Online Texas Holdem Etiquette Tips
If you've ever sat down at a crowded poker table to play Texas holdem live and in person, you were probably given a quick crash course in the game's specialized etiquette. Physically playing the game involves several unspoken rules of conduct, designed to keep tensions in check and avoid unnecessary disputes.
Keeping track of every etiquette essential at the poker table can be a bother for some players, and more still simply don't give a hoot about catering to their competition's sensitivities. For these players, the "wild west" of online poker provides the perfect antidote, offering a virtual realm where you never have to sit next to somebody, handle chips and cards, vocalize your bets, or even be polite.
Playing the game of Texas holdem through an online poker room is an inherently singular experience, and even though you'll be connected to your opponents on the digital level, it's really just you and the computer screen in all actuality.
For this reason, many poker players tend to think of the online game as an etiquette free zone - a place where you can be free to slow roll opponents and talk smack to your heart's content. And indeed, you can expect to find a much more liberalized view of poker etiquette when playing online, with many ironclad norms of the live game simply abandoned altogether.
But even so, playing Texas holdem online still involves several points of etiquette that you may consider adhering to during your own sessions. Of course, the pressure to keep yourself "in line" with the game's unwritten code of conduct will be drastically reduced on the virtual tables, as you won't have any dirty looks or muttered comments to contend with. With that in mind, consider the following etiquette advice from the perspective of fellow players, and try to live by the Golden Rule whenever possible.
Online Etiquette Essentials
Breaking the Time Bank
Generally speaking, online poker tables offer a place where people can hang loose and let their freak flag fly, but one behavior will draw the universal ire of your tablemates: while everybody else sits and waits.
One of the more infamous taunts one can send through the chat box is "zzzzzzz" - as in, stop sleeping and wake up.
Whether an opponent has to use the restroom, steps away to attend to a family matter, or they just can't look away from that dramatic fourth quarter drive on TV, you'll find yourself sitting in poker purgatory from time to time. This occurs when a player at the table appears to simply freeze up, as all action stops pending their decision. But rather than fold, call, raise, or check, the player just sits there with a live hand, doing nothing as their initial time bank ticks down to double zero.
Even then though, most online poker sites equip players with an extended time bank for emergencies or particularly tricky spots. So after the player burns through 15 seconds, their extended time bank kicks in - ticking down for 90 seconds or more until the player realizes they still have a hand, or their cards are automatically folded.
While this may seem like a rarity, you'll soon come to learn that time bank snafus like this are all too common at the online poker table. Players just don't have the same attention span when clicking through web browsers and music platforms, so they wind up spacing out for a hand or two.
And when they do, the impact on the game can be enormous.
For cash game players, the delay is merely an inconvenience, as skilled players see their precious hands per hour rate chopped down to size. Recreational players hate all the waiting around, which is one of the aspects of live poker they hoped to avoid by hopping onboard an online poker room.
For tournament specialists, on the other hand, losing 90 seconds of valuable playing time during the latter stages of an event can be disastrous. Imagine yourself sitting on a short stack, patiently biding your time to find a great hand or a good spot, all the while keeping your eyes squarely on the tournament clock displaying the current blind level - and the pending blind increase.
In this situation, time is of the essence, and waiting around for another player to finish their dishes can cause those blinds to climb before the usual amount of hands are dealt. For a short stacked player desperate to find the right hand to make a move, sitting and watching 90 seconds drip away into the ether can be nothing short of torture.
So with that in mind, do your very best to avoid becoming a time bank terror. The first step towards that goal involves nothing more than discipline. Wait for a scheduled break to leave the computer when you're playing; don't drink copious amounts of liquid during a long tournament, and avoid distractions like TV or web browsing.
Most sites have a standard setting that activates your secondary time bank whenever the first 15 seconds have elapsed, but you can turn this off manually to ensure that even when you are away from the computer for a moment, that moment won't stretch out over several minutes.
Loose Lips Sink Chips
Most online poker rooms today make their chat box functions an optional feature, so you can simply turn the talk off if you prefer to play in virtual silence.
But where's the fun in that, right? With a chat box running underneath your online poker table, you can communicate with players before, during, and after each hand.
The word "during" is the problem here. You'll soon discover that some players relish playing the role of spoiler, hitting the chat box as soon as the flop drops down to offer one comment or another.
"Damn, I would've flopped trip 6s there..."
"Why can't I ever flop a set with 99, this is so sick!!"
