Tips for Playing in a Public Cardroom

If you've been playing poker in a home game and decide to play in a public cardroom or casino, there are some rules and conventions of which you're probably not aware. Some of these are generally observed, some of them are written rules. You will find your fellow players in a cardroom to be generally friendly people, but they will be unforgiving about rules violations — and ignorance of those rules is no excuse. Learn these now and it will save you a lot of grief (and a pot or two) in the future.

  • When you first sit down at the game, you may be allowed to be dealt in immediately, or you may be forced to post an amount equal to the big blind. If so, wait until the button has just passed you and then post. If you post immediately before the blinds get to you, you will have to play the blinds very soon — you'd rather wait until they pass. This also gives you time to relax and watch the game for a few hands before you play.
  • Protect your cards at all times. Keep your hand on them or put a chip or other weight on them. Otherwise, they may be fouled if folded cards hit them or the dealer accidentally picks them up. On a related subject, don't lift them up off the table. To look at them, cover them with your hands, and raise the corners slightly so you can see them. This will take a little practice, but will eventually become second nature.
  • Act in turn. It's against the rules to act before it's your turn, even if you're just going to fold. Sometimes a player in front of you will act out of turn, causing you to act out of turn. Try to keep an eye on the action so you know when it really is your turn. On a related note, if the betting has been checked to you, check as well, even if you have every intention of folding at the first opportunity. Folding prematurely gives an unfair advantage to players behind you (they know you won't check-raise them), and is simply bad manners.

When it's your turn to act, act as quickly on your hand as possible. If you need a few seconds to think about it, say "Time, please." This will stop the action at you so you can decide what to do. If you don't say "Time" and people act behind you, your hand may be declared dead.

Unlike a home game, you do not put your chips directly into the pot. Put them in a neat stack in front of you (whether they be antes or bets). The dealer will collect them all together when he is persuaded the pot is right. If you just toss your chips into the pot, there may be a concern that you put too few in. If so, somebody may demand that the dealer count down the pot, and people will be upset with you.

When you raise, say so before doing anything else. Otherwise, you must get all the chips for your raise into the pot with one motion. If you do not declare your raise and make a second trip to your stack for chips, you are making a "string bet" and may be required to just call. If you declare your raise verbally, you can take all the time you want to get the raise in.

Don't fold at the end just because somebody declares a better hand than yours. Simply turn your hand over, and verify what you have. It is also the dealer's job to determine the winner, but you should check for yourself. Don't release your hand until you've seen one better than yours.

Get in the habit of looking at your cards once and memorizing them. This will enable you to play more smoothly and concentrate on what you're doing. Any time you look back at your cards, it should be for show.

In a table stakes game, you don't have to fold because you can't call an entire bet. Call with the rest of your chips, and the dealer will make a side pot.1

See the glossary for more information about the terms "table stakes" and 'side pot".

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