Why Poker Players Do Chip Flourishes at the Table


Banned User
Jul 30, 2005
I authored this piece for Poker Player Magazine and post it here for your interest.


Definition: Chip Flourishes (Chip Tricks), handling chips in a fancy manner.

Poker is fast becoming America's favorite form of entertainment. Hold 'em tournaments are broadcast daily on TV. You and I are able to peek into the pros hole cards, and we are able to see the way they handle their chips. Some don't flourish at all, but others, work with the chips in a manner that reveal their thousands of hours spent on the green felt. They riffle shuffle their chips. They delicately finger the chips...extracting one, turning it over, and replacing it. They bet their chips with a flair. The colorful flourishes include running a chip across the knuckles, spinning a chip on the table and making it return, and rolling out a stack of four chips so that a chip is gracefully placed between each finger. They impress us with their chip acrobatics. And it's second nature. They aren't even thinking about it.

There are several reasons why players do chip flourishes. Here are a few.

1. TABLE IMAGE: I've heard talk that players should project an image that they are a "madman" or "unsure of themselves"....when in reality...they are not. This does have advantages, but I just can't get myself to do it. When I sit down at a table I want everyone to know that I grew up with a deck of cards in my hand, that I'm a "player", and that I know what I'm doing at the table...all the time. Flourishes help me stand out and increase my ability to control the table.
I can opt to look like a poker veteran, and unleash my repetoire of chip handling techniques on those at my table. Or if I want to look like a beginner, I can simply choose not to flourish.

2. RELIEVE STRESS: Just as some people twiddle their thumbs, bounce their knee, or tap their fingers, flourishing can be a means to physically dissipate nervous energy. Poker can be a stressful game in several ways. One is the nervousness one feels at the beginning of a tournament. This is easily decreased by some chip shuffling. Poker is a sedentary game and there aren't many physical ways to "blow off" a bad beat or major chip loss. A player can get out of his seat and walk a few steps, he can verbalize, or pick up a drink. There's not much else to do. Golfers can walk off their frustration. Baseball players can fling their helmets and bats into the ground after striking out. One way to "let off steam" for a poker player, is to work the chips. Moving your fingers and handling the chips, is one physical means to lessen stress, and take your mind off the last hand.

3. INTIMIDATE OPPONENTS: I've seen beginners fold solid hands after being intimidated by players who perform a superior display of colorful chip twirls, rolls, flips, and other fancy fingering of chips. The psychological factor in poker is far more important than in other card games. If you look like you grew up playing poker, you will have your raises respected more. You will find opponents laying down hands because they think you have the winning hand. The confidence you display, and flourishes you exhibit, affects other people's decisions and play.

4. EARN RESPECT FROM DEALERS AND FLOORPERSONS: I don't look like a beginner, and I am more likely to be noticed and remembered. I'm looking to maximuze my comps and courtesies!
Sometimes a dealer may get "testy" with a tourist or one who is new to the game. I'm not put in that category.
Over the years, I've also seen a variety of borderline situations occur at the table, where the veteran player gets the better shake. My flourishing puts me in the"poker veteran" category.

5. STAY AWAKE: During long tournaments, keeping my fingers moving helps keep me awake and aware of what's going on. There are some boring stretches to poker, and flourishes help me stay alert.

6. FOCUS: Handling the chips keeps me focused on the game. My hands are physically on them, and I'm mentally attached to the cards at play. The purpose of the game is to gain chips, and there is no better way to remind me of this than to finger the chips.

7. HELPS TO WARD OFF CHEATS: Someone who flourishes his chips does not look like an easy mark. The flourisher is thought to be well versed in proper poker shuffling, cutting and dealing procedures. He is one who is more likely to be aware of card "mechanics", collusion, and other scams. I am less likely to be pegged "a sucker", and any cheat will think twice before trying to pull one on me.

8. OTHERS WOULD LIKE TO DO IT: Doing flourishes is like riding a bike...once you learn it, you learn it for life. I like to see others watching my moves, knowing that they would like to do what I'm doing. It gives me a sense of accomplishment. Buy an instructional video on Poker Chip Flourishes and practice along with it. Make sure you have them second nature before sitting down and gambling. If you have to concentrate on the flourishes, and take attention away from the cards at play, you'll be hurting your game.

9. THE PROS DO IT: No matter what sport or game, everybody wants to emulate the professionals. They are the stars, the successful. Do as the pros do!


Tom Golabek plays the poker tables of South Florida and Vegas. He has produced an instructional DVD on performing poker chip flourishes. It can be found at www.pokerchipsvideo.com
11. Tell reduction. Irrelevant in the omni-present 1/2 NL holdem games, but if you're trying to hide all tells, you need to have a routine. One that includes a little chip shuffling gives you time to think without your hands giving anything up.

The few times I've played with the big boys, I made special effort to do absolutely everything identically, from how I looked at my cards to how I counted and bet chips, to the amount of time I spent on each action. The routine included chip-riffling at several points to give my hand and arm a mindless, consistent action.

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