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Bathroom Etiquette in Poker

A Matter of Position

When you are in a poker tournament, the bathroom etiquette becomes even more complex than usual. Poker tournaments can last for a rather long time – at least if you manage to avoid quick elimination! There is very little information in the poker literature about how to handle the bathroom question during poker tournaments, so here are a few basic tips:

1) Beat the Crowd

When you are dying to go to the bathroom during a poker tournament, of course the most natural thing to do is to control yourself as long as possible and then dash to the bathroom during the break. Along with every single other person. Typically, bathroom lines are endless during breaks at a poker tournament. It’s not unusual to spend the entire break in line, clamping your knees in desperation just to miss out on the poker action when the break is over and you finally get a chance to relieve yourself.

The solution seems obvious: go to the bathroom shortly before the break begins. But once again, this is exactly what everybody else will be doing!

The struggle for bathroom access in connection with breaks is a classic game of chicken. Going too early may cost you the chance of playing a premium hand. Staying too late denies you access at all. So what it all boils down to is this: either you take part in the war for break-related bathroom access, or you just go whenever you need to go. It’s as simple as that.

However, even if you are going to go in the middle of tournament action, some times are less appropriate than others for a visit to the bathroom.

2) The Importance of Position

I once played in a Texas hold’em poker tournament with a guy who apparently was playing live poker for the first time. He was very excited about it, and was clearly enjoying himself. But he hadn’t thought through his bathroom strategy.

While it is important to drink at the table in order to uphold the fluid balance and stay focused, the intake of fluids must be handled with a certain finesse. I watched this guy drink three Red Bulls in as many minutes, then all of a sudden he got wings and flew off to the men’s room. At the very moment that the button came around to him!

Thanks to his bad planning, he missed out on playing a number of hands in good position (button, cut-off, etc). He played in the blinds, went to the bathroom when he was in good position, and then came back to play in a bad position.

In this case, the advice is clear-cut: do not go to the bathroom when you are on the button.

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