Please, have some manners

June 14, 2009

 So much is made of unwritten rules in sports. In baseball, you better not upstage the pitcher after jacking a home run. Likewise, if you strike out a major slugger, don’t pump your fist too hard, especially in the NL, or you can expect to get one aimed right at your head next time you walk into the batters box. In the NFL or NBA, if you’re up by “enough,” leaving your starters in, throwing downfield or heaving up three-pointers is seen as an act of disrespect.

Whether you agree with these or not, they exist and are widely regarding as proper etiquette in sports. So, how does that translate to poker? Are there unwritten rules of poker, either in the casino or in online gaming rooms? You better believe it.

Professional players, or at least those who’ve played long enough to be considered regulars, won’t whine or cry at the mechanics of the game. They may shake their head at the decisions of another player, but crying “foul” on a flop, or just straight complaining that you’re not getting the cards isn’t what you want to be doing – at least not if you want to be taken seriously. Players there to make money and/or just have a good time will likely vacate the table if something like this continues too much.

You see this chatter more online than you do in an actual casino – the whining about betting, flops, dealing, anything and everything, you name it. And I think the reasoning behind this is pretty obvious. If you raise a racket in an actual casino, after a little while, some eventually will come by and ask you nicely to stop your bull or you’ll be asked (not so nicely) to find a game elsewhere.

It’s become somewhat of an unfortunate epidemic in online poker rooms. Whenever someone takes a sizable loss, half the time you can count on them moaning and groaning and blaming this person or that person for the loss. That’s not only poor etiquette, it’s flat our poor sportsmanship, and just shouldn’t be tolerated on any level.

One way to avoid this is to block the chat. However, this opens the door to something far worse than whining – cheating. If you block the only way to see if people are collaborating with each other, you unfortunately allow yourself to become a victim. Not by choice, of course, but it’s nonetheless every online player must be aware of.

You could report a whiner, but you’d almost end up sounding like a whiner yourself, and it’s certainly not something you want to waste time on when you’re trying to win money and/or improve your game.

So, you’re left to tolerate what you can or simply get up and try a different table or a different poker room. One can only wonder how much whining and complaining and poor manners there’d be if you could anonymously play basketball over the Internet. You’d never get a game finished because someone would call a damn foul every play.

One other area of manners I want to cover – trash-talking. Is it cool? I suppose in certain situations. I don’t particularly have a problem with it. That is, however, if it’s done for the right reason. If you’re doing it to try to elicit an emotional response out of your opponent to learn something from him or her, then by all means, have at it. If you’re just doing it to gloat, or worse, because you’re a jackass, then I have to roll my eyes and put you in the same camp as the whiners and criers.