When showdown is reached in a poker hand, it can often be a confusing moment for live poker players. Deciding who shows their cards first is a common argument in both tournaments and cash games. Let’s settle what the showdown rules are once and for all.

Who shows first in a poker showdown? The showdown rules of poker state that the player who took the last aggressive action on the final betting round shows their hand first. If everyone checked during the last betting round, the normal order of play is followed and the closest player to the left of the dealer shows their cards first.

Why Does the Last Aggressor Have to Showdown First?

In many river scenarios, a player will face a large bet from an opponent and have a tough decision on whether to call or not. If the call is made the player is rewarded by getting to see the cards of the person he called first. He or she is said to have, “paid to see the hand.”

Do I Have to Show My Cards in Poker?

There is generally no requirement to ever show your cards in poker. You can fold or “muck” your hand anytime during play. In fact, the only time you are required to show your hand is in order to win the hand at showdown.

Can I Just Show One Card at Showdown?

You can show just one card at showdown. However, showing just one will not qualify you to win the hand even if that one card is revealed that you definitely have the best hand.

What an Opponent Refuses to Follow the Correct Showdown Order?

Some players will often try to get their opponents to show their cards out of turn so that they can try to avoid giving away information. If you encounter this situation and they are attempting to get you to flip your cards first, my advice is to politely say, “it’s your action, please either show your hand or muck your cards.”

If the opponent still refuses to follow the correct showdown order, ask the dealer to step in and enforce the rules. Do not let a rude or forceful person get their way. Poker is no place to get bullied.

Are There Any Exceptions to Following the Correct Showdown Order?

There is one exception to the rules of showdown order. If you hold the nuts or a very strong hand, it is a common courtesy to just instantly flip your cards over on the river no matter what the showdown order is. Otherwise, you might be accused of “slow rolling.”

What If Someone Shows Their Hand out of Turn?

At showdown there is no penalty in just flipping your cards up out of turn. However, most people like to see what cards people acting before them have before deciding to show or not. If you are beat, you can simply muck and not give away any information to your opponents.

Are the Showdown Rules Different Between Cash Games and Tournaments?

In general, showdown is the same no matter what format you are playing. The only exception is that in cash games a person may show one or both cards at any point during the hand without penalty.

In tournaments, if a player exposes their cards, whether intentionally or not, the hand is usually considered dead.