Rules Overview: Having a Good Time
A Message From The Home Office:
World Tavern Poker has grown to become America's #1 Bar Poker League because our game brings people from all walks of life together for a game we all love.
Over the years we have continued to revisit this rule guide to keep our game fun and available to anyone, first-timers and seasoned pros alike.
Rules are important, but there is a tried and true method to why our game continues to stand the test of time. Please keep the 'Spirit of the Game" in mind, along with the following:
This is a self-dealt game: some rules have been created with this in mind.
The Tournament Director is in charge and is responsible for the game being Fun, Fair, and Organized. Rulings are made in the best interest of the game. Always be respectful towards TD's and other players. If there is an issue, attempt to resolve it with respect.
Those new to World Tavern Poker may not understand our rules, so please help them (rather than criticizing). More players at each bar ensure the league will continue.
World Tavern Poker rules are designed to keep things fun without losing the integrity of the game. Casino rules can vary from venue to venue. Our aim is to provide consistently enjoyable experiences for everyone who plays at our amazing host bars.
There is a ZERO-TOLERANCE policy league-wide for poor behavior, berating, or any similar type of actions. Now more than ever, players are expected to treat others with basic respect and good nature.
Finally, our players are some of the most dedicated, fun-loving, talented, and awesome people you will ever meet. Do yourself a favor and introduce yourself to someone new the next time you're at the bar.
So let's make some new friends and have a great time!
Mike Matsinger and the WTP Team
Be The Best Customer You Can Be
Please remember that hosting venues pay to provide World Tavern Poker for their customers. It is your support and patronage that will keep the promotion going.
While venues cannot require only WTP players to make purchases to play, many have a NO LOITERING POLICY. This can mean their establishment, bathrooms, entertainment, etc.. are for customers only, and/or it can mean that a bar has a minimum purchase requirement for all patrons (including non-poker players).
Please be respectful and don’t forget to take care of your servers. They work very hard for you. Be The Best Poker Customer You Can Be!
The Basics & Common Rules
As a league, we strongly recommend that no one under the age of 18 be allowed to compete in World Tavern Poker events. However, some Bar Owners may waive this at their discretion.
For Championship Events: all players must be 21 years of age (by the time of the National Championship) to participate, as the winner is moving on to an event held at a casino. This includes: Mid-Season TOC Night, Tavern Championships, Tavern TOC's, and the Regionals.
An opening bet must always be equal to or greater than the big blind unless a player is all in for less than the big blind. A bet is binding once the player moves chips forward and releases them.
Verbal declarations are binding unless there is a gross misunderstanding of the previous action.
SINGLE CHIP BETS or RAISES (Be safe - ALWAYS announce your action to eliminate confusion!): Before the flop, if a player bets a single chip greater than the big blind without announcing a raise, then this is only a call. If a pre-flop bet has already been made and a player tosses a higher-value chip without announcing their intention, this is also only a call.
After the flop, if a player bets a single chip that is more than the minimum bet without announcing their intent, then the bet is the value of that chip. If a bet has already been made and someone tosses a higher-value chip in front of them (again, without announcing their intent), this is just a call.
If a player bets out of turn, they can pull their chips back, provided it was an honest mistake. If players are doing this intentionally or repeatedly, they can be issued a warning, which can include having that hand mucked.
Exposed Card(s) AFTER the Deal
If a player accidently exposes ONE of their hole cards before all players have acted, the card is shown to the table. Play continues.
If a player accidently exposes BOTH of their cards before all players have acted, the cards are shown to the table and that player can NO LONGER bet or raise. Their only options are to call or fold.
If a player is exposing their cards on purpose, the Tournament Director will warn the player to stop. If the player continues this repeatedly, the TD can remove the player from the tournament (this should only be in extreme cases).
All raises must be equal to or greater than the size of the previous bet or raise on that betting round, except for an all-in bet.
Preflop Example: The blinds are 100/200 and Player A raises to 1,000. If Player B wishes to re-raise, they must re-raise at least 800 more (the difference between the big blind and initial raise), making their total bet 1,800. The next re-raise must also be at least 800 more.
Postflop Example: Blinds are 500/1000 and the flop is revealed. If a player bets 3,000, then the minimum amount to raise would be 6,000. If a player decides to raise the 3,000 bet to 10,000, then the next minimum raise amount would be 17,000 (the difference in the bet and the raise).
Always remember: the minimum initial raise before the flop is always double the big blind, and the minimum initial raise after the flop is double the previous bet.
If a player raises all in but their bet is less than a full raise, raising action is closed to anyone who has already acted.
