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The “F Word”

by Linda Johnson |  Published: Aug 16, 2017


I had the pleasure of attending the 2017 Tournament Directors Association Summit recently held at the Aria. Congratulations to the more than 200 tournament directors who attended and worked together to come up with some new rules for poker tournaments and to modify some of the old rules.

One topic that prevailed throughout the Summit was the desire to “bring the fun back to poker.” Some rules were added or deleted with that theme in mind. Quite frankly, I’ve been playing poker in public cardrooms for more than 40 years and I don’t believe the fun ever left our poker rooms. Obviously it’s not as much fun when we lose, but I’ve had many days when I had a great time despite coming out in the red.

You may have heard me say that I always have three goals when I go out to play poker: to win money, to have fun, and to make sure that my opponents have fun. All three are important to me. While we can’t always win, I hope you have similar goals. I believe it is each player’s responsibility to make sure that poker remains fun; if it doesn’t, your opponents may stop playing.

Here are a dozen things you can do to make sure that our poker world stays fun:

Be a good loser. Don’t whine or tell bad-beat stories. I can’t think of a bad beat that I haven’t either personally taken or heard about from other players. We all take beats and trust me, other players don’t want to hear about yours.

Be a good winner. Don’t over celebrate and/or gloat when you win.

Talk to your opponents and make them feel welcome; socialize with them between hands. Ask them where they are from…if they are from out of town, make recommendations of fun things to do while they are visiting.

Don’t constantly be on your cell phone at the table. If you need to take a phone call, step away from the table and talk softly.

Help the dealer. Speak up if you see a pot about to be pushed to the wrong player or if you see the dealer misread or overlook a winning hand. Discard your cards in such a way that the dealer doesn’t have to reach too far to get them. Assist the dealer with change if needed. Know the rules of the game you are playing.

Pay attention. You shouldn’t have to be told to ante every hand. Put your blinds up when it’s your turn. Know when it’s your turn to act. Know what the limit is and what game you are playing. Know how much the bet is.

Be a good neighbor at the poker table. Don’t spread out or take more than your share of room at the table. Don’t have a lot of items in front of you; chips are okay of course, but knick knacks, not so much.

Be a good ambassador for the game. Speak about poker in a good way. Have integrity at the table and in all aspects of life for that matter. Don’t allow player or dealer abuse at your table. Don’t be an angle shooter.

Don’t berate others for bad play. This one should be underlined and put in bold. It happens far too often so if you are guilty of it, please stop now! Instead, celebrate bad play. We need players to make bad decisions in order to win money in the long run.

Assist the cardroom staff. Speak up if there is a decision to be made and the floor person is not getting the proper information. Sign up in time for tournaments or in advance if possible, so the tournament director can estimate how many tables and stacks are needed.

Play in turn.

Play at a reasonable pace. It certainly isn’t fun for your opponents when you take too much time for each routine decision.

Please do your part to keep poker fun. By the time you read this, we will have a new WSOP main event champion. Congratulations in advance! There’s no doubt that he or she will think poker is fun! ♠

Linda is a member of the Poker Hall of Fame, the WPT Honors Program, and the Women in Poker Hall of Fame. She is available to host poker seminars, corporate poker events, and charity tournaments. You can contact her through her website at