The only safe guiding principle in Poker ethics is, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” In some games, a player may do anything to fool his opponents so long as he does not cheat; it is considered part of the skill of the game to do so, and by no means unsportsmanlike. In some games, it is considered unethical – at least sharp – to check on a good hand in the hope that someone else will bet and you can raise him. And in some games it is considered improper even to bet when you know you have the strongest hand, on the grounds that “a gentleman will not bet on a sure thing.” Since card-playing is a social pastime, a player is best advised to follow the standards of the other players and remain popular.
To bluff, in Poker, is to make a bet on a hand you know, or believe, is not the best, in the hope that other players will believe you are strong and will drop. Bluffing is so much a part of Poker that the game would be no good without it. But some players believe you should not support you bluff by making remarks you know are untrue, as by announcing you have improved your hand in the draw when you have not.
In most circles it is not considered ethical to announce out of turn, that you intend to bet, to raise, to drop, when actually you have no intention of so doing when you turn comes. It is safe to make such false announcements, because no penalty is provided for them; but regard for the other players should rule them out when they are not in accord with the code of ethics followed in the game you are playing in. In no circle is it considered ethical to break the rules, as by passing out of turn, unless it is advantageous to you to do so; for in any other case you can hurt someone else without possibility of helping yourself.
In all Poker circles it is considered unethical, and almost cheating, to play in partnership with another player or to split a pot rather than have a showdown.
When a player announces that he is betting or checking “blind” – that is, without looking at his hand – he does so to avoid the stigma that in some games attaches to trap passes and sandbagging. Nevertheless, in nearly all circles it is considered unethical for a player to announce that he is betting or checking blind when in fact he has seen his hand.
If a player in Stud Poker bets hen his opponent, in his four showing cards can obviously beat any five-card combination the bettor might have, it is quite proper for any other player in the game to call attention to that fact and for the mistaken bettor then to withdraw his bet.