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In poker, the term railbird isn’t exactly a complementary one. Often, railbirds are often considered to be broke poker players that are praying someone will throw them a bone to get into the game.

However, tournament poker is setup to allow for spectators to follow the action. Many play, but many more are just there for the excitement and to watch the “celebrities” play poker.

Some of you may even be railbirds and may not even know it. Below are five ways to tell if you are a poker railbird.

You Have a Full Autograph Book or a T-Shirt Full of Player Signatures

Some railbirds, I mean fans, are easy to spot. They are the ones hunting down the big name pros wanting their autographs, to take a picture with them, etc. Go to most major tournaments where Daniel Negreanu is playing and at some point you’re going to probably see someone run him down.

Poker Pros signing shirt

The World Series of Poker can be a zoo for some players as fans sometimes can get within a few feet of the tables and bug players for their autographs. Most will have their autograph books or their t-shirt ready for the pros to sign. These items become treasured keepsakes for these players just as a signed Peyton Manning football would be for a Denver Broncos fan.

You Know the Start Time for Every Final Table Stream – In the World

Some railbirds are so obsessed with the game that they will follow every single final table they can find online. It doesn’t matter if it is a WPT final table or the final of Achokamathapichu Forest BiWeekly Memorial Charity Tournament; they will watch it.

These are the same folks that constantly bug Kevmath for final table starting times on Twitter.

How do you think Kevmath keeps a job? He’s got to have someone to give information to. Without railbirds, Kevmath would still be the anonymous disembodied head like Zordon on the Power Rangers – just without cool weapons and Zords that he can use to corrupt innocent teenagers.

Security Knows You By Name – At Every Casino

It is not uncommon to get to know some of the security people at your home casino or one that you frequent as a player. In fact, I recommend that you treat security well because you may need their help at some point.

However, it is not a good thing if every security guard knows you by name at every casino. That means that you have gotten onto their radar for one reason or another. Acting as a railbird will draw attention to you and security will start watching you a bit closely.

Granted, if you’re the standard obsessed fan that mostly stays on the rail and causes a minimum of commotion, things will be fine. However, start to step out of line and you will be amazed at how quickly that security will show up.

I’ve seen it happen to railbird and even had it happen to me once when I was mistaken for a particular railbird with a history of public intoxication.  It can be a bit unnerving to have about six burly security guards surround you when you’ve done nothing wrong. Fortunately, one of the guards that showed up recognized me (again, treat them nice) and vouched for me.

You’ve Actually Watched Razz Live and Phil Hellmuth Wasn’t Playing

One of the most obvious signs that you might be a railbird is if you have watched a live Razz final table and Phil Hellmuth wasn’t playing. Anyone that knows poker knows that you must really love poker, and specifically Stud games, in order to watch a Razz final table.

Even people that have backed people in Razz tournaments rarely watch the events. Sadly, I must group myself into this obsessed bunch. I remember back in 2007 watching a Razz final table with Artie Cobb and the two of us discussing the different plays that the players were making.

There were only four other people in the audience and two of those were dealers on breaks. It was the only place in the room quiet enough for them to take a short nap.

You’ve Cussed Your Computer Because You Lost Connection and Couldn’t Record the Games

Many of us have checked out the high stakes tables on PokerStars. Back in the day we did the same on Full Tilt Poker. Some of you regularly hang out there to watch your favorite players and maybe even try to beg them to send you a couple of bucks (at least until they block your chat).

How many of you have opened several tables that your favorite players were playing and left them running so you could go to bed, have dinner or take care of other important business since you can’t make a living playing poker.

How many of you have come back just to find out that your internet hiccupped and the program closed out and you lost connection to every game you were trying to rail. All those hand histories are now gone and you can’t relive those moment. Next, you throw a myriad of curse words at your computer and your internet and bemoan your rotten luck.

You then relaunch PokerStars, see if they are still playing and try again. Yes, you are that obsessed. Oh wait, we mean you’re that “motivated.”

It’s Ok to Be a Railbird – Just Don’t Abuse the Privilege

There’s a right way and a wrong way to be a railbird in the modern era of poker. If you’re a fan that is mostly just hanging out at the cash game rail and the final table rail to watch your favorite players, you will be fine as long as you show the proper respect to the players and to the game.

There’s usually no problem with approaching a player during break times to get an autograph or a picture. However, don’t hound them if they are clearly in a rush to get somewhere. Remember that players have a limited amount of time on their breaks.

When you do interact with players, be respectful and don’t hound too much of their time. Some players will naturally gab with you, such as Daniel Negreanu. Other players will pretty much just want to sign your book or take your pic and send you on your way. If you get a bit of a cold shoulder, don’t hold that against the person. After all, they are there to play poker first and be a celebrity second.

Next, don’t act like a fool on the rail. Don’t bother the players or other fans for money or try and start trouble. If you’re a person that has a trouble behaving in public after a few drinks, refrain from drinking at the rail. Basically, if your behavior can get you in trouble in any way, use better judgment and refrain from that behavior.

Poker is now both a participatory and spectator sport enjoyed by millions around the world. There’s no shame anymore in being a railbird as long as you behave yourself and let the players entertain you.

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James Guill

James Guill began his poker career in 2006, spending two years traveling the US tournament circuit. Since 2008, he has covered the game extensively for some of the biggest names in the industry. When not writing about the latest poker news, he can be found hunting for antique treasures in Central Virginia.