Your First Trip to a Live Poker Room
by Adam Marshall & Carson Cashman | May 9, 2011
The first time you ever play poker in a public cardroom, it can be fairly intimidating. Don't sweat it, we have all felt that way. We've made this list of tips for your maiden voyage to help guide you through the finer points of poker etiquette and procedures so you don't look like a noob.
When You Walk In
Find the board (or list). The board is usually a row of flat-screens that show what games are available. A listing for "$1/$3 NLH" for example, means a no limit holdem game with a $1 small blind and a $3 big blind. If a game has a list of names under it, this means there is a waiting list to be seated. If not, you can walk right up and ask to be seated.
Talk to the Brush
The brush is the cardroom employee who manages the seating list. They are a great person to ask any questions you have if you're concerned about advertising your first-timer status at the table. They usually stand at a podium near the front of the poker room near the board. If this is your first time playing live poker, you will probably want a seat at the lower limit tables. In most poker rooms this is a $1/$2 no limit holdem game. You may also find a $2/$4 limit game, but why bother? Just kidding limit fans. But seriously, play no limit already.
The maximum buy-in for a no limit cash game is usually 100 big blinds. Some poker rooms will request that you get your first buy-in from the cage. The cage is the cashier, which can usually be identified by its security bars. Some poker rooms also have chip runners (people who will get chips for you) or allow you to buy-in at the table. If you are waiting for a seat, we recommend just using the cage though. When buying chips you must always lay the money down, not hand it directly to a person. This is so security cameras can verify the transaction.
Taking your Seat
When you first sit down, you may be asked if you want to post. This means putting up a mandatory call to enter the game. You have the option to either post immediately and be dealt cards or wait until the big blind rotates to you. If this is really your first time playing, go ahead and wait for the blinds. This will give you a chance to observe a few hands before you jump into the fray.
Also the dealer may ask you if you have a player's card. Casinos often give poker players a small hourly comp using cards to track your play. If you don't have one of those, feel free to say you forgot it (your first bluff of the night!) since not having one implies that you are not a regular player.
Setting Up Your Chips
Some point to keep in mind...
- Your biggest denomination chips must be in the front as a rule.
- It helps to put them in stacks of twenty.
- You are not allowed to play from the plastic rack that chips come in.
- Make sure to put them directly in front of you because dealers tend to aim for chips, not people.
- Some poker rooms let you use cash on the table. Ask the dealer if you are unsure.
In Part Two we discuss betting procedures and some other nuanced points that vary from cardroom to cardroom.
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