Poker Coverage:

Table Talking About The Worst Rule In Poker

by Steve Zolotow |  Published: Nov 16, 2022


It’s time we talk about the worst rule in poker.

But first, let’s talk about rules in general. Rules are obviously necessary for all games, but a good or sensible rule for a poker game should have certain attributes.

1. It should be clearly stated.
2. It should have a purpose.
3. Its purpose should be something that the players want, and that is good for the game.
4. It should be universally accepted, preferably in both cash games and tournaments.
5. There should be some clear punishment for its violation.
6. The punishment should be uniformly enforced.

Now with those criteria out of the way, I’d like to tell you what the worst rule in poker is. Of course, you’ll see that since it’s in violation of rule no. 1 above, it won’t be easy.

The Rule: No talking during a hand, even when the pot is heads-up. Sometimes, it is phrased as no talking about your hand, or the hand, while it is in progress. Sometimes, players are told that they can’t tell the truth about their hand. Other times, they are told they can’t lie about it. The TDA says in rule no. 67 that players cannot discuss the contents of live or mucked hands.

Excuse me, what?

Not only is this rule never clearly stated, but it also has no purpose. Players want to do what is most beneficial for them, so they are not going to collude by talking. (If they did want to collude, they would use signals instead of talking, and in any case collusion should be severely punished.)

In general, players involved in a pot like to talk, ask questions, etc. If they don’t want to talk, they can always remain still and silent. Players not in the hand are bored when one player is taking a lot of time thinking, and the game is silent. They are at least entertained when the two contestants are yapping away.

Talking makes the game more social, and attracts ‘pleasure’ players, who aren’t there just for the money, but want to enjoy themselves. This is not a rule the players want.

When an event is televised, it is not only the players who don’t want this rule, but also the broadcasters and spectators. Talking at the table makes for good theater.

The rule is also not universally accepted. In some games, talking is part of the game and no one has any problem with it. In other games, some talking is okay.

And, of course, the vagueness of the rule causes problems with what is allowed to be said. Is it fine to tell your opponent that he should only call if he hates money, but wrong to say he should only call if he can beat a flush?

Not only is there no clear punishment, but there is also seldom any punishment. Perhaps there is a light warning from the dealer. But a little later, when the same player does the same thing there is a new dealer, and no punishment. In fact, this dealer may not even understand what is being said or that there is a rule prohibiting someone from saying it.

Even though there is virtually never a punishment, even the warnings are unevenly given. Poker stars, like Phil Helmuth and Daniel Negreanu, Hollywood Stars, like Kevin Hart, as well as big losers and big tippers are given a lot more freedom to talk without a warning.

The ‘no talking while in a hand’ rule meets none of the requirements for a good rule. Yet, most casinos and most tournaments claim to have some variation of it in effect.

A much better rule would be… when a pot is heads-up, the two players in the hand are allowed to talk!

Are there any restrictions? Of course, nothing sexist, racist, or derogatory should be allowed. It should not be so excessively long that it delays the game.
That’s it! Let ‘em talk! ♠

Steve ZolotowSteve ‘Zee’ Zolotow aka The Bald Eagle or Zebra is a very successful gamesplayer. He has been a full-time gambler for over 40 years. With two WSOP bracelets, over 60 cashes, and a few million in tournament cashes, he is easing into retirement. He currently devotes most of his Vegas gaming time to poker, and can be found in cash games at Aria and Bellagio and at tournaments during the WSOP. When escaping from poker, he spends the spring and the fall in New York City where he hangs out at his bars: Doc Holliday’s, The Library, and DBA.