In each case, these comments violate a central tenet of poker protocol: don't offer any information about your cards while a hand is ongoing.
By doing so, you inevitably offer the players still competing for the pot with added information - data points about the hand that they never should have heard.
Picture yourself playing a decent pre flop pot against three players holding J J. One player puts some chips in the pot with a call, but then folds when the action intensifies on a three bet.
The flop rains down 4 4 A, and your aggression is obviously a bit chastened by the presence of an ace on board, along with two fours. Your opponent makes a feeler bet, and you go for the gusto with big all in raise, hoping to force better hands like Q Q or K K into the muck for fear of the ace. But before they can fold, that third player in the hand before the flop types out a comment about making a full house had they called.
Immediately, your opponent processes that additional information, realizing that they must have folded either A 4 or A A. In either case, that takes one or two aces out of the equation, so your opponent begins to become a nonbeliever. They call your all in bet with exactly the hand you hoped to fold out, Q Q, and your J J bluff attempt goes down in flames.
Then, just to rub it in, the winning player types their own assessment of the hand into the chat box:
"I was hovering over the FOLD button, but then that guy said he folded a boat, so I had to call and look you up."
As you can imagine, chatting about your own cards - or any element of a live hand - while players are engaged in poker combat can unduly influence the action. The point of poker is to approach a partial information puzzle and hope to make the best possible decisions given that limited set of data. By introducing variables like your own hole cards, possible draws, or anything else that should remain private by rule, you threaten to undermine the integrity of the game.
Do your best to bite your tongue until the pot is being pushed to one player or another. From there, with new cards being dealt out, feel free to make any comment you want about the previous hand - because at that point your input can't impact the game in any way.
And if you find other players at the table aren't so accommodating, just search through your Options or Settings menu and deactivate the chat function entirely.
Keep it Classy
Staying on the chat box topic for a moment, the ability to communicate directly with other human beings trying to take your money can create a whole host of temptations.
Add in the anonymous nature of the internet, and many online poker players can adopt an entirely new persona when the virtual cards start flying. And unfortunately, for many folks, that persona is vicious and uncouth.
Whether they're losing and simmering in the associated anger, or they just enjoy heckling crestfallen opponents after cracking their monsters, these players take things a step or two over the line with their chat box battles. Spouting racist or sexist invective should never be acceptable, online or not, but every online poker table seems to have that special someone swearing up a storm, calling people names, and generally making things miserable for their tablemates.
Some of these chat box warriors claim that their virtual verbal abuse is merely a tactic, used to "tilt" an opponent and cause them to play emotionally rather than logically. And to be sure, plenty of players do succumb to chat conversations, letting their pride play tricks on them after a talkative opponent touches the wrong nerve.
Table talk definitely has a role in Texas holdem, even when played online, but the rule of thumb here should be this:
If you wouldn't say it in real life to somebody's face, don't type it into the chat box.
Cursing, slurs, and similar forms of harassment have no place in a civilized game of poker, so do your part to clean up the collective conversation and keep things classy while chatting.
Optional Online Etiquette
Glass Tappers Just Don't Get It
In any form of Texas holdem, online or otherwise, this etiquette item should be considered a hard and fast rule.
The term "glass tapping" is used to describe any abusive behavior or berating directed at lesser skilled players. By tapping on the glass - code for telling a player off, commenting on their poor play, or generally being an ass - you threaten to scare away the game's "fish."
Fish are the lifeblood of the poker economy, and for every player out there who has the skills to play the role of shark, hundreds more simply think they do while playing substandard poker the whole time. These players generally lose more than they win, although a lucky run of cards can give them the impression that they're playing well. But by the end of the night, more often than not, a fish will find themselves re buying into the game or cashing out for far less than they sat down with.
Obviously, nobody wants to be a fish, but we all want fish at the table playing alongside us. When a fish is happy and content, they tend to care less about losses, using poker as a vehicle for entertainment and enjoyment rather than the pursuit of profit. And a happy fish means happier sharks, because the skilled players present will have an extended opportunity to take advantage of mistakes while collecting big pots.
But skill level aside, some players are just sore losers - or even sore winners. These players can't resist the urge to critique the play of opponents, usually after that opponent drags a big pot. Typical glass tapping exchanges go something like this:
"What a dolt... this dude put in half his stack with a pocket pair?!"
"You keep raising 3x preflop like it's 1998 again, get with the times dummy."
