Poker Taboos And Trends - What do Players Discuss at The Table?
Poker at its best is a friendly and sociable game; you will not be sitting at a table in stony silence! Indeed, that kind of attitude may not go down well at all with either the dealer or your fellow players!
However, there are some expectations of behaviour (another subject entirely) and some (unwritten) rules. What should be clearly understood is that there are some topics considered strictly ‘off-limits’ to discuss at a live poker table.
Some are the same as the controversial topics you would (or should) avoid in any social scenario, but others are somewhat more pertinent to the game itself.
The Blatantly Obvious Taboos
Circumstances alter cases, but when you sit down at a poker table, you might recognise but not ‘know’ any of the people you are playing. Usually, the dress style at poker events is casual and will certainly not give away any particular information about their lifestyle, or indeed their political viewpoints.
Political differences have caused wars, so please leave them out of any chat or banter at any mixed-company events, including the poker table.
The same applies to religious commentary as to political, you don’t know your opponents from Adam (or Eve), so don’t go there. Probably the very worst faux pas you could make in mixed company is to be disrespectful to someone’s religious beliefs.
Religion causes even more wars than political viewpoints, most certainly a big no-no at a poker table.
Poker Related Taboos
The (Dim And Distant) Past
It is relatively standard that nobody wants to spend time at a family party looking at ageing photographs of you as a baby/young child/teenager and so on. So why would you think that anyone might enjoy the intimate details of your previous plays/wins/losses either?
Firstly, you will bore your fellow players senseless with your reminiscing. Secondly, it is also considered very rude to discuss these matters at a poker table.
An even worse ‘sin’ than talking about your past, is commenting about what is happening at the table currently! Never discuss any aspect of the game being played either with other players at the table, or the dealer. Don’t even think out loud!
The only exception is where you have a valid query/issue, which you should only voice through the correct channels and in a polite manner.
Even if you have discovered the world’s greatest ever ‘system’ for winning at poker; quite frankly we recommend that you keep it to yourself. Another crime at the poker table is relating to other players, in mathematical detail, how you are going to beat them the next time you meet!
By all means, use them, but keep your theories confined to precisely that, thoughts, not public speeches.
Positives or Negatives?
Last, but not least on our taboo list is spouting forth with a condescending commentary on either the weaker players at your table or worse still, the dealer.
Everyone started somewhere and however they got there, everyone has to learn. If you have nothing good to say, then say nothing!
If new players give up through the poor attitude at a table, then eventually (when you are too old to play), live poker will die a death.
Now we have all of the things you shouldn’t talk about at the table safely out of the way, let’s find some safe topics.
If you play poker tournaments regularly, it goes with the territory that you will already have met some of the other players at your table. There will almost certainly be some that you don’t know, which offers you a prime opportunity to find out about them and is a great conversation starter.
The number one topic that poker players talk about at the table is sports. It is an evergreen subject, with events happening around the world 24/7. It would be virtually impossible to meet a set of poker players that are not avid sports fans too.
Sorry ladies, but the poker table is still male-dominated and men like cars, so this is the second most trending subject at the table. Even if you are not particularly interested in them yourself, try finding a snippet of information that you can use to get a conversation underway. Elon Musk and Tesla always seem to spark some interest, if that helps.
Provided it does not work its way around to politics, current news is always a hot topic. Poker players are generally a positive bunch and like to find something exciting or fun to discuss. There is also nothing stopping you announcing personal good news either, births, weddings and so on. General poker news is OK too, provided it does not turn into a diatribe on a particular player.
Movies And TV Shows
Almost everyone spends at least part of their spare time watching TV. It may be that you are a bit of a film buff, so you could use that knowledge to start a conversation rolling. Alternatively, there are plenty of TV shows to tackle; you could have a good laugh about the Big Brother contestants or discuss the intricacies of Peaky Blinders, for example.
If you happen to be staying out of your area for a tournament, you will usually get to meet some local players. It is always good to engage them in conversation. They will enjoy talking about their town and what better way to find out the best places to eat or stay.
Fun Poker Stories
We emphasise the word ‘fun’ here. As long as you do not intend to tell a sorry tale of how you nearly won, then other players are usually interested. They love to hear stories about poker games and the famous or quirky players they may not have met. Just make sure that the subject matter of your stories stays light-hearted.
A Final Few Words
We have probably all seen some well-known faces in the poker world ‘misbehaving’ at the table. We do not condone that sort of behaviour, no matter how famous you may be, or how great a player. It is not funny or smart, it just makes you look foolish.
If you play your cards right (sorry, we couldn’t resist saying that), you will have an enjoyable time at the table. Even if you don’t walk away with the pot this time, you will have learned more about your opponents. You never know when this may be of advantage in the future and hopefully, you made some new friends along the way too.
Tracy started writing for us in early 2017 and is a crucial player within our team. She’s the editor of our Blog and regularly writes other articles. Tracy’s online gambling insights are born out of years of real-world experience as a Croupier overseeing table games.