ROBERT’S RULES OF POKER
This version of Robert’s Rules of Poker is for private games
“Robert’s Rules Of Poker” is authored by Robert Ciaffone, better known in the poker world as Bob Ciaffone, a leading authority on cardroom rules. He is the person who has selected which rules to use, and formatted, organized, and worded the text. Nearly all these rules are substantively in common use for poker, but many improved ideas for wording and organization are employed throughout this work. A lot of the rules are similar to those used in the rulebook of cardrooms where he has acted as a rules consultant and rules drafter. Ciaffone authored the rulebook for the Poker Players Association (founded in 1984, now defunct), the first comprehensive set of poker rules for the general public. He has done extensive work on rules for the Las Vegas Hilton, The Mirage, and Hollywood Park Casino, and assisted many other cardrooms. Ciaffone is a regular columnist for Card Player magazine, and can be reached through that publication. This rulebook will be periodically revised, so suggestions are welcome. Poker rules are widely used and freely copied, so it is impossible to construct a rulebook without using many rules that exist as part of a rule set of some cardroom. If such a rule is used, no credit is given to the source (which is unlikely to be the original one for the rule).
Warning! Anyone contemplating the hosting of a private game should make sure what he is doing is not in violation of the law. Most laws governing private poker games are made at the state level. No state in our country allows a person to run a poker game as a business. Raking pots and charging an hourly rate for playing are two examples of activities only a licensed commercial cardroom would be allowed to do. Some states prohibit the playing of poker for money, because they prohibit any kind of gambling. Other states allow social gambling. Even though gambling laws may sometimes enforced only sporadically, they do exist, and people are prosecuted for violating them. Check out the penal code in your state and protect yourself, your family, and your friends by obeying the law. This rulebook is not to be construed in any way as an aid to breaking the law. It’s purpose is simply to maintain order by providing a fair framework
for playing poker in a situation where the game is legal.
This rulebook for private games was made by taking the document constructed for cardroom use and making the appropriate changes. Most of those changes are in wording, but there are a few of substance. Here are some examples. A warning is given regarding the legality of hosting a poker game. The restriction on the maximum number of raises on a betting round was set at a bet and three raises for all limit poker forms, which is the traditional rule for private games. The procedure for shuffling and cutting is described. The time one may be gone from a game has been shortened.
This rulebook is copyright protected. It may not be used for any commercial purpose without the specific consent of Robert Ciaffone, its author.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
(1) PROPER BEHAVIOR ............................. 1
Conduct Code 1
Poker Etiquette 1
(2) HOUSE POLICIES ................................. 3
(3) GENERAL POKER RULES ................... 8
The Buy-In 8
The Shuffle and Cut 8
Dead Hands 9
Betting and Raising 11
The Showdown 13
(4) BUTTON AND BLIND USE .................... 16 (5) HOLD’EM ............................................... 19 (6) OMAHA .................................................. 21 (7) OMAHA HIGH-LOW ............................... 22 (8) SEVEN-CARD STUD ............................. 23 (9) RAZZ (SEVEN-CARD STUD LOW) ....... 27
(10) SEVEN-CARD STUD HIGH-LOW .......... 28
(11) LOWBALL .............................................. 30
Ace-to-five Lowball 33
Deuce-to-seven Lowball 33
No-limit and Pot-limit Lowball 34
(12) DRAW HIGH ........................................... 35
The Joker 38
(13) KILL POTS ............................................. 39 (14) NO-LIMIT AND POT-LIMIT .................... 41
(15) TOURNAMENTS ................................... 45 (16) EXPLANATIONS ................................... 48
GLOSSARY ........................................... 51
1 - PROPER BEHAVIOR
We will attempt to maintain a pleasant environment for all our players, but are not responsible for the conduct of any player. We have established a code of conduct, and may deny the privilege to play in our game to anyone who violates it. The following is not permitted:
Collusion with another player or any other form of cheating.
