McHaffie: MCU lesson 142 / Protocol and Policy

Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published in Poker Player newspaper in 2008.

This is part of a series by Diane McHaffie. She wasn’t a poker player when she began writing this series. These entries chronicle the lessons given to her personally by Mike Caro. Included in her remarkable  poker-learning odyssey are additional comments, tips, and observations from Mike Caro.

Diane McHaffie index.

Diane McHaffie is Director of Operations at Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy. She has traveled the world coordinating events and seminars in the interest of honest poker. You can write her online at

Diane McHaffie

Lessons from MCU

— With bonus content by Mike Caro (pending) —

Lesson 142: Protocol and Policy

There are a few protocols and policies that you may know, may not know, or maybe have forgotten, so I thought I’d tickle your memory bank.


OK, suppose you make it to the showdown after having bet, and your opponent, upon winning the pot, asks to see your hand. It is correct protocol to obey and flip your cards up, nicely, to allow the opponent to satisfy his curiosity. What you may not be aware of is that you must show all your opponents, not just the one.

However, it is usually considered bad manners for a player to continuously request to see an opponent’s cards, since it delays the game and can become annoying to those who have lost and wish to exit pots without embarrassment. Remember, usually you have the right to see any hand that survived to the showdown, as long as you were dealt in, even if you folded earlier. Check local customs and management compliance, though. Impolitely requesting to see cards too often in some cardrooms can result in expulsion from the game.


You’re not allowed to take chips or money off the table once it’s in play. That practice is called “going south.” If you wish to buy a soda, are you allowed to use chips? Yes, Mike says that in most cases the casino policy allows you to “buy drinks, food, tip your server, and tip the dealer.” That is the only time that you’re allowed to take chips from your stack.

Delaying tactics

You’ve lasted late into a tournament, reaching a point where players are close to being in the money, and a player at your table is deliberately stalling, hoping to remain in chips while players at other tables are eliminated. Is he playing in an ethical manner? No, most certainly not.

Sneaking a peak

You’re sitting at a table in which the player next to you isn’t properly concealing his hand. Do not give in to the temptation to take advantage of the situation. If you try to be sneaky and take a peak, it is considered cheating. Mike is opposed to cheating in any manner, large or small. While you might argue that it’s the player’s own fault for exposing cards to you, using that information puts other opponents at a disadvantage.


One of the lessons that Mike teaches is to make friends with the opponent on your left. That’s a tactical move designed to make that opponent less likely to maximize positional advantage against you. But you should be friendly to others opponents, too. You will find it more profitable if you’re not verbally judgmental or sarcastic to your fellow players when they make a bad play. Mike suggests that you should make an opponent feel comfortable by compassionately saying, true or not, that you have made a similar decision in the past.


Mike writes that if you are involved in a game where you’re dealt two cards of the exact same suit and rank, it is your duty to be honest and report it immediately and show the cards.  It’s unethical to attempt a bluff, knowing you can declare a misdeal if it fails. When duplicate cards are discovered, a new deck of cards is exchanged for the improper deck, all money is returned to the players, and play resumes with a new deal.


It is improper and rude to toss chips into the middle of the table, as it can be confusing for everyone and will probably result in the need for the dealer to count the pot. This will delay the game and almost certainly irritate some of the players.


Sometimes you may encounter the rule “verbal declarations aren’t binding.” This means anything players say shouldn’t be taken seriously. Only completed wagers or motions that specify checking, betting, raising, or folding count. It is impolite and unfair to benefit from this rule by announcing bets and raises when you don’t intend to follow through.


When you win pots, it is proper protocol to remember the dealer and be generous by tipping. Many dealers rely heavily on their tips, since their hourly pay usually isn’t that substantial. So, remember to be thoughtful to your dealer.

Those are a few protocols and policies that I wanted to bring to your attention today. There are many others, and poker is more enjoyable when everyone knows what they are. — DM

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