The Poker Floorman

A Floorman's perspective of the poker world

Protecting Your Action

Know when it’s your turn to act

Last time I discussed how poker players need to protect their cards at all times.  This time I will discuss protecting your action.

When playing poker online you simply cannot act out or turn.  Nobody else can act out of turn either.  The computer won’t let you.  In fact you can completely ignore the poker game you’re playing if you want, watch the Super Bowl and wait until the computer starts beeping at you, signaling that it’s your turn to act.  This is great for online players as it allows them to play multiple tables at once.  Just wait for the table to tell you when to act and make your decision.  This is impossible in a real, brick & mortar (B&M) cardroom.  (Please note that I am not disparaging online poker players here at all – I’ve played A LOT of poker online myself)

When playing in a B&M poker room or casino you are responsible for following the action and knowing when it’s your turn to act.  Good B&M poker players pay attention, act in turn and do their best to not slow down the game.  Yes, the dealer will assist in keeping the action straight and keeping the game moving, but in the end it’s your responsibility.

There’s a B&M poker principle called protecting your action”.  In short, this means knowing when it’s your turn to act and stopping the game if the action passes you or if someone else acts out of turn.  If the action skips you for any reason, you need to say “WAIT!”, “TIME!” or “STOP!” loud enough so the dealer hears you and stops others from acting.  This is protecting your action.  Not doing this may have negative consequences for you.

If the action passes you and “significant action” takes place after you (see below), your hand will probably be killed and for good reason.  Think of it this way:  if it’s your turn to act and several players behind you act out of turn, you will get all kinds of juicy information about what they intend to do.  That’s not fair if you are allowed to act after getting all of that information.  So the rule is there so that you are compelled to stop the action before it gets too far so you can act in turn.  If you don’t stop the action in a timely manner, you’re hand may be killed.  Ultimately it’s your responsibility to protect your hand and your action.

In many poker rooms Robert’s Rules of Poker are used as a basis for their house rules.  Here’s what Robert’s Rules lists regarding the protection of your hand:

To retain the right to act, a player must stop the action by calling “time” (or an equivalent word).  Failure to stop the action before three or more players have acted behind you may cause you to lose the right to act.

On the other hand, acting before it’s your turn can cause all kinds of problems as well.  Here’s Robert’s Rules again regarding acting out of turn:

Deliberately acting out of turn will not be tolerated. A player who checks out of turn may not bet or raise on the next turn to act. An action or verbal declaration out of turn may be ruled binding if there is no bet, call, or raise by an intervening player acting after the infraction has been committed.

The best way to explain this is through an example:
There are 4 players who see a flop.  As soon as the flop comes out, the action skips Player 1 and Player 2 makes a bet out of turn.   Before Player 3 does anything Player 1 says “Wait – it’s my action!” The dealer then stops the action and says that Player 2 acted out of turn and the action is on Player 1.

There are two things that can happen here:

  • Player 1 can check.  If he does check, Player 2 will be bound to his out of turn bet and not be allowed to do anything else.  This is because the action hasn’t changed.
  • Player 1 can bet.  If he does bet, Player 2 can alter his out of turn action and either fold, call or raise because the action has changed.

Now it gets more complex when more than one player acts out of turn.

Using the same example, if Player 2 bet out of turn and Players 3 and 4 call that bet before Player 1 said anything, “significant action” has occurred (3 players acted).  That means that Player 1 didn’t protect his action by saying anything.  Three players acted behind Player 1 so his hand will most likely be killed.  Do you see why it’s important to pay attention and protect your action?  You could have the stone cold nuts and have your hand killed.  Not good.

Personally, I like these rules.  It keeps the game moving properly and it also prevents “angle shooting”, where a player makes a move that can give him information about other players’ intentions.   A guy could hide his cards under his hands, let several players act to see what they intent to do, then say “Aaahh haaa!  I thought you might do that!  Since I’m first to act, I’ll do this…”  Not cool, and not fair.

To seasoned B&M players, telling them to protect their action is like telling a race car driver to pay attention to the road when driving – it’s second nature.  And paying attention can save you money.


January 17, 2011 - Posted by | For Beginner Poker Players, Going from Online to B&M Poker, Poker Rules | , , , , , , , ,


  1. Another excellent article, I really enjoy reading your blog.

    This is very useful for all the online poker players out there who want to go to a B&M casino for the first time. I experienced this problem myself, exactly as you describe it. I’m simply used to playing online, and although I always try to keep track of what players are doing online, I’m simply used to getting beeps and alerts about everything going on.

    In a B&M casino though, and especially for someone who hasn’t played live before, the rules might not be that obvious. I often thought that someone has checked or bet, while in fact they haven’t yet done so or were simply playing around with their chips. I would then proceed to bet myself, thinking that it was my turn to act, only to be reminded by everyone at the table that I should wait 🙂

    So for anyone out there who is thinking about going to a real casino for the first time: read what John has to say, it will help you a lot.


    Comment by pokerfaq | January 17, 2011 | Reply

    • Excellent! This is exactly what I’m trying to do here – help out online poker players to adjust to B&M poker. By the way, Liz Liu used to deal in the poker room I work in now. I’ll have to see if she’s on


      Comment by John The Floorman | January 18, 2011 | Reply

  2. HI, you might want to check out my blog from a dealer’s point of view, thanks 🙂

    Comment by dealerschoice | January 17, 2011 | Reply

    • I did. I love the “Turning the Tables” post. Having poker pros deal to poker dealers would be interesting indeed. 🙂


      Comment by John The Floorman | January 18, 2011 | Reply

      • Indeed it would! I think it would be interesting to see how they would react when faced with the comments thrown at them that normally come out of their own mouths 😉 feel free to subscribe 🙂

        Comment by dealerschoice | February 25, 2011 | Reply

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