Verbally or physically threatening anyone.
Using profanity or obscene language.
Creating a disturbance by arguing, shouting, or making excessive noise. Throwing, tearing, bending, or crumpling cards.
Destroying or defacing property.
Using an illegal substance.
Carrying a weapon.
The following actions are improper, and grounds for warning, suspending, or barring a violator:
Deliberately acting out of turn.
Deliberately splashing chips into the pot.
Agreeing to check a hand out when a third player is all-in.
Reading a hand for another player at the showdown before it has been placed faceup on the table.
Telling anyone to turn a hand faceup at the showdown.
Revealing the contents of a live hand in a multihanded pot before the betting is complete.
Needlessly stalling the action of a game.
Deliberately discarding hands away from the muck. Cards should be released in a low line of flight, at a moderate rate of speed.
Stacking chips in a manner that interferes with dealing or viewing cards. Making statements or taking action that could unfairly influence the course of play, whether or not the offender is involved in the pot.
2 – HOUSE POLICIES
1. Taking a seat in a poker game means you agree to abide by the rules for that game
and the decision-making process used in it.
2. The proper time to draw attention to an error or irregularity is when it occurs or is
first noticed. Any delay may affect the ruling.
3. If an incorrect rule interpretation or decision is made in good faith, there shall be no
liability incurred by the decision-maker.
4. A ruling may be made regarding a pot if it has been requested before the next deal
starts (or before the game either ends or changes to another table). Otherwise, the
result of a deal must stand. The first riffle of the shuffle marks the start for a deal. 5. If a pot has been incorrectly awarded and mingled with chips that were not in the
pot, but the time limit for a ruling request given in the previous rule has been
complied with, the betting may be reconstructed, and the proper amount transferred
to the respective players.
6. To keep the action moving, it is possible that a game may continue even though a
decision is delayed for a short period. In such circumstances, a pot or portion
thereof may be impounded while the decision is pending.
7. The same action may have a different meaning, depending on who does it, so the
possible intent of an offender will be taken into consideration. Some factors here
are the person’s amount of poker experience and past record.
1. The poker form and stakes that had been agreed upon when the game was started
shall not be changed if more than one player objects.
2. Cash is not permitted on the table. All cash should be changed into chips in order to
3. The establishment is not responsible for any shortage or removal of chips left on the
table during a player’s absence, even though everyone should try to protect the
game as best they can.
4. All games are table stakes. Only the chips in front of a player at the start of a deal
may play for that hand, except for chips not yet received that a player has purchased.
The amount bought must be announced to the table, or only the amount of the
minimum buy-in plays.
5. If you return to the game within one hour of cashing out, your buy-in must be equal to
the amount removed when leaving that game.
6. All chips must be kept in plain view.
7. Playing out of a chip rack is not allowed.
8. Only one person may play a hand.
9. No one is allowed to play another player’s chips.
10. Playing over may be allowed if that is customary, but only with permission from the
absent player (unless he has left the premises for some length of time) and
protection for that person’s chips.
11. Pushing bets (“saving” or “potting out”) is not allowed.
12. Pushing an ante or posting for another person is not allowed.
13. Splitting pots by agreement will not be allowed. Chopping the big and small blind by
taking them back when all other players have folded may be allowed in non-
tournament button games, if that is customary.
14. Insurance propositions are not allowed. Dealing twice (or three times) when all-in is
permitted at big-bet poker.
15. Players must keep their cards in full view. This means above table-level and not
past the edge of the table. The cards should not be covered by the hands in a
manner to completely conceal them.
16. Any player is entitled to a clear view of an opponent’s chips. Higher denomination
chips should be easily visible.
17. Your chips may be picked up if you are away from the table for more than 15
minutes, unless you have made a specific arrangement to leave for a longer length
of time. Frequent absences may cause your chips to be removed from the table. 18. A new deck must be used for at least a full round (once around the table) before it
may be changed, unless a deck is defective or damaged, or cards become sticky. 19. Looking through the discards or deck stub is not allowed.
