One of the great problems of playing poker is that there is not as yet a standardised set of rules. There seems to be a slightly different set of rules existing in every casino. There does not even seem to be consistency across the same casino chains and for casinos in the same geographic area. However, because it would take up considerable space, I will not attempt to give a detailed listing of rules. You would be well advised however to check the rules in every casino you attend and not assume that because there is a rule in your normal club that this will apply in another. Disputes at the poker table are another big problem. What I would like to do here is to set out some general rules and suggested rules which might be helpful for players to use as guidelines in the event of a dispute.
The sit-down, buy-in-for-cash games should apply to a player’s initial and subsequent rebuys if all that player’s chips are lost. Players buying in short (i.e. for less than the minimum) are the cause of many card room disputes. The player can sit down with any amount of money, no matter how much, as long as it is at least the minimum buy-in. A player with chips may add additional chips to his stack as he desires when not involved in a pot, but may not take chips off the table until quitting the game. Chips and/or money should be in clear view of every player and a player has the right to ask an opponent how much he is playing and to be told. Hidden cash, such as under a cigarette packet or ashtray, cannot be bet. Money and/or chips from the table are not allowed to be transferred from one player to another (this makes collusion more difficult) .
If a player returns to the game after an absence of less than two hours it should be considered part of the same playing session and therefore the player must put down the same number of chips he left the table with. This would stop players winning heavily, leaving the table and coming back a short time later with the minimum buy-in again. Arguably this practice causes more disputes in card rooms than any other single issue.
Chips from the table can be used to pay for items such as drinks or food and for tipping waitresses, but they should not be used for side bets outside the game. Examples of such side bets are who will win the next pot, who will have the highest card in hand etc. These types of bets slow up the game and are irritating for other players.
A player is responsible for the protection of his own hand. A player has no remedy if his hand becomes mucked by contact with discards or is accidentally taken in by the dealer. A player facing a bet who discards his hand may not reclaim it. However, a player who discards his hand when not facing a bet may reclaim the hand if it has not touched the muck.
It is, therefore, most important to be responsible for your own hand and not to muck it until you are sure you cannot win. A player can only contest the pot while he is still in possession of his hand. My suggested rule is that a hand folded and turned up by someone other than the owner of the hand is a dead hand. It is the dealer’s role to muck and turn discarded hands. The dealer may not show the hand of an absent player only the player may show down a live hand and claim the pot. A hand exposed by one player to another when heads up is not a folded hand. The hand is only dead when the owner folds it and the dealer kills it (by touching it to the discards).
A player is not allowed to make a string bet. This is a bet (or often a feigned bet) which could be used to gauge an opponent’s reaction. The bet is almost made and then can be increased or decreased in amount depending on the opponent’s reaction. It is a bet that can initially look like a call, but then turns into a raise or a fold. To avoid this happening to you accidentally, I advise that you announce the amount of your bet before you make it. In the same vein a player who calls a bet without indicating that a raise is to follow may not then raise the pot.
In tournament play, deals are permitted between players if they are announced. It happens anyway, so why not make a virtue out of a necessity?
If a player exposes any or all of his own cards he can either play on with the exposed cards or pass them.
Many card rooms in the UK have a rule, which says,’thinking time is restricted to two minutes’. This rule is open to interpretation and misinterpretation and is inconsistently applied.