How to enforce table-talk rules without seeming like I am "taking this too seriously"? (1 Viewer)

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Navigating a situation at my home game that has been brewing for a few months, and kind of reached a boiling point last night.

Some background, I co-host this game out of a friend's home. She plays, but is not really into poker. This is way more social for her.

My players are mostly very new to poker, but have grown a ton in the past year. It is meant to be a casual game, and so I have not been policing table-talk as much; i.e. people talking about board texture ("Who has the flush?!!!"), etc. Though up until last night, they have been pretty good at self policing. No one really groans or reveals the cards they had when they fold and would have hit a monster, etc.

But that kind of came to a head last night. Last night, the co-host invited her boyfriend for the first time. And the table talk was... worse than usual. More comments like "Go all in!" from players not in the hand and so on, mostly from her and her BF. I let a lot of it slide not entirely sure how best to bring it up.

Later in our tournament, she was knocked out and got tipsy. I was short stacked and bluff shoved all-in with K6 on the river. In the position and stack depth I was in, and against this opponent, it was the right move. Villain went into the tank for about 2 minutes.

And during that two minutes, my co-host (knocked out and tipsy) and her boyfriend (still in the game but not in the hand) were openly discussing what I had. "He either has two-pair or is bluffing!" the boyfriend said. "Call him! Call him! Call him!" the co-host kept saying to the villain.

And this situation just sent me over. I turned to the co-host and BF and said "This is [villains' name] decision. It's really unfair you're commenting on the hand. I feel like I am playing the entire table, not just him."

I'm sure I was visibly annoyed, but I didn't yell. But their response really got under my skin. They accused me of trying to make this "too serious" and claimed "This isn't a casino." It led to a semi-heated (though more awkward) back and forth for about 30 seconds. There were other players there, and I didn't want to make this overly awkward for the other players remaining, so I eventually just dropped it.

I gave the villain (who eventually called the bluff; I lost) a ride home, and he thankfully agreed with me. But we are unsure how to really proceed. Obviously this is delicate. How do I get my co-host to understand this is basic etiquette and integrity? And isn't me "taking this too seriously"?

TL;DR: How do I explain/educate to my players (and my co-host) that this can still be a "casual game", but that table talk of people outside of a hand is just basic gameplay? "Integrity of the game" arguments aren't going to work; that is just going to cement that I am "taking this too seriously."
 
Q1, why is the game at her place? That is going to trump whatever you want. Also, getting into it when she was drinking, not the best idea.

Q2, what stakes are we talking about?

Yes, it's not great, but if you want a more serious atmosphere, you need someone who understands why. Try having a conversation later. Ultimately it's her spot, so she sets the 'house' rules.
 
Q1, why is the game at her place? That is going to trump whatever you want. Also, getting into it when she was drinking, not the best idea.
It was a space issue initially. I don't have a space to host this; she does. It started as a "one-off" event (we were just going to do it one time), but it was popular and kind of ballooned. And as it ballooned, I joined forums like this and really got into the minutiae of it all; she didn't.

I agree; if I had to do it over again, I wouldn't do it out of someone else's place who didn't care about the game.
Q2, what stakes are we talking about?
Tournament style. $45-buy-in per night. With rebuys and add-ons, some people pay as much as $75.
Yes, it's not great, but if you want a more serious atmosphere, you need someone who understands why. Try having a conversation later. Ultimately it's her spot, so she sets the 'house' rules.
Yea, I agree with it. A tough convo is coming where I will either ask she lets' me make (and enforce) game rules, or we find somewhere else to host it.
 
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It’s not just a fine line; it’s more like a tightrope that I’m constantly wiggling on.
I never want to be the rules nazi and I want my game to be fun. But that relies heavily on players knowing where the lines are, how not to cross them, and when they have been crossed. It has happened occasionally and occasionally somebody will catch it and say “we should shut up.”
So I’m afraid if you have jackass hyenas at your table who don’t know any better, you can either let it be a free for all anything goes shitfest, or you can enforce the rules like Jack Effel at the WSOP.
It stinks that your cohost and her bf are dummies.
 
