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Behavior At The Table: Personal Hygiene

by Greg Raymer |  Published: Mar 10, 2021


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In the first part of this series, I discussed how it was crucial to not be critical of other players at the table. In part two, I discussed (with help from Daiva Byrne) changing behaviors to help make women feel more accepted, and increase their participation in our great game. Now I want to talk about something more personal, which is hygiene.

About 20 years ago I was at Foxwoods, waiting for a cash game to start. We were told the game would go on table 25 as soon as a dealer was available, in about 15 minutes. Longtime poker pro Chris Tryba and I went over to lock up our seats, no. 1 and no. 3, and were sitting there chatting. After a bit, I noticed an odor, a very foul odor. It smelled like vomit. He noticed it also.

We looked under the table, thinking maybe some drunk had puked under there. Nothing. There was a trash can nearby, maybe somebody puked in it? Nope, the smell wasn’t coming from there. We were looking everywhere near the table, trying to find the source of this miasma. Eventually Chris came back over to me and said, “It’s old Jim there. It’s his BO!”

You see, not long after we sat down, Jim had sat down in seat 8, also waiting for the game to start. He smelled so bad, we thought it was vomit. Jim at least had an excuse of sorts. He was about 90 years old, so it was probably physically difficult for him to bathe or shower. Also, he probably had a poor sense of smell, and just didn’t realize how bad it was. However, even with those excuses, it still isn’t fair to come to the poker room, and force your neighbors at the table to put up with your nasty odor.

And the vast majority of us do not have advanced age or physical infirmity as an excuse. Whether it is poker, or anything else, if you are going to be around other people, you should clean yourself up enough to, at a minimum, not be offensive. The same is true for your breath. I’ve sat next to people whose breath smelled like they hadn’t brushed in weeks. Also, do not try to cover up bad odors with lots of cologne or perfume either. That can be just as bad, maybe even worse for those with allergies.
Just make sure you’re not going to be offensive to the rest of us please.

Please do not work on your hygiene at the table. I have, on several occasions, seen somebody clip their nails between hands. Once I even saw a guy take off his shoes and clip his toenails. Really?!? I have also seen people floss their teeth, stick their hand in their pants to scratch their crotch, and more. Scratching your crotch from outside your pants is bad enough.

None of this is acceptable behavior in any public setting, and should be even more so at the poker table where everyone is handling the same chips and cards. If the behavior would be unacceptable at the dinner table with your boss, or with your grandmother, it is unacceptable at the poker table. If you have something stuck in your teeth, take a break, go to the restroom, and floss there. Same for scratching your crotch. Clip your nails at home, or at least in your car. We do not want to see any of that stuff.

Here’s a big one. Before you come back from the restroom, WASH YOUR HANDS! Even before COVID, that was a common courtesy that all of us should follow. Now, it is even more critical. If you must cough, make sure you’re pointing away from others, and try to cough into your elbow, or a tissue, not into your hands. And certainly don’t pull down your mask to cough either. That defeats the purpose of even wearing a mask. Again, this is not rocket science. We are trying to prevent the spread of disease here.

Let’s engage in our necessary hygiene at home, or at least not at the poker table. And then practice hygienic safety while at the table as needed. If we all do this, we will all have a more pleasant experience while playing the game we love.

Have fun, and play smart! ♠

Greg Raymer is the 2004 WSOP world champion, winner of numerous major titles, and has more than $7 million in earnings. He recently authored FossilMan’s Winning Tournament Strategies, available from D&B Publishing, Amazon, and other retailers. He is sponsored by Blue Shark Optics, YouStake, and ShareMyPair. To contact Greg please tweet at him using @FossilMan or go to