This can be seen in virtually any televised poker game: only when it's their turn do the players look at their cards. Why don't they look at them immediately after the dealer gave them ?

Yes, you want to check out your opponent's body language as they look at their cards, but won't that mean that ALL eyes will be fixed on you when you look at your cards ? Is that a compromise worth making ?

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    There are two question disguised as one here. One: In live play on TV, why do poker players wait their turn before looking at their cards? Two: Is it smart to wait to look at your cards until it is your turn to play? Perhaps you should consider asking two separate questions?
    – Halvard
    Commented Jul 12, 2013 at 7:53
  • @Halvard Not really. The live play on TV thing was only an example to show that this tendency is everywhere. Whether you're on TV or not, the reasons to look at your cards up-front or when it's your turn should be the same. But I understand your concern, I will think about how I can edit the question to remove this ambiguity. Thank you. Commented Jul 12, 2013 at 9:40

7 Answers 7


For me it is not about body language when an opponent looks at his cards. I'm doing a few things when I'm waiting for my turn.

  1. Monitoring the players to act after me. There are players that will give away whether or not they want to play their hand or not before it gets to them. This has an effect of strengthening your position. If you are in mid position but the two players to your left indicate they would like to fold you can now play your hand as if you are in the cut off. Now you can potentially play a wider range of hands with the bonus that players may put you on a smaller range and play tighter against you than they should. The best situation is when the player to your direct left gives away this information as you can steal his BB from the SB with greater frequency with the information he gives away.
  2. Mentally tracking how loose or tight players are playing. In live poker you don't have the luxury of any of the poker HUDs. If you want to know how often a player is calling or raising preflop you have to track is as best as you can while you are at the table. Being observant in general is good to track how loose or tight the table is playing as a whole.
  3. Mentally recording the action before it gets to me. I've made the mistake a couple of times of trying to call the original bet only to find out I missed the raise from a player because I wasn't paying close enough attention. Actions are binding in live play and now I'm playing a pot I might not otherwise have because of a lack of focus. While not strictly necessary to wait to look at your cards as it will be obvious who is in the hand or not, I find it helpful to be focusing on these details before it's my turn rather than focusing on my cards.

As far as the negative of everyone eyes being on you when it's your turn I think this depends on the individual. If I am making a raise it's because of a read on the players or because I have a big hand I'm usually feeling confident either way. It might be wishful thinking but I'd like to think that all the players should be able to see is that I feel confident. If I exhibit this behavior in different situations then the amount of information given away is no longer a problem as it loses its usefulness to the other observant players.

  • This answers the question about if this is a compromise worth making, and has been marked as the correct answer, but I do believe that the real reason everyone waits it that they are told to. See my answer for more details.
    – Halvard
    Commented Jul 11, 2013 at 20:33

I used to look immediately, but lately I've been waiting for my turn to look. The stanard reason cited by the pros to wait is that you don't give away any information to the other players watching your reaction. I say meh. Actually, Donkeyfish's response above summarizes more accurately why I now wait: it makes me think. Read this blog post for a little more on the subject: http://pokerbug.blogspot.com/2013/06/wait-waitwaitlook.html

  • +1 for the article link. Good read.
    – DonkeyFish
    Commented Jul 9, 2013 at 14:05
  • Very good point (and link). Waiting turn to look help you better focusing on position and context aa this are keys aspect in poker too often neglected.
    – DavAlPi
    Commented Jul 17, 2013 at 9:44

I always thought that this was mostly a mental tool for helping players focus on position. If you look at your cards right away, it's easy to stop thinking about anything other than "hmm, I have an ace, but it's weak" or "nice, a pocket pair!"

If you don't look right away, you'll be thinking more about the state of the table for that hand, like "okay, I'm in late position this hand, what kind of cards should I be willing to play?" And that's just the start; as DonkeyFish said, it's also important to look at how other people at the table are acting, think about how they've played in the past, consider whether any of them might be on tilt....