Frog in the pot; waters been boiling and you didnt jump out until it was too late! Set expectations early and often. If you've been letting it slide, it looks like you only care and got heated because it affected your bluff. Not saying thats true but it could be construed that way by gf/bf.

Not scolding you, I totally get it. But thats why when I teach beginners, I overteach basic etiquette and loosen up over time.

As for going forward, meet and explain why that sucks. Hinders other people learning how to handread.

The other way would be malicious compliance: explain loudly what bf/gf are doing on every street when you're out of the hand. This would make it 100 times worse, dont take this advice.
 
Frog in the pot; waters been boiling and you didnt jump out until it was too late! Set expectations early and often. If you've been letting it slide, it looks like you only care and got heated because it affected your bluff. Not saying thats true but it could be construed that way by gf/bf.
Definitely that was the perception. Though up until then, no one had commented on specific cards anyone could be on, and especially not on an all-in. That was my line, commenting on specific hands.

And yea, it just so happened to be crossed when I was the one all-in. But definitely the distinction was lost.
 
You can't not have rules and then get upset when someone doesn't follow the rules you don't have.

With the crowd you have described, learn to love the chaos.
I do have rules, and this is written in them.

But yea, I am trying to find the balance of loving the chaos. And I mostly do! I love the big and non-sensical 10x pot raise sizes in the first level; and banter; and so on.

But I do think this is a line.
 
This really isn't your game then. The newbie host holds all the power here and sounds like they aren't interested in your poker etiquette at all.

Tough to get drunk new players to comply and when all of them are, you are always going to lose that battle.

I would just do it back to them relentlessly at every game you attend if you want to keep playing there.
 
I do have rules, and this is written in them.
Are the rules posted somewhere for everyone to see? Is everyone aware of what the rules are?
But I do think this is a line.
It sounds like you haven't really been a stickler for enforcing them up to this point. Given the optics of the situation, host and bf are going to assume that you're upset mainly because of how the hand effected you, whether that's the truth or not and so it's not a great time to make changes/start enforcing rules more diligently because it's still going to look like it's personal.

All that to say you're probably going to have to live with it for the time being and slowly make changes/point out behavior that needs to stop when A) no one is tipsy yet and B) the situations are less critical and therefore there's less on the line. Are there other players in the group that could help you create a more rule-abiding atmosphere/culture while not destroying the fun? In an ideal world, some other player would be alert enough to point out that there should only be one player to a hand when you're in the hand and this type of thing is happening. If this happened in my normal game at least 2 or 3 people would tell the person to shut up.
 
Sounds like the whole "co-host" illusion needs to end.

She is providing the space, but she has no business playing any role in running the poker game.

You are the host of the poker game, and this puts you in a really awkward situation because the attendees—including the space-provider—are an assortment of completely non-serious players who think it's appropriate to engage in this sort of behavior.

Approach #1: Make an announcement at the start of next game that you're sorry you haven't been firm enough about this, but that people need to stop commenting on board texture, suggesting people are bluffing, or otherwise improperly influencing players. This is a standard rule in every place where poker is played for money. It's unfair to the players still in the hand. OPTAH, as they say. Best of luck.

Approach #2: If approach #1 is met with snark and whinging, start sharing all your experienced-poker-player takes on everyone else's hands when they're trying to play. Describe every change in board texture. Call out apparent bluffs. Explain why a bet looks strong. Note that the player who just reraised preflop hasn't reraised preflop for 3 sessions in a row. Be as totally insufferable as they're being. Show them what's wrong about this.

(Just kidding, don't do #2. But man, it's tempting.)

Approach #3: Stop hosting this game. I don't know how long you've been hosting this, but if you're a fairly serious player/host for whom it's important for a game to operate soundly and according to reasonable, consistent rules, this may never quite work out. Sounds like you have a game full of party animals who love drinking and shouting, and strict rules are about as important to them in poker as they would be in Cards Against Humanity.

Hell, maybe you could host games of CAH instead. It's a better match for people like this.
 
Hell, maybe you could host games of CAH instead. It's a better match for people like this.
Don't know where you play, CAH is just as serious. Saying 'Oh, that's mine' or 'Only Jimulacrum would play that trash/think that's funny' or 'I think you should pick X.' Amateur hour - respect the game
 
Don't know where you play, CAH is just as serious. Saying 'Oh, that's mine' or 'Only Jimulacrum would play that trash/think that's funny' or 'I think you should pick X.' Amateur hour - respect the game
You dont advocate for your cards!? Half the fun, baaaa.
 
