In Poker, is It Considered Bad Manners to Count Your Chips During the Game?

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

When playing any variation of poker, you should always have the right to count your chips. After all, no one else at the table is going to keep track of them, and you certainly don't want to bid more than you can cover. Knowing when to count your chips, however, is a part of poker etiquette. While there's no official rule that says you cannot count your chips during a game, there are also a tableful of players who don't take kindly to delays and deliberate stalling.

Woman with hand on her hip
Woman with hand on her hip

In poker games such as the popular Texas Hold'Em, the relative size of each player's chip stacks does have some bearing on the betting process. Those with shorter stacks may have to bid more aggressively than those with higher chip counts, for example. When you count your chips during a game of Texas Hold'Em, it can create a delay in the game's flow and distract your fellow players. By stacking your chips in a more organized fashion, such as in uniform stacks of equal value, then you should be able to count your chips at a glance.

A number of poker players will manipulate their chips during a game out of boredom or stress, but this is not the same as a manual counting of your chips. The bad etiquette arises whenever you count your chips in a deliberately slow manner, especially when it is your turn to place a bet or raise. A quick visual estimate of your holdings should be enough to help you with your betting strategy.

There is another practice which is considered even more offensive than stopping to count your chips. This practice is called "reducing" and is generally discouraged. During a reduction, a player will skim off a certain amount of his or her chips and leave the table briefly. These chips do not return to the table with the player, which means the player is now left with a shorter stack of chips but not a shorter supply of funds. Poker etiquette generally suggests that players not cash out their winnings or remove chips until the game is officially over.

In short, it may not be bad manners to count your chips during lulls in the game, but anything which can slow down the rhythm of the gameplay should be avoided out of fairness to other players.

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

A regular wiseGEEK contributor, Michael enjoys doing research in order to satisfy his wide-ranging curiosity about a variety of arcane topics. Before becoming a professional writer, Michael worked as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

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Discussion Comments


Reducing is one of the most frustrating things I've ever seen someone do at a poker table. I used to play with this guy who would skim chips off his pile after ever hand. He would never loose at the end, he would just get down to the smallest amount of ships and then duck out of the game. He never gave you a chance to win your money back and it was kind of like, why play at all? He took all the risks out, it made the game less fun. Chip counting doesn't really bother me but reducing really gets under my skin.


Good poker players will use chip counting less as a means to count up their winnings and more as a way to psyche other players out.

Sometimes they will count their chips at an acceptable time and other times they will break etiquette to count their chips to annoy other players.

Using this trick they can help control the speed of the game and send subtle clues to the other players. Poker is such a mental game. It really comes down to observing the smallest details. If a person starts to count their chips it sends signals to the other players. If you can control these signals you can gain an advantage over the other players.


I've seen this go both ways. Some people are really annoyed by people counting their chips and other people take it in stride.

It seems to depend a lot on the type of game. If you are playing at a casino with a bunch of strangers who are really focused on the game, untimely chip counting can get you a lot of dirty looks and grumbles.

But if you are just playing with some buddies at someones kitchen table chip counting usually goes over a lot better. Casual games usually have casual etiquette.


my pop taught me this, we are not here to have fun, this is work. play fast, play hard, and play to win.

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