opponent On the Button checks? Who should show first?


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