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Online vs Live Poker Etiquette

Five well dressed people sitting at a purple felt poker table playing poker waiting for cards to be dealt, two drinks sit on the table

Both live and online poker have developed their own basic etiquette and rules to keep the game running smoothly, and keep it fun for everyone at the table. Though the games are the same whether you’re online or offline, there are differences in the etiquette expected from players in both the live and online environment. 

In this short guide, we’re going to break down a few of the key etiquette rules to remember for both live and online poker, so that you’re just as welcome at your friend’s home game as you are at the tables at your favorite online casino. 

Live poker etiquette

If you’ve ever watched any televised or live poker tournaments or cash games, you’ll have seen examples of players who are keeping to good etiquette, and possibly a few that aren’t. Here are a few basic etiquette rules that you should never break, even when you’re tilted. 

Don’t talk about your hand while it’s in play

Aerial shot of five people playing poker with cards and chips at a casino table.

During a hand, players will be making reads and calculations based on the cards in play to try and determine how they’re going to play their hand. By discussing the cards in your hand, even if you’re in the muck, you can drastically influence the game, and this may give someone involved in the hand an edge, or even set them up for a bad beat. 

This point of etiquette also involves cutting out the “hollywooding” or overreacting when cards are dealt or revealed, especially if you aren’t involved in the hand. This is because other players can gain insight into what cards you potentially had, and that will change how they play the hand. 

No ‘slow-rolling’

There are few things that are as offensive as slow-rolling someone at your table. “Slow-rolling” is a term used to describe someone who’s acting like they have a tough decision to make, when they actually have the stone-cold nuts and will obviously call their opponent. This includes taking your time to reveal the winning hand, or making a player that you know has a losing hand reveal their cards first. 

Slow-rolling, as the name implies, slows the game down and lulls other players into believing that they’ve won the pot, only to discover (after a disgusting slow roll) that they’ve actually lost the pot, and were likely drawing dead. It’s just poor etiquette, and you should never do this. 

Never splash the pot

We’ve all seen it in old poker movies: someone goes all in and shoves masses of chips into the pot; or someone calls a bet by just throwing a mix of chips into the middle of the table. The truth is, though, that this is terrible etiquette at a live poker table. 

The reason for this is that it makes the pot currently being played very difficult to count for the dealer and the other players, which could slow down play if someone wants a count of the pot, and when the dealer has to count and pay out to the winning player. When you make bets, particularly ones consisting of mixed chips, try to do so in neat stacks that are easy to count.

Don’t act out of turn

We’ve established that players don’t like to waste time at the table, and everyone prefers if the players at their table are concentrating and know when it’s their turn to play. It’s important that you follow the action at the table, and only play when it’s your turn, so the game isn’t disrupted and you don’t throw other players off their train of thought. 

Keep the needling friendly

A little needling at the table is perfectly acceptable, in moderation and when conducted without malice. While unsettling your opponent can play very much into how you play your game or get your read on a player (for a great example, look at how Tony G used to ride Phil Hellmuth at the tables to get him to tilt), it’s still crucial to know when enough is enough. 

Poker is meant to be fun and enjoyable for everyone at the table, even if you’re losing, and when players become rude and blow up after bad beats, the atmosphere at the table becomes tense and players start making very bad decisions. So keep cool, calm and collected, and your words kind, whenever possible. 

Online poker etiquette

Online poker player sitting at a laptop on a casino table wearing a red hoodie and holding a pair of aces.

While a lot of the same principles and etiquette rules from live poker apply to online poker as well, there are a few golden rules that apply only to online casinos. Here are a few of the most important etiquette rules for playing poker online. 

Make sure your connection is solid

Just like in live poker, online poker players don’t like to waste time at the tables – since most of them are playing multiple games at a time and can’t have their flow disrupted. Having a good and stable internet connection is important to ensure that you aren’t disrupting the game unnecessarily. 

It can be incredibly frustrating for other players if they have to wait for you to reconnect every time action comes your way; and it could be worse for you, because you might miss out on a major pot if your connection dropped during the hand and your winning hand was mucked. 

Pay attention to your tables

Each time action rolls around to you, you’re given a certain amount of time to make your play. Most online casinos and all the best online poker sites will generally give you ample time to think and take your action. 

It’s good etiquette to act quickly, or to only take as long as necessary to make your move. This doesn’t mean you should be rushing every decision you make (we’re playing online poker for real money here, so all your decisions are important ones), but you should always be paying attention to the game, so that your clock doesn’t run while you aren’t doing any decision-making. This is particularly important to remember when playing multiple tables.  

Keep the chat clean

The chat box is one of the best features of online poker, because it lets you connect and interact with the other players at the table, just as you would in a game of live poker at a casino. 

Now, at a live poker game, you wouldn’t lean over the table and announce to everyone that the player in seat 3 is a donkey, because you’d likely be asked to leave the table (with the “donkey” in seat 3 following you out to the parking lot to offer a more hands-on opinion on the matter). 

The same applies to online poker games. Just because you can’t see the player doesn’t mean you get to be rude to them. Remember that everyone at the table is just like you – they deserve respect and just want to have a good time playing some poker online. 

Don’t try to teach other players

We know you’re an amazing player, and that you probably have a lot to teach the others at the table, but that doesn’t make it the right thing to do. It’s incredibly bad etiquette to try and coach other players on their decisions and the plays they make, particularly if you’ve just beaten them in a hand and you’re trying to explain what they could’ve done better.

Show off your impeccable etiquette at BetMGM

The great thing about the best online poker sites is that their software typically helps out a lot in keeping you from breaking etiquette, which allows you to focus on your game and have as much fun as possible. 

At BetMGM, we have one of the best online poker communities, and feature some of the best online poker games available, including our incredibly popular live dealer games. Register with us to gain access to our online poker rooms and tournaments, as well as a huge variety of other fun and exciting online casino games.