Although it's really important to learn your pre-flop ranges, it's also equally important to learn the rules you might not know about for the game you play.

Have you been watching High Stakes Poker and seen all the pros chatting away and commenting on hands? You might think this is ok but most of the time it's not. Sometimes they are breaking the rules (cue Phil Helmuth rant), sometimes they're not. And here's why...

General / Universal Rules (can be superseded by room specific rules)

A) You’ve folded, time to stop.

Once you have folded, your participation in that hand has finished – it’s 100% over. You should never under any circumstances reveal, even inadvertently by rolling your eyes or sighing, anything about your hand. You can however reveal what hand you had after the hand has finished, all cards have either been shown or mucked and the pot has moved to the winner.

If you don’t believe me, then watch Daniel Negreanu and the other pros get very upset with Justin Schwartz at the 2015 WSOP Main Event

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Also don’t get in a fight with the person in the wrong or you are getting a penalty too.

B) Suggesting actions

You can’t suggest an action for another player. If you have already folded then see above rule A, your participation has ended so that rule applies. If you are still in the hand, then you can’t suggest that another player calls, raises or fold. Poker is not a team game.

However, there are three exceptions to this rule and sometimes you will hear the dealer say “shhh multi-way” which is a very polite warning.

1) You are in a cash game and are now heads-up in that hand, everyone else has folded. Both players can discuss their hands freely
2) You are in a tournament and are now heads-up, not in that hand, but for the entire tournament. Everyone else has been knocked out. Both players can discuss their hands freely
3) You are in a MTT heads-up tournament. As there are only ever 2-players in each hand you can discuss your hands freely

You need to be aware that where you play may have different variations of these rules, so you need to check the rules with them. For example, some tournaments allow you to talk heads-up in the hand just like a cash game.

Here is an example of Will Kassouf being penalised for doing this at the WSOP where this isn’t allowed.

Notice that technically Matuson is free to talk about her hand. This is because she can’t suggest an action for the other player. Kassouf is already all-in and the action is on her, where she is last to act. Don’t mistake this like Kassouf does for being allowed to chat about action heads-up.

C) I’ve got Kings!

You should not call your current hand out (whether telling the truth or not) until showdown as you might end up making your hand dead. This rule isn’t implemented everywhere and where it is, people will often refer to it as the Jamie Gold rule due to this infamous hand which mythically (or not) introduced the rule to the game.

I have heads-up during cash games discussed the strength of my hand or my hand but I have always made sure this was allowed before doing so. Also, for once I actually knew what I was doing. Generally it’s best to say nothing, especially on the river.

D) Sprechen Sie Deutsch?

Where there is more than one nationality present, you should speak in English only.
It’s ok to say basic greetings and good luck messages in other languages but all chat should be in English. The dealer will also repeat all action in the casino location language and English so you are aware what action is happening.

We all know that live poker is also a social game. I generally semi-enforce this rule as collusion can be rife at some places. In Macau bricks-and-mortar Casinos for example, I don’t sit down and make everyone stop chatting in Cantonese. What I do is tell the dealer I’m ok with everyone chatting Cantonese as long as they aren’t talking about poker. When I hear any poker chat (King or Diamond in Cantonese or Mandarin for example) then I ask someone to translate and remind the dealer that he has to translate. Which brings me nicely onto the next rule…

E) Show one, show all

So you’ve folded KK on a AT2 flop to a re-raised pot. You want to show your mate what a great laydown that is. My advice is don’t for 2 reasons.
i) It’s best not to give this kind of information away for free and;
ii) Someone is going to say “Show one, show all”, which means you are forced (and if you don’t then dealer will oblige when you muck) to show everyone.

F) The bad beat

You’ve got it in good and you got bad beat. What should you do? Well I just smile and if they say anything, I say “nice hand” or “you got me”. Why tilt yourself? You got it in 95/5, 90/10, 80/20 and they sucked out on you. The other 8 times out of 10 you’d have double up. Don’t do these two things:
1) Moan about how bad a player the guy is and tell them what they did wrong. You’re only going to tilt yourself and give them information on how to play better against you. Why would you do that?
2) Go on a full Phil Helmuth epic meltdown. It was hard to pick out just one video.

Here’s my advice. If you don’t want to be bad beaten ever again, you need to play Chess not Poker.

G) The absolute nuts

So you’ve rivered the absolute nuts. First, congratulations but you should be aware of one big rule. If you are last to act, you must raise unless you can’t because everyone else is all-in. If you witness someone checking or calling the absolute nuts you need to report this. Checking or calling the effective nuts is different, this is allowed.

As you can see in this video, even if it’s a mistake, you are getting penalised as this play can allow collusion.

If you are not last to act, then you are perfectly entitled to check in order to induce a bluff. When it comes back to you, you must then RAISE.

H) The slow-roll

What’s a slow-roll? Anytime you have won the pot and you take too long to show or taunt the other opponent you are slow-rolling. Not technically a rule against it but is very bad etiquette and will often start arguments which you do not want.

Here’s some classic examples:

4-of-a-kind is not 2-pair or simply Kings, do not do either of these things
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Here you don’t have the nuts but you’re never folding KK pre-flop in this situation and the hollywooding? Why?… hence slow-roll justice

I’ve saved the best for last. When it’s pre-flop and you are last to act with AA and can only call or fold, do not do this.

I) Collusion, “chip-dumping” and “soft-playing”

Poker is not a team game. You can’t under any circumstances collude to help you or another player to benefit either player. Some examples of this:

1) You are in a Sit’n’Go, one player is sitting out. You chat to the other player and decide to fold the blinds and share the sitting out player’s blinds. This is collusion. You are perfectly in your rights to raise and get the sitting out player’s blinds but to actively discuss sharing it and doing it is against the rules.

2) You are on the bubble. Your friend (who you may just like because you are fellow countrypersons) is short stacked and going out. You have a nice deep stack. You go all-in vs all the other short stacks but make a small raise or fold vs your friend. You fold any hand to your friend so he can have the chips. This is collusion and “chip-dumping”.

3) You tell the other player what your hand is as you don’t want to “compete with” or “eliminate” each other. Although there may be genuine circumstances on the bubble where pots are checked down to showdown for ICM reasons, going deliberately soft is collusion and not allowed.

4) You make a deal with some people at the table to profit-share, e.g. split winnings, but don’t make an official deal with the rest of the table. Not allowed.

Should you witness this happening or just suspect it, even if you are already ITM for a ticket only tournament, then you need to report this to the right people. At the casino, you first should tell the dealer and then the floor manager (known affectionately as the floor). Online with PokerStars you can either email or use the Help Contact form.

Pokerstars security take this very seriously and look to help anyone harmed by unethical play. Players not aware of rules could be lucky and just get a warning, others can be banned all together. Don’t end up being one of those by accident.



Thanks for reading and I hope this helps you avoid any situation where you could be wrongly accused of collusion and help you report any collusion or unethical play you witness.

Here are the official rules for PokerStars:

Next blog post is going to be about dealing with your first “live” aka “bricks-and-mortar” game.