Don't know where you play, CAH is just as serious. Saying 'Oh, that's mine' or 'Only Jimulacrum would play that trash/think that's funny' or 'I think you should pick X.' Amateur hour - respect the game
Every time I've played it, people are generally respectful not to call out other people's likely plays, but are also open to bending the rules to make the game more interesting (e.g., adding a dummy hand if there are few players, allowing everyone to discard and re-draw once in a while, allowing people to dump shitty cards like names of politicians and actors). And if anyone happens to transgress a rule, no one cares all that much—at least not compared to players at a poker game.

I don't know, though, maybe your CAH game is a lot more serious than mine.
 
This happened to me this weekend!

I explained why the rule is posted next to the table amongst 14 other rules.

The rules are here to protect the players.

Everyone got it.

Another example…new player kept picking up her cards to bring them 1” from her face. Action kept skipping her bc everyone else thought she folded. Now she keeps her cards on the table. I also let her know I could see her cards in the window reflecting behind her.
 
I looked on youtube for a succinct video on poker etiquette you could circulate among the group, but did not find anything quickly.

@Chris Manzoni - it has been a while since you posted a video. Maybe basic poker etiquette would be a good topic for one of those just-turn-on-the-camera-and-talk videos you are so good at making? Then OP (or any of us in this situation) could send folks a link to a helpful video rather than come across as lecturing other players.
 
Sounds like the whole "co-host" illusion needs to end.

She is providing the space, but she has no business playing any role in running the poker game.

You are the host of the poker game, and this puts you in a really awkward situation because the attendees—including the space-provider—are an assortment of completely non-serious players who think it's appropriate to engage in this sort of behavior.
I think the attendees are actually really more into poker than even this host is. They've grown a lot and have been really curious the last few months to get better. It's been inspiring.

I like your idea of options, but I'll amend them. I am going to sit down with her and as gently as possible give her 3 routes to go:

APPROACH #1: She clearly wants a more loose game than I do. If she does, that is fine. But she can do all of the organization then: she can get her own chips and cards, organize the blind levels, the starting stacks, the payouts, etc. I will attend that game, but I'll explain I think it is unfair to expect me to organize the event, and then laugh at me in front of everyone for enforcing a rule.

APPROACH #2: We move the game to my place. It will be more cramped, but we'll make it work. She can come when she does and doesn't want to.

APPROACH #3: We keep the split of her hosting (providing food) and me doing the game organization (rules enforcement). But if we keep doing this way, she needs to actually defer to me on the rules of the game.
 
I think the attendees are actually really more into poker than even this host is. They've grown a lot and have been really curious the last few months to get better. It's been inspiring.

I like your idea of options, but I'll amend them. I am going to sit down with her and as gently as possible give her 3 routes to go:

APPROACH #1: She clearly wants a more loose game than I do. If she does, that is fine. But she can do all of the organization then: she can get her own chips and cards, organize the blind levels, the starting stacks, the payouts, etc. I will attend that game, but I'll explain I think it is unfair to expect me to organize the event, and then laugh at me in front of everyone for enforcing a rule.

APPROACH #2: We move the game to my place. It will be more cramped, but we'll make it work. She can come when she does and doesn't want to.

APPROACH #3: We keep the split of her hosting (providing food) and me doing the game organization (rules enforcement). But if we keep doing this way, she needs to actually defer to me on the rules of the game.

APPROACH #4: Rotate hosting. Her place is casual. Maybe you even lower the stakes or add bonuses. Your place is more serious, maybe higher stakes. Maybe a smaller crowd (the subset of players that are more serious). Also a chance to rotate between tournament and cash. You could pitch it as, "Hey, I love playing at your house. I would also like to start host once in a while and take some of that burden off you."
 
Another example…new player kept picking up her cards to bring them 1” from her face. Action kept skipping her bc everyone else thought she folded. Now she keeps her cards on the table. I also let her know I could see her cards in the window reflecting behind her.
Yea, this is the type of stuff I am still working on. A lot of my players still do this; I don't enforce it right now. I am slowly trying to teach them by example, but this is the type of stuff - for this game - that I am willing to let slide.

