The only safe guiding principle in Poker ethics is, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do." In some games, a player may do anything to fool the opponents as long as he does not cheat. It is considered part of the skill of the game to do so, and by no means unsportsmanlike. In some games, it is considered unethical, or at least "sharp practice", to check while holding a good hand in the hope that someone else will bet and the player can raise him. Since card playing is a social pastime, a player is best advised to follow the standards of the other players.
To bluff in Poker is to make a bet on a hand the player knows, or believes, is not the best, in the hope that other players will believe his cards are strong and will drop out. Bluffing is so much a part of Poker that the game would be no good without it. But some players believe their opponent should not support the bluff by making remarks he knows are untrue, such as announcing his hand has improved in the draw when it has not.
In most circles it is not considered ethical to announce, out of turn, an intention to bet, raise, or drop, if there is no intention of doing so when the player's turn comes. Although such false announcements are not formally penalized, regard for the other players should rule them out when they conflict with the code of ethics followed in the game. It is always considered unethical to intentionally break the rules.
In all Poker circles it is considered unethical, and close to cheating, to split a pot rather than have a showdown.
When a player announces that he is betting (or checking) "blind,"(that is, without looking at his hand), it is considered unethical if the player has, in fact, seen his hand.
THE DEAD MAN'S HAND. From New Orleans and the Mississippi riverboats, Poker spread to the West, and cowboys thoroughly embraced the game. Among the colorful enthusiasts the game attracted was Wild Bill Hickok, whose last residence was in Deadwood in the Dakota Territory. Hickok came to Deadwood to prospect for gold, and he spent his leisure hours playing Poker at a saloon. Wild Bill had killed 36 people; gunslingers considered him a challenge, and several made threats on his life. On August 2, 1876, Hickok and three other men were playing Draw Poker at Carl Mann’s saloon. Author Frank Jennings Wilbach reports that "for the first time known, Wild Bill was sitting with his back to a door...Jack McCall, the assassin,...sauntered around to a point a few yards behind Wild Bill. He then swiftly drew a .45-calibre Colt and fired." Wild Bill Hickok died holding two pairs: aces over eights. This holding has come to be known as the Dead Man's Hand.
"I WASN'T BLUFFING - JUST DREAMING." A famous story recounts a high-stakes no-limit, game in which a young man picked up the ♠ A, K, Q, J and 10. The betting was fierce, and when the young man ran out of money, he asked to adjourn the game momentarily while he went to locate his father to get more. His hand, and that of the one opponent remaining, were sealed in separate envelopes; a short time later, the lad was back with his father who was told that the envelope contained a Royal Flush. The father brought enough cash to call the last bet and make a very big raise. The opponent, who held four 9s, realized that this could not be a bluff, and he threw in his cards. The son raked in all the chips and the envelopes were unsealed. The young man’s hand was the ♣A, ♠K, Q, J and 10; he had misread his hand!
HENRY CLAY AT THE POKER TABLE. The great U. S. Senator Henry Clay, who lost the presidency three times, was, nevertheless, a frequent winner at Pochen, the European forerunner of Poker. John Quincy Adams, who was to become the sixth U.S. President a decade later, reported in his lifelong diary that when he and Clay were diplomats in Ghent, Belgium, negotiating the end of the War of 1812, it was not uncommon for Clay to trudge up the stairs to their quarters at 4 a.m. after an all-night card game just as Adams was waking up to write in his journal and start his day.