On this week’s podcast, we’re going to make sure you don’t muck any winning hands, and give you a lesson in showdown mechanics, with a little poker etiquette thrown in.

It’s a simple enough subject, but one that’s rarely analyzed. We’ve dedicated the whole episode to how to showdown a hand correctly, and avoid losing money.

Coach Doug Hull is our host as we explore the nail-biting, card-flipping, stack-shipping world of showdown mechanics.

Featuring: Hull

The Showdown Golden Rule

Hull’s “golden rule” for showdown goes like this:

At showdown, put your cards on the table face up and let the dealer sort it out… If you want to make sure you get every pot that is due to you, showdown every hand.

As a regular in poker rooms in Vegas, Hull sees players lose pots at showdown simply because they didn’t read the board or the other player’s hand right, or mucked based on a verbal declaration that was a lie… the list is actually quite long on ways you can get stiffed out of a pot that was rightfully yours.

This is particularly good advice for the player who’s just starting to get into $1/$2. You need every pot you can get at that level, and if the hand’s gone to showdown, chances are it will be a pot of decent size.

Not only does this ensure no pots get swiped, it keeps the showdown from devolving into a staring match between two players unsure of which flips their cards first.

Hull’s advice: just table it.

The Rules of the Room

Though it will vary slightly from room to room, the general rule at showdown worth considering is that the player to make the last aggressive action shows (or mucks) first, followed by each subsequent player. However, this is not true in all cases, there are plenty of exceptions, especially when players are not all-in at showdown. The problem with tracking the aggressive last action, is if it goes check-check on the turn and river, the dealer has to recall who made the last bet or raise on the flop. Some rooms compensate for this with a rule that stipulates showdown order starts at the small blind and orbits around the table.

Hull goes on to give some harrowing examples of lost value at the table for not following the rule “just table your hand”.

The Fine Print on Tabled Hands

So, what does it mean to table your hand? It’s a very specific thing. You must place your cards face up on the felt and let go of them. Holding your cards face up over or on the table is not tabling your hand. Showing one card but not the other is not tabling your hand. It’s not half-tabling it. Verbaly declaring your hand is not tabling your hand.

Two cards. Face up. Let go. Tabled.

Another important part about tabling hands — until the cards have been tabled, the hand is still live. You cannot say anything about the hand going on, same rules apply during showdown as all of the streets leading up to it. Showdown is part of the game, and if you’re not in the hand, be quiet.

The Verbal Declarers

You can’t just say it, you gotta display it.

The rules are clear: You cannot table your hand with a verbal declaration. “I have Aces” is not the same as tabling aces. In your focused mind, reading right now, you probably think the idea absurd, but when things are going by quickly at the table, bad mucks in response to verbal declarations are frighteningly commonplace.

Whether it’s a sinister angle shoot or an ignorant mistake, verbal declarations instead of tabling a hand just slow the game down. If someone makes one to you, wait calmly for them to place their two cards face up on the table and let go. And instead of making any yourself, turn yours up too. Cards speak, but only face-up from the table.

Show with Confidence

Hull reminds you: “Be proud of those bluffs!” You should confidently table all your hands — monsters and air alike. Too many players are so self-conscious about giving away too much information, they don’t realize their hesitant actions at showdown are saying more about their strategies than the cards on the table are.

Be shameless. Show the bluff and get some advertising value for it.


When you’ve got the stone cold nuts and there’s no doubt about it, the ethically superior choice is to “fast-roll” your hand and show it immediately. You are under no obligation to do so, but as far as etiquette is concerned, fast-rolling the nuts is the right play.

Your Cards are Your Receipt

To grizzled veterans this may seem obvious, but don’t ever give your cards up until you are in possession of the pot. This is what card protectors are supposed to be for — protecting your hand until the pot is yours. There are plenty of horror stories of cards given away to the dealer before a discrepancy rears its head during the awarding of the pot. Your cards are your receipt for the pot, and in rare but crucial occasions, you will need them to prove your case and win the pot that’s rightfully yours.

Showing 4 comments
  • Andrew

    Hull’s golden rule is so true. At the weekend, I played a hand in a casino and I turned out to be the 2nd biggest idiot at the table.
    In a head’s up pot, river goes: check, check. Villain turns over TPTK; I want to muck my hand. Villain insists that I show my hand; I refuse. Villain asks for a ruling. Manager rules that I have to show my hand, so dealer turns over my hand – and notices that I actually WON. I had misread my hand (thought it was 76s but it was 87s and and I had trips). I felt like a big idiot but it was so sweet to get that pot after villain had done everything to see my hand.

  • Steve

    Though I re-listened to this episode (and many other episodes) before my trip to Vegas this week, I had a close call at showdown and should have guarded my cards better. It was a $1-2 NLH at Caesars and the pot was huge. The board was 7-9-10-J-K and Villain had an 8 and I had a Q, but the dealer misread my hand and turned it face down and started to ship to the pot to the Villain. Luckily I and another player called out that I had the winning hand in time for the dealer to turn my hand face-up again and award me the win. You are right Doug: your hand is your receipt!

  • William Sheridan

    What if you table your hand and the dealer mistakenly sweeps them into the muck? Should you at least keep a finger on the cards to prevent this from happening?