20. A player is expected to pay attention to the game and not hold up play. Activity that
interferes with this such as reading at the table is discouraged, and the player will
be asked to cease if a problem is caused.
21. A non-player may not sit at the table.
22. You may have a guest sit behind you only if no one in the game objects. It is
improper for a guest to look at any hand other then your own.
23. Speaking in a foreign language during a deal is not allowed.
1. When a button game starts, active players will draw a card for the button position.
The button will be awarded to the highest card by suit.
2. In starting a game, the player who arrives the earliest gets first choice of remaining
seats. A certain seat may be reserved for a player for good reason. Example: to
assist in ease of reading the board for a person with a vision problem. 3. A player who is already in the game has precedence over a new player for any seat
when it becomes available. However, no change will occur after a new player has
been seated and received chips. For players already in the game, the one who asks
the earliest has preference for a seat change.
SECTION 3 - GENERAL POKER RULES
1. When you enter a game, you must make a full buy-in for that particular game. A full
buy-in at limit poker is at least ten times the maximum bet for the game being
played, unless designated otherwise. A full buy-in at pot-limit or no-limit poker is
forty times the minimum bring-in (usually, the size of the big blind), unless
2. Only one short buy-in is allowed per session.
3. Adding to your stack is not considered a buy-in, and may be done in any quantity
THE SHUFFLE AND CUT
1. The pack must be shuffled and cut before the cards are dealt. The recommended
method to protect the integrity of the game is to have three people involved instead
of only two. The dealer on the previous hand takes in the discards and squares up
the deck prior to the shuffle. The player on the new dealer’s left shuffles the cards
and then slides the pack to the new dealer, who gets them cut by the player on his
2. The deck must be riffled a minimum of four times. The cut must leave a minimum of
four cards in each portion.
3. The bottom of the deck should be protected so nobody can see the bottom card. This
is done by using a cut-card. A joker may be used as a cut-card.
4. Any complaint about the shuffle, cut, or other preparation connected with dealing
must be made before the player has looked at his hand or betting action has started. MISDEALS
1. The following circumstances cause a misdeal, provided attention is called to the
error before two players have acted on their hands. (If two players have acted in
turn, the deal must be played to conclusion, as explained in rule #2)
GENERAL POKER RULES
(a) The first or second card of the hand has been dealt faceup or exposed through
(b) Two or more cards have been exposed by the dealer.
(c) Two or more boxed cards (improperly faced cards) are found.
(d) Two or more extra cards have been dealt in the starting hands of a game. (e) An incorrect number of cards has been dealt to a player, except the top card may
be dealt if it goes to the player in proper sequence.
(f) Any card has been dealt out of the proper sequence (except an exposed card may
be replaced by the burncard).
(g) The button was out of position.
(h) The first card was dealt to the wrong position.
(i) Cards have been dealt to an empty seat or a player not entitled to a hand. (j) A player has been dealt out who is entitled to a hand. This player must be present
at the table or have posted a blind or ante.
2. Action is considered to occur in stud games when two players after the forced bet
have acted on their hands. In button games, action is considered to occur when two
players after the blinds have acted on their hands. Once action occurs, a misdeal
can no longer be declared. The hand will be played to conclusion and no money will
be returned to any player whose hand is fouled.
1. Your hand is declared dead if:
(a) You fold or announce that you are folding when facing a bet or a raise.
(b) You throw your hand away in a forward motion causing another player to act
behind you (even if not facing a bet).
(c) In stud, when facing a bet, you pick your upcards off the table, turn your upcards
facedown, or mix your upcards and downcards together.
(d) The hand does not contain the proper number of cards for that poker form
(except at stud a hand missing the final card may be ruled live, and at lowball
and draw high a hand with too few cards before the draw is live). [See Section