Example A: If Player 1 bets 1,000. Player 2 calls. Last to act moves all in for 1,500 (not a full raise) then players 1 and 2 cannot re-raise.
Example B: If Player 1 bets 1,000. Player 2 calls. Player 3 moves all in for 1,500 (not a full raise) and last to act makes a full raise (2,000 chips min) then action is back open to all players.
Outside Food & Drink
Under no circumstances are players allowed to bring outside alcohol, food, or drinks into a venue. RARE EXCEPTION: There are a small handful of bars that don't serve food, but please check with them first!
Anyone who is verified to have brought outside alcohol into a host venue will face a minimum league suspension of 6 months. We take this seriously folks: bars can lose their liquor license over this!
This rule is taken very seriously! Any WTP Bar or Player who engages in wagering cash, property or anything of value at any World Tavern Poker event should be immediately reported to the league. Disciplinary action can include a suspension up to termination from the league.
Additionally, chip bonuses cannot be given incentive for players to make purchases at a WTP bar. (ie: extra chips for buying something at the venue)
Cheating & Berating
First, anyone who would cheat in a free-to-play poker tournament is simply a loser! Secondly, cheating will not be tolerated. If you suspect another player of cheating, let the Tournament Director know.
Cheating can include colluding with other players, dumping chips, or negotiating positions for prizes and/or points/wins.
If the TD didn't directly witness cheating, they should contact World Tavern Poker with a detailed account of what they were told regarding the cheating. The TD's ruling on the situation is binding at that time; however, ONLY the WTP Home Office can ban players from all league events.
Bar Owners and Bar Staff may ask players to leave in this situation at their discretion.
At no time can any player or spectator threaten or berate another (this will not be tolerated). Remember, we are here to have fun! Players may be banned from the bar for this type of behavior and can face further action from the league.
Showing Your Cards
All hands will be turned face up whenever a player is all-in and the betting action has been completed. The cards speak for themselves.
If a player is called at the river, they should not win the hand unless they show both their hole cards at showdown. If no one calls the player, the player does not need to show. If the winner shows one player their hand, they must also show the table (“show one show all”, to prevent collusion).
If a player is called at the river, the person who initially bet or the last person to raise shows their cards first. If no one can beat that player, those losing the hand may muck their cards.
BEHAVIOR & ETIQUETTE
Before, during, and after a World Tavern Poker tournament or event, players are expected to adhere to basic etiquette and behavior standards. Please don't whine and cry - treat others as you wish to be treated!
Be respectful and stay attentive to the game. When it is your turn to act, do so within an acceptable amount of time. If a TD asks a player to move tables, we ask that you follow their direction. Please remember that the TD is in charge and that their rulings are final.
If a TD makes an incorrect ruling, please show them the correct rule in this guide. Remember, though, their ruling is final! If a TD is flagrantly disregarding the rules, please use our WTP Help Center (click here).
Failure to adhere to these standards can result in your removal from a tournament, or being banned from the bar. So enjoy yourself and have fun, but be mindful of others who are there to have fun as well.
REGISTER ONLINE FOR ALL TOURNAMENTS
All players should register online for tournaments by logging on to the WorldTavernPoker.com website. Registering online makes it easier for the TD to prepare for the number of expected players as well as update scores after the game.
Plus, many bars offer early arrival and online signup chip bonuses as part of the Bonus Chip Program.
All players should arrive 15-30 minutes prior to start time. This gives players the opportunity to grab a drink or something to eat and allows the TD to kick off the tournament as scheduled.
At all WTP venues, players arriving late can only take a seat if:
-- They arrive within 30 minutes of the scheduled start time of the tournament. This means if the scheduled start time is 7:00pm, a player has until 7:30pm to be seated.
-- The player forfeits a Small & Big Blind for each blind level played, as well as any pre-registration bonus chips (they start with the base chip stack).
For example, if your blinds are 15 minutes and a player arrives 16 minutes into the tournament, they forfeit 900 in chips (300 for Level 1 and 600 for Level 2). They forfeit these chips regardless of whether they are seated in the blinds or not. These chips are taken prior to them receiving their stack and are not placed in the pot or divided among players.
All bars are expected to adhere to this policy during regular season tournaments, as well as during Mid-Season TOC Night, Tavern Championships, and Tavern TOC's.
CELL PHONES & MOBILE DEVICES
There is no talking on the phone at the table. Please step away if you need to make a call. Electronic games, videos, books, and other devices can be used provided it does not interfere with the flow of the game. If the TD asks you to cease, please respect their decision.
