For most people, poker is just a game. It’s a way to unwind after a long week with friends who you don’t mind losing a little money to once in awhile.

However, if you’re a serious poker player who likes playing professionals, you need to seriously reevaluate your game. There’s big money involved in serious, professional games and national tournaments. You’ll need more than just practice and a rule book if you’re going to raise the stakes with industry veterans. You’ll need a gameplan, a few clever tricks, and perhaps even a coach.

At this level of gameplay, any small advantage over your opponent is a big win.  Which is why it helps to pay attention to some of the obscure rules that you could later use to your advantage. Here are some of the lesser known rules that can help you boost your chances the next time you go head-to-head with a national champion:

1.   Pay Attention To Hand Motions

In his book Real Rules of Poker, author Roy Cooke claims hand motions are vital in a game of professional poker. Dealers and players not only rely on nonverbal cues and hand gestures to play, but they can also use subtle motions to their advantage. Pay attention to your opponent’s hand gestures and try to convert a “just thinking” tap into a check. At the same time, make sure you verbally indicate you’ve checked or folded when you’re playing to avoid making the same mistake.


2.   Card Protector

Professional games can get pretty tense. Sometimes players look at their card and throw them down on the table a little too far away. This could indicate an unintentional fold. Even professional players make this mistake and it takes an alert opponent to call them out for it. Always use a card protectors to shield yourself from the same fate. As per the 2015 Poker Tournament Directors Association rules, cards must be protected at all times and a dealer can kill a hand if they’re not.


3.   The Showdown rule

What happens when every player checks? Well, the rules are different in Europe and America. In America, the mandatory showdown order resembles the ordinary round – clockwise, from the button or the best hand showing. This rules can be applied to see your opponent’s cards and make a call on whether to fold. Insist on it if you’re playing in America and everyone checks together.

These are just of the subtle rules people often forget. Bringing them up during a friendly, casual game is impossible, but try being a lot more alert when you’re playing professionals in a formal setting.