For the most part, glass tappers respond out of rage when their strong hands are inevitably ran down by ragged cards and lackluster draws. When pocket aces can't prevail over the lowly 5 6 suited, many players take to the chat box in righteous indignation, accusing the winning player of being unskilled, incompetent, or downright ignorant.
And while many fish can dish it out right back, sending out chat missives of their own, many beginners find this hostile environment to be very off putting. After all, why should they sit and subject themselves to losing money if the game isn't even fun to play?
Fish tend to recognize that they won't win every time out, and they're fine with that fact for the most part - but when their intelligence is insulted repeatedly, or they are disrespected in vulgar terms, it can be easy to take that discretionary income and spend it on something less painful.
Glass tapping has been widely criticized within the realm of live poker, as the struggling industry looks to grow the game, not scare new players off for good. But for online poker players, glass tapping is much more prevalent, as the anonymous nature of the internet spawns the same kind of trolls that occupy social media and comments sections all across the web.
As a player, it's up to you whether or not to respect the fish in your tank, or to tap the glass until they flee from the scene entirely. By all means, needle a competitor when the occasion calls, or engage in constructive dialogue about previous hands with informed opponents.
But when you cross the line to crass, unprovoked attacks on a fellow poker player simply because they beat you out of a pot, you're failing to respect the principles that make poker the great game it's always been.
Panic at the Disconnect
From time to time during your online Texas holdem days, you'll be faced with a particularly tough etiquette dilemma that borders on an ethical quandary.
Picture yourself playing a hard fought Sit and Go tournament table, surviving from nine players down to the final four. Only the final three will earn a payout, and along with the two big stacks at the table, you and one opponent are relatively short.
It's a battle of attrition at this point, as you both wait for the other to go bust and burst the money bubble.
But suddenly, the fellow short stack player's avatar fades out and their last hand is auto folded away. They've been disconnected from the server, leaving you and two other players with a moral conundrum: play fast and steal every last one of their blinds before they get back online, or kick back and use your time bank to give them a chance.
This may seem like an abstract scenario, but you'd be surprised how often a player will get disconnected during a long session. When they do, you'll have to choose between pillaging their undefended chip stack with blind steals - each time seeing their hand auto fold and chips added to your stack - or pausing your own action to let them sort through the technical issues.
Sometimes you'll even be presented with the "dream" scenario - sitting heads up for a tournament or Sit and Go win on the line, and only a disconnected opponent standing between you and glory. In this spot, simply clicking the RAISE button over and over again, while your frozen opponent can do nothing at all, will quickly claim most of their chips through blinds and antes. It may not be the most honest path to victory, but you can be sure that plenty of opponents will show no compunction about crippling your chip stack while you struggle with disconnection problems.
Typically, a disconnected player can reset their modem or restart their laptop within a few minutes, before logging back into the game.
Honor and poker haven't always mixed though, and if you're ever disconnected, be prepared to see your stack dwindled and depleted in short order. That's just part of the game, an unfortunate part to be sure, but one which will occur far more frequently than you might imagine.
Once you've felt the seething frustration and helplessness that comes with a disconnection during a meaningful online poker situation, it'll be up to your own moral compass to decide how to handle things when the shoe is on the other foot.
Slow Down on the Slow Roll
In live poker you'll find few greater violations of etiquette than the dreaded slow roll.
By acting as if they've been beaten upon show down, only to flip up the best hand once their opponent goes to drag the pot, slow rollers are the bane of every poker table. This crass and crude maneuver is nothing more than a senseless needle, and almost every poker you'll meet considers the slow roller to be persona non grata.
But when you take your game online, you'll notice that slow rolls seem to happen far more often than in the flesh. Once again, this stems from the protection offered by anonymity, as nobody can lecture or otherwise take the slow roller to task regarding their bad behavior.
Many online players love to turn a simple poker hand into something more sinister, so slow rolling is a prime piece of their arsenal. They believe that arousing an opponent's anger, or even that of the entire table, is a great way to generate action against tilting players.
You'll have to decide for yourself whether slow rolling is something you're willing to do, but aside from the sadistic pleasure of adding insult to injury, there's really no reason to justify this play in any format. Nobody will ever think you're cool for wasting 10 seconds before tabling the best hand, and for the most part, using this move will mark you as a fish in the eyes of skilled players.
Live game and online Texas holdem etiquette are clearly two different animals. Use the tips included on this page to learn the proper etiquette for online play. Once you understand the common practices it's up to you to decide if you want to use them or not.