If you are allowed to smoke inside a bar where you are playing, please do so at a considerable distance from the tables (this includes vaping!). As well, please respect the host venues and only smoke in designated areas (which is usually NOT near the front entrance).
SITTING AT THE TABLE, or COACHING
Only players involved in an active WTP tournament may be seated at that table during play. Players standing near or behind an active table during a WTP event are not allowed to help a sitting player in that tournament.
Reminders, Warnings, and Suspensions
Occasionally, players and TD’s will act outside the parameters of the Rules & Guidelines. When this happens and WTP Staff is informed, we investigate the situation as quickly and fairly as possible. If WTP Staff determines an incident took place that requires intervention, we act in one of three ways: Reminders, Warnings, or Suspensions.
Please note that Bar Owners & Managers have the discretion to ask an unruly or disruptive player to leave their tournament or the venue. They can also ban players from their bar if they deem it appropriate. However, only the World Tavern Home Office can issue league-wide reminders, warnings, and/or suspensions.
TOURNAMENT DIRECTORS: If a player has been permanently banned from your bar, or if there are ANY issues with players at your bar that remain unresolved, please email us at TDs@WorldTavernPoker.com as soon as possible.
Reminders are friendly reminders to remember to follow the WTP Rules & Guidelines while playing in our events. Warnings are stricter messages to remind someone to be a better Poker Customer. Failure to adhere to a warning can be grounds for a suspension.
Suspensions can range from 2 weeks up to a permanent ban from the league (very rare). Instances that can lead to a league-wide suspension are being banned from a venue or venues, cheating; bringing outside alcohol into a bar; fighting; continual berating of other players, TD’s, and/or Bar Staff; continual bad behavior; gambling in a host venue; and similar activities.
If you have any WTP-related issues you feel need to be addressed by WTP Staff, please go to our WTP Help Center.
Don't Be a "Bad Apple"
A "bad apple" is a player who is involved in creating or participating in constant issues at the bar during WTP events. These few players can be detrimental to the continuation of the Poker promotion at our venues.
It is imperative that TD's and Players both let us know when unresolved issues are happening at their venue. When we're not informed, these issues can lead to a bar quitting the promotion.
For the betterment of the overall league experience and our business as a whole, those who are repeatedly being problems at our events will be subject to suspensions from our league moving forward.
As long as everyone treats each other with mutual respect and follows the tenets of the Best Customer program, there won't be any issues!
TD Training Guide
Tournament Directors! We've moved TD Responsibilities and other rules and guidelines to a separate page on our INFO site. We've also included great promotion ideas to make your Poker Night the best it can be. Click the link below for all the details.
Other Rules & Situations
ACE UP & RE-ACE FOR THE DEAL
The tournament begins when a player at the table takes a shuffled deck and, starting with the player to their left, deals cards face up. Whoever receives the first ace is the dealer.
Tables are combined later in the tournament as players are eliminated. Any time a table receives 3 new players, the Ace-Up process must begin again (after an in-progress hand has ended). In the interest of keeping the game moving, anyone at the table can begin this process as long as the deck is shuffled by another player.
The player to the right of the dealer shuffles the cards. When you are done dealing, it is your responsibility to shuffle the cards you just dealt.
This speeds up the game, minimizes misdeals, and allows you to get more hands in at each blind level!
Any card flipped over during the initial deal is an automatic misdeal. This means all cards are brought back in, reshuffled, and a new hand is dealt.
If cards are dealt out of order, try to fix them if possible. Anyone who has not yet looked at their cards can call a misdeal if they feel the cards were dealt incorrectly.
If the dealer accidentally reveals either the flop, turn, or river before betting completes, the dealer should: leave any burn cards in the muck pile, take the exposed community card(s), and re-shuffle it into the deck. Once betting completes, the top card(s) on the deck is then revealed.
CARDS MUST STAY ON THE TABLE
All players’ cards should remain on the table and visible to other players at all times.
ALWAYS PROTECT YOUR CARDS
Players should make an effort to protect their cards when engaged in a hand. We highly recommend using a card guard - this can be any small object that does not completely cover the cards. You can also use one of the chips in your stack - or a WTP medallion!
DO NOT REVEAL YOUR CARDS
Do not show your cards to other people at the table or the “audience”, even if you are going to fold and/ or they are already out of the hand. Your cards are for your eyes only.
MUCKING YOUR CARDS
If you throw your cards into the “muck” (folded cards pile), then your hand is folded.
To deter collusion, if a player is all-in and is called, once action completes, BOTH players must flip over their cards.
