You wouldn’t think that a cut-throat world such as online poker – where everyone is anonymous and out to get one another’s money – has anything resembling unwritten rules or protocols. At lower stakes, this is certainly true.
Players come and go, rarely encountering one another again, and have no incentive to be polite or help one another out. As the stakes get higher, unwritten rules and agreements between players are commonplace, and none more-so than the high stakes heads up tables.
At higher stakes, players can be loosely divided into two categories. The regulars (regs), who often play for a living and play a solid, mathematically sound game. The other group are the fish, who are recreational players, usually just playing for fun and excitement, with many holes and leaks in their game.
On any Poker Online site, at the higher stakes heads up tables, you’ll often see one player sitting waiting at a table on his own. You can bet your bottom dollar this is a reg waiting in anticipation of a fish wandering in to relieve him of his money. Regs will avoid one another even if they think they have an edge over each other. This is because any edges that regs have over each other will be small, and games usually result in just passing money back and forward.
Because there are only a certain amount of heads-up tables on a site, some regs will sit at every table, refusing to play other regs. This results in him taking up every table and not allowing any other regs to get a game. If this happens, other regs will “block” his tables by sitting with him but refusing to play. This stops both players from getting a game, but there has to be a penalty for any player who thinks he can monopolise all empty tables waiting on a fish.
Most regs work out some agreement, however, where they all sit at a few tables each and take their chances who the fish sit with. Any reg thought to be taking more than their share will end up getting all their tables blocked.
Other unwritten rules are “don’t tap the aquarium” – ie, don’t scare the fish. Don’t berate a fish for his bad play and don’t abuse them in the chat box. All that does is humiliate them into leaving or improving their game, which hurts the regs bottom line. Just tell him he’s unlucky and allow him to let off steam in the chatbox if he wants to.
Ring games (6 seat or 9 seat tables) have their own unwritten rules, but if you ever open a poker site and see 20 high stakes heads-up tables with just one player sitting, that’s the reason.