To discard or throw away your hand. It's also a pile of cards that are no longer in play.
What is the Muck in Poker? Mucking Definition
The muck in poker is a pile of discarded cards that have been folded in a hand. Mucking is a verb to describe the action of throwing (folding) your cards into the middle of the table, deeming them no longer in play.
Example of mucking a hand:
- A player under the gun folds 74 offsuit, sending his cards into the muck.
- Both players check the river. One player shows a full house, the other player has trips and sends his cards straight into the muck.
How to Muck a Hand in Poker
There are a few different ways you can muck your hand in poker, and some are less obvious than others. It’s important to know what classifies as you throwing your cards into the muck - apart from the literal action - so you don’t accidentally fold your hand. Here’s how to muck a hand in poker.
To muck your hand… put your cards in front of the dealer
There are a few different ways to put your cards face-down in front of the dealer to show that you’re folding and your hand is mucked.
- Push your cards - Simply use your fingers or palm of your hand to push your cards into the middle of the table in front of the dealer - with the cards remaining face-down.
- Toss your cards - This is one of the more nonchalant ways to muck your hand, but it’s not recommended if you’re a beginner. With this method, you toss your cards through the air towards the dealer. The benefit is that it looks pretty damn cool doing it. The downside - if you’re not used to the card toss method, a card can easily turn around and be displayed to the rest of the table.
- Slide your cards - From the stylish to the dramatic, the slide method is definitely more intense than others. Place two or more of your fingers on your cards and slide them to the centre of the table. This method of mucking is easy, and with the cards never getting airborne, there’s little risk of them being accidentally exposed to the table.
- Flick your cards - There’s a certain art to flicking your cards into the muck, so once again, it’s not one for beginners. The action itself is easy - you simply place your cards face-down and flat on the table and, with your index finger, flick them to the middle of the table. However, determining the distance is the tricky part. Flick with too much vigour, and your cards could end up in front of your opponent’s stack. Too light, and you’re left slightly embarrassed and need to lean forward to complete the action of mucking awkwardly.
To muck your hand… announce ‘fold’ to the table
Announcing that you fold to the table will also deem your hand dead and send your cards into the muck. This is the easiest way to muck your hand, given that it’s very clear what your action is and will not be misinterpreted.
To muck your hand… make your cards touch the already discarded mucked cards
This is a more peculiar way to muck your cards, as literally every other way is much simpler and requires less effort. But you can muck your hand by making your cards touch the cards that have already been discarded and are in the muck.
Five poker muck rules you must follow
We’ve said you must follow these muck rules - in reality, you don’t have to. But understanding and following them will not only save you money but also make sure you follow the correct etiquette at the table. Here are five poker muck rules to abide by.
Never muck on the river
If you’re on the river, you should not muck your cards. If you’re experienced, it’s more okay to do so if you’re trying to protect your image, but even professionals sometimes will misread their cards. If you’re a beginner, you should never muck on the river, as misreading your cards (which happens more often than people think) will ultimately be more costly than protecting your image.
Don’t muck out of turn
Mucking out of turn is considered very bad etiquette. A player should never give off any indication that they are going to play or fold their cards in their hand before it’s their turn to act. This is because it can give off tells to other players who will be in the pot, giving some an unfair advantage. For instance, if the player ahead of you is debating whether or not to enter the pot preflop but sees you’ve already mucked, they can make their decision knowing if they do call or raise, you won’t be re-raising them behind. Be patient, wait your turn.
Mucking means your hand is dead
There’s no way back once you’ve mucked your hands. As soon as your cards hit the muck, that’s it. They’re completely dead, and the hand for you is over. Don’t make the mistake of accidentally mucking your hand because no matter what you do or say, it’s not coming back when it’s mucked.
Check before mucking
Following on from the last point, it’s worth always checking your hand before you throw your cards into the muck. Misreading cards is very easy to do, especially if you’ve been playing for a while, are tired etc. A quick check takes seconds and could potentially save you from folding the nuts or putting in your entire stack when you have no hand.
Don’t pretend to muck
Newbies to poker might think that deception is fair and part of the game, and while it is in some instances, in other situations, it’s considered bad etiquette and can even get you penalised at the table. Pretending to muck is one of those scenarios. A player might pretend to shove his cards into the middle of the table, hoping that their opponent/s gives off tells or react, making it clear if they’re ahead or behind in the hand. Do NOT do this - you’ll lose a lot of friends.
When should you muck, and when should you show?
It’s tough to know when to show your hand and when to muck it. In some senses, you can’t go wrong if you always show, but mucking has its advantages. Here is when you should muck your hand in poker and when you should show your cards.
When should you muck in poker?
You should muck your hand in poker when you’re trying to conceal your hand. This could be for several reasons, but it all boils down to not wanting to give unnecessary information out to your opponents. By mucking, your opponents have no confirmation of whether you were bluffing, slow-playing, trying to value bet on earlier streets etc. They might have their opinions, but if they don’t see your cards they can’t know your ranges and use that information to their advantage in later hands.
For instance, let’s say you have J 10 of hearts and call to one opponent’s 4BB raise preflop. The flop comes Ac 2s 8d, and you raise after your opponent checks. You get called and the turn comes Kh. Your opponent checks again, so you bet 100% of the pot, trying to fold them out the hand with a semi-bluff - you can hit one of four queens to give you the nut straight. Your opponent calls and then checks the 7s river. You’ve missed your draw but don’t want to continue to bluff as your opponent calling two streets implies strength. You check, see your opponent holding 99s and choose to muck your cards. Obviously, your opponent will know you couldn’t beat nines, but by not showing your cards you don’t give them the information of how you play suited connectors and a gut-shot straight draw on the turn.
Show your hand when…
Equally, you should show your hand instead of mucking it when you want to deceive your opponent and give off a certain image. In the example above, we discussed not giving your opponent unnecessary information. However, if you give them info that portrays you in a specific way, you can use that to your advantage.
Let’s say your table image is very aggressive, and you’re known as a loose player. If you make it to a showdown with a strong hand but suffer a bad beat (I.e. your flush loses to a higher flush), it might be worth showing your hand. This is because you will then earn a certain amount of respect. Without showing your hand, your opponents may just think that you are a crazy loose player with a mild addiction to parting ways with your money - and that’s why you called. If you muck here, that perception won’t change. However, if you show the strength of your hand, your calls will get more respect going forward, and your opponents might be less inclined to try to bluff you on later streets.
Mucking in Poker FAQs
Can you muck when it goes to showdown?
Yes, you can muck in poker when it goes to showdown. You can muck at any point in play when it’s your turn to act. The only time you have to show is at showdown IF you want to win the hand.
Can you see Mucked cards?
Technically, you can ask to see mucked cards in poker. However, this is considered extremely bad etiquette.
What does Muck mean on PokerStars?
Mucking, or just muck, on PokerStars, is the same as mucking in real life. Online, at PokerStars, you can muck your hand when you’ve lost at showdown, which you can take if you don’t want to show your hand to the whole table.
Should you always Muck in poker?
While it is advised that beginners should always muck in poker, more advanced players should choose optimum times to show their cards instead of mucking. This is to portray a specific image of yourself at the table to deceive your opponents.
Muck v Fold - What’s the difference?
Mucking and folding your cards is the same thing. Both mean that your cards are dead and you are no longer in the hand.