If a player mucks their cards accidentally, a hand that is clearly identifiable may be retrieved and ruled live by the TD if doing so is in the best interest of the game (the 'retrieve' rule).
In the event that a player's cards are accidentally mucked by another player or the dealer, then the 'retrieve' rule is in play. If the cards cannot be retrieved, and the player did not have their hand protected (see "Always Protect Your Cards" rule above), a player can tell the TD exactly what they had, and the TD can attempt to retrieve them. Otherwise, their hand is folded.
It is important that Players & TD’s remember the spirit of the league when this occurs. Accidents can happen, but please respect the TD's decision!
VERBAL DECLARATIONS, TALKING DURING A HAND
In World Tavern Poker tournaments, the cards speak for themselves. If a player incorrectly states they have two pair, for example, but when showing their hand, their cards show a flush, then the flush plays.
Players can talk at the table while engaged in a hand. However, they cannot reveal exact information about what they are holding. Specific statements such as "I have two pair, am I ahead?" or calling for specific cards or suits while bets are still taking place is against the spirit of the rules, and a TD can warn a player who does this.
You are allowed to engage in sportsmanship as long as it's in a friendly way. Players intentionally trying to skirt or blur the boundaries of the rules can be issued warnings by the TD, up to and including being removed from the game.
A gross misunderstanding of action is when a player did not realize action was taken before them. Please remember we are in a social environment and mistakes can be made.
String betting is when a player places their bet out in multiple motions without announcing “raise” and/ or the amount of their bet at the same time. REMEMBER: Many players are not familiar with this, so take it easy on them!
NO SPLASHING THE POT
‘Splashing the pot’ means placing or tossing chips directly into the pot rather than in front of their position.
When calling or betting, any player must place their chips in front of them and leave them there until all players have acted. Then, all chips are moved to the center of the table, preferably by the dealer.
Your higher value chips should be visible at all times and not hidden behind other stacks.
CHIPS TO COVER THE BLIND
If a player does not have enough chips to cover the blind, they are considered “All In” and cannot win any more from each player than they have in their stack.
For example, if a player has only 500 chips left and the blinds are 1,000/2,000, they are all in and can only win 500 chips from each player left in the hand.
NOTE: If a player goes all-in pre-flop for less than the big blind, anyone who calls must still match the big blind. If a player goes all-in after the flop for less than the big blind, a player can call the amount of the bet.
Players cannot share chips during color up to increase their chip stack or advance their position in the tournament.
LEAVING THE TOURNAMENT EARLY
If a player has to leave the tournament early, the chips are taken off the table and given to the Tournament Director. Chips are never to be split amongst the players!
LEAVING THE TABLE – Short Term
If a player leaves the table during play to use the bathroom, get a drink, or the like, they are still dealt into hands. If they have not returned by the time it is their turn to act, their cards are mucked and their blinds placed in the pot.
Note: When an absent player is in the Big Blind and everyone checks around, they also check. They continue to check until another player’s bet forces their hand to be folded – even if it goes to showdown.
LEAVING THE TABLE – Long Term
If a player must leave the table for an extended period of time, please make sure the TD is notified. If a player does not play a hand for an entire blind level, their chips will be turned into the TD, eliminating them from the tournament.
For example, if blinds are 15 minutes long and a player leaves half way through a blind, they have the rest of that blind (7-8 minutes) and the next full blind (15 minutes) to return to the game.
However, if a player is found to be abusing this rule, ie: leaves their table, plays a hand, leaves for a period of time, plays, leaves again, etc., they will be warned by the TD. If they continue this activity during play, the TD may remove their chips from the game.
ONLY 5 CARDS PLAY
Each player has 7 cards from which to play (2 hole cards and 5 community cards). The best 5 cards play! So for example, if there is JQKA on the board, and both players have a 10, it is a split pot.
EXTRA CHIP IN THE POT
In the case of a split pot, there may be an extra chip left. This chip goes to the first player to the left of the dealer (that was still in the hand).
TWO PLAYERS OUT AT SAME TIME
The player that had more chips at the beginning of the hand receives the better finishing position.
Once in a while, both these players will have the same number of chips at the beginning of the hand (very rare). In these cases, the player that had the best finishing hand will earn the better position. If it is still tied, go to best starting hand.
PLAYING HEADS UP
When playing heads up, the dealer is always the little blind. The dealer is first to act pre-flop, and the last to act after the flop.
To determine the correct positions, the person who was last in the Big Blind cannot be in this spot twice in a row. Therefore, that person must be the Small Blind when starting heads up play.