  • +1 This is actually pretty good. Commented Aug 30, 2013 at 19:14
  • I like this answer, but I think it's also not too hard to decouple the steps of looking at your cards and acting on your hand. You can certainly look at your cards early, and then more consciously act on your hand when the action's on you. Commented Jan 27, 2016 at 21:23

I am a winning cash game player and have been playing the cash games for over 25 years. I always look at my hand right away, and have noticed that most players do the same. The reason for this is because if I and every other player at the table look at their cards in turn, then the game will slow down to a crawl... This is not good for the game.

There are plenty of times that I have looked at my hand right away on the button and discovered AA, KK, AK, etc. I always do the exact same thing with my hands and posture regardless of whether I have AA or 72. The players in front of me call and raise without a clue to what I am holding.

If you look at your cards early and focus on always doing the same thing, then you won't be giving away any tells. I also think that by looking at your cards when everyone else is looking at their cards, then if you do happen to have a tell - it is harder for them to pick up on it since they are busy looking at their own cards. By waiting for your turn, you give everyone at the table a chance to look at you when you look at your cards. Is that really in your best interest?

So, I suggest that it is in the best interest of each player to look at their cards before it is their turn to act, and it is also in the best interest of the game since it will speed the game along and you will get more hands per hour - which is also in your best interest if you are a winning player.

  • +1 I think the "keep the game moving" argument is the best of all, at least at stakes that most amateurs play. People are happier when the game is moving at a reasonable pace, and if and when you have an advantage over your opponents, getting more hands in per hour is a good thing. Commented Jan 27, 2016 at 21:21

I haven't played that much live myself, but I cannot say that i noticed that to be honest.

I always check my cards straight away so that I can start planning how I am going to play the hand, for example if I am on the button with AKs, I will be thinking I will be making an x times raise here if first to play, if there is action before me i might make it a further x times etc etc.

You are right though, you would have the whole table watching you if you were doing that each hand.


I would venture this: They are told to do so by the TV presenters. It just makes for better TV. As a TV presenter (and as a viewer) you would like to watch each player as they look at their cards. Why not enforce it as a rule?

Example of rules: The current rules for TV broadcasting for the 2013 European Poker Tour include paragraph 41:

During all broadcasts you acknowledge and agree that, if so requested by PSLive or an affiliate (if the Tournament is organised and operated by such affiliate), all players must remain within pre-designated locations whilst on all breaks in play throughout the duration of the TV Table, and that in such event, the players will not be allowed to leave these locations, at any point, without being accompanied by an appointed tournament representative. You further acknowledge and agree that players might be required to show their hole cards to the hole card cameras on the TV Table on each hand they are dealt, unless the player has declared that they are playing the hand ‘blind’. PSLive, or the affiliate, shall have the right to halt play, within reason, on the TV Table until all hole cards are displayed by all players in play.

The second half of the paragraph is the most relevant and if you take a look at that last sentence, shall have the right to halt play to have time to show all the hands. This means that the TV presenters can (and probably do) enforce players to look at their cards in order.

This answers the main question, why they wait for each other, but not why it possibly could be advantageous to wait even if you are not forced to.

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    I'm sorry, but I don't see how that quoted rule would force/encourage the players to look at their cards in turn. The halting of play is for the case when a player fails to show the cards to the hole camera at all. It's completely irrelevant when he does it.
    – RoToRa
    Commented Jul 23, 2013 at 14:05
  • The rule itself does not force/encourage the order, but was just an example to show that TV does have a say. The rules for TV presenters on the U.S. tour are less specific.
    – Halvard
    Commented Jul 23, 2013 at 14:53

Wait your turn, it does give you an advantage, of course it does. Any advantage is a good advantage!! Don't forget though that the guys in the home games are fish as well though, like three quarters of the online players. Don't concern yourself too much with it, most people at the local casino are always easy to beat and they won't be looking at you and looking for tells or reactions. They're all amateur too remember, and mostly fish.

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    You say it gives you an advantage but you don't mention what that advantage is. It's not self-evident. Commented Sep 8, 2015 at 2:26

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