It's one of the reasons then that I get so angry when I am accused of "taking this seriously". There are a lot of etiquette things I do let slide in this game that many of you would be aghast at; but when I do enforce something I am still accused of "taking it too seriously."
 
Yea, this is the type of stuff I am still working on. A lot of my players still do this; I don't enforce it right now. I am slowly trying to teach them by example, but this is the type of stuff - for this game - that I am willing to let slide.

It's one of the reasons then that I get so angry when I am accused of "taking this seriously". There are a lot of etiquette things I do let slide in this game that many of you would be aghast at; but when I do enforce something I am still accused of "taking it too seriously."
At first the offender said…dang this is rough…I don’t know if I want to play again. Next day…after her buzz word off she said what great time she had.
 
I think this is never going to be black and white for casual players. You’re always going to get some gasps/yelps/groans/guttural noises when a texture changing river hits and the crowd are invested in the tension of the hand. Somehow I prefer folks to be engaged in the game rather than yapping away not acting when it’s their turn.

There is a limit though - somewhere around intelligible syllables starts to bug me, and calling out hands rather than board texture is egregious.

I never know when to bring it up (so usually don’t). I feel like commenting mid hand would draw more attention to something that not everyone may have heard.

I like your approaches. Hopefully you can agree with your co-host that this is a spectrum and while you might not be at the same point you can agree some stuff that is definitely not appropriate.

Good Luck!
 
I think this is never going to be black and white for casual players. You’re always going to get some gasps/yelps/groans/guttural noises when a texture changing river hits and the crowd are invested in the tension of the hand. Somehow I prefer folks to be engaged in the game rather than yapping away not acting when it’s their turn.

There is a limit though - somewhere around intelligible syllables starts to bug me, and calling out hands rather than board texture is egregious.

I never know when to bring it up (so usually don’t). I feel like commenting mid hand would draw more attention to something that not everyone may have heard.

I like your approaches. Hopefully you can agree with your co-host that this is a spectrum and while you might not be at the same point you can agree some stuff that is definitely not appropriate.

Good Luck!
I so agree with this! I don't want a stoic table. If 3 aces come on the flop? Everyone should gasp! It's an insane flop. That is part of the fun of a home game.

I give the "comedy movie in a theater" analogy. In a movie theater, it is appropriate to laugh at a joke. But it is wholly inappropriate to yell "That was so funny!" at the screen.

Thinking about this all day. I already had a "table talk" rule, but I am going to add the following and talk it over to the co-host (along with the stuff above):

It is generally inappropriate to comment on hands you are not playing in until the hand is over. General reactions (i.e. "What a flop!") are allowed. But the line will be drawn at:

a) encouraging specifc action to a player (i.e. "Go all in!" or "Call his bluff!"); and
b) openly guessing what hands a player may have (i.e. "He has a flush!" or "She's clearly bluffing!").


You may heckle as much as you want – however – once the hand is done; i.e. "How could you fold that you idiot?!!!! He was clearly bluffing!"
 
I so agree with this! I don't want a stoic table. If 3 aces come on the flop? Everyone should gasp! It's an insane flop. That is part of the fun of a home game.

I give the "comedy movie in a theater" analogy. In a movie theater, it is appropriate to laugh at a joke. But it is wholly inappropriate to yell "That was so funny!" at the screen.

Thinking about this all day. I already had a "table talk" rule, but I am going to add the following and talk it over to the co-host (along with the stuff above):
It might be worth mentioning to them that players not involved in the hand know what they’ve folded, so they have more information than the involved players. They might know somebody is drawing to a card they folded or they might know that somebody’s bluffing, representing a card they folded. And for these reasons and many others, they need to keep their mouths shut.
 
It’s a well-established fact that talk that might affect the hand isn’t tolerated. Mumbling, groans and moans included. When I hear something that even nears that line as the host and dedicated dealer I intervene. I usually say “Easy peasy” while looking in the direction of the person in violation. The entire table has no problem with how it’s handled and I really don’t have to do it very often. Consistent reinforcement.
 

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