I have been playing casino poker for longer than I'd like to admit. What started as a fun hobby in college turned into an absolute love for the game. As with most people, I started playing poker with friends and family members. Then I dabbled in online poker and eventually found my way to a casino. There's nothing quite like casino poker.
For all my other gambling blog posts I have talked about game strategy, house edge, and making the most profitable plays. Because poker is far too detailed and nuanced to discuss in a blog post, I decided to make it all about casino poker and what you can expect when you take your game from the living room to the poker room. The hope is that after you read this post you'll feel much more comfortable walking into a poker room and sitting down to play.
Let's get started.
The Poker Room
Once you get to the poker room, you'll inevitably see a video board that displays all the games that are spread and a waiting list for each game, if any. There will generally be a desk at the front with an attendant ready and willing to help you get seated. Usually the person behind the desk is very helpful answering any questions about the room, the minimum and maximum buy-ins, any specific poker room rules, and questions about comps. There will be several tables in the room, spreading a variety of games and limits. Before going up to the tables, you'll need to check in with the desk and let them know what game you would like to play and how much you want to buy in for.
Sitting down at the table
Once you get checked in and you have your buy in, you'll be told what table to go to. Often the attendant will walk you over, introduce you and help you get seated. The dealer will welcome you to the game and ask if you have a players card. It is important to use the players card if you want poker room comps, but if you're a big player in the casino, it may be smart not to use your card because it may affect your theoretical. If you have a good host, you should ask how to handle using your players card in the poker room.
Once seated at the table, feel free to tell the dealer you're new to the game or the casino. Tell the dealer that you want him or her to look out for you to make sure you're doing everything correctly. They will be happy to do so (and you'll probably get more action at the table if people know you're "new"). Simple things you don't think much about in your home poker game come into play much more in the casino poker room -- things such as minimum bets, blinds, rules for showdowns, string bets, verbal actions, and more. The dealer will be happy to help you get started.
Poker Room Dos and Don'ts
Seemingly small things in your home game matter more in the casino. The casino has its rules posted somewhere in the room and should probably be read for some background. There's also plenty of etiquette tips that apply in the poker room. Here's some DOs and DON'Ts
- Do pay attention to the "bad beat jackpot" or "high hand" rules in the poker room. Most rooms have some iteration of a jackpot for bad beat pots (where a high hand such as 4 of a kind gets beat by a higher 4 of a kind) or they have a high hand pot (4 Aces gets an additional jackpot pot). Know the rules before starting so you don't accidentally muck a jackpot hand.
- Pay attention to the blinds. Once in a while someone forgets a blind. That's fine. Don't be the guy that does it every time.
- Tip the dealer. In a lower limit game, the customary tip is $1 per winning hand. I generally tip anywhere from $1 to $5 depending on the size of the pot.
- Act only when it's your turn. Don't fold you hand out of turn. Don't call or raise out of turn. Wait for the action to come to you before acting.
- Protect your cards. You may not be used to playing with an all time dealer and if your cards are out away from your chip stack, they may get swept up by the dealer on accident. Put a marker or a chip on top of your cards when you're in a hand to prevent it.
- Do remember that you're at the poker table, not the craps table. I sometimes get to Vegas and want ACTION right away. The poker room is not the place for that. Poker is a grind. The quicker you settle in and remember the grind, the better you'll do in the long run.
- Don't splash the pot. Put your bets directly in front of you at all times. The dealer is in charge of pulling the bets in to create the pot when the round of betting is complete.
- Don't be a jerk to the dealer. It's not his or her fault you made the wrong play or the river 1-outed you.
- Don't buy in for more than you're prepared to lose. While poker is a much better game than most of the ones on the casino floor, it still has an element of luck. Wager only what you are comfortable with.
- After you are out of the hand, don't react to the cards laid as if to indicate what you folded. If you folded 3-6 off suit and the flop comes 3-3-6, don't gasp and act like a fool. Your actions affect the other players' ability to make their own plays.
- Don't take forever to make a call. Once in a while it's ok to take a minute to make a big decision, but don't do it all the time. The slow play on TV is maddening to see in the poker room.
- Don't win a massive pot and then jump up from the table and leave. It's not against the rules, just bad form.