How to play poker in a casino

Poker.Org Staff
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Last updated: October 18, 2022 10:41 am EDT

Many inexperienced players and online pros wonder how to play poker in a casino. It’s a different experience compared to your private home games, bar games, or playing online. But it’s also perhaps the most enjoyable and entertaining way to play poker. To make your first trip to a brick-and-mortar poker room a pleasant one, we’ve compiled a list of tips to follow (but we can’t promise you’ll win)!

What kind of poker is played in casinos?

The most common type of poker game played in a casino is Texas hold’em. Almost every casino will offer a limit hold’em and no limit hold’em game as cash games. Some may even host poker tournaments.

Smaller casino poker will likely start limit games at $1/$2 or $2/$4 to accommodate beginners and those with smaller bankrolls. Larger rooms may start at $2/$4 or even $4/$8. And for no-limit games, there is almost always a $1/$2 or $1/$3 option. Bigger rooms may also offer $2/$5.

With the growing popularity of Omaha poker, most casinos now offer some pot limit Omaha at the $1/$2 level. The larger the poker room in a casino, such as those in Las Vegas, the more options you will find. It is most likely, however, that a room will spread a game if there are enough people asking for it and if dealers are available. This often happens with games higher than the basic no limit hold’em and limit hold’em, as well as pot-limit Omaha games. Sometimes, poker players will also request Omaha hi-lo, seven-card stud, mixed games like HORSE, and other variants.

Check the Bravo app

Before heading to the casino, download the Bravo poker app. This will show all the poker rooms in your area and let you know how many games are currently running, what games are running, and how long the wait list is for each game, if there is one.

Using the Bravo app is a good idea because it can save you time. If there’s a long wait, you can call ahead to put your name on the list. (Poker room phone numbers are on the app.) Just make sure you don’t wait too long before arriving at the casino. Most card rooms will remove you from the list if your name is called and you don’t show up within 5-10 minutes. If there’s only a small wait list or none at all, just head straight to the casino. One last pointer on this is to be sure the card room offers your game of choice beforehand.

Getting chips to play

If you didn’t call ahead, inform the staff you’d like to play your game of choice when you arrive at the casino. After your name is called, head straight to the cashier’s cage to get chips to play. You should bring money before arriving because ATM fees at casinos are usually a ripoff.

Never buy into a game short-stacked. Most games have a range of buy-in limits. For example, in $1/$3, the limits are typically $100-$300, although this varies from casino to casino. Using that example, don’t buy in for $100. Purchase at least $200 in chips, in between the low and high, but realistically, it’s best to buy-in for the max. The reason for that is, short-stacked players are easily taken advantage of by the big stacks. And if you run into one unlucky hand early, you’ll be out of chips. In some card rooms, they’ll ask you to sit down at the table before getting chips, and a chip runner will come by to bring your chips to you.

You’re not playing online anymore

There are some significant differences between playing online and playing live poker in a casino. If you’ve grown accustomed to playing online, but you’re ready to make your first trip to a brick-and-mortar card room, you must realize there are no buttons to push. You’ll be placing your own bets and must calculate the size of the pot on your own.

With that in mind, don’t feel bad taking your time to think through your decisions. It’s a lot easier to figure out how much to bet online, because the pot size is right there in front of you, and there are simple buttons in full view. You don’t have that luxury in live poker. So, feel free to take 10-15 seconds when facing a tough decision to figure out the exact size of the pot.

Be mindful of your poker etiquette

There are basic forms of poker table etiquette that players should keep in mind as they play.

You should avoid the hit and run, which occurs when you win a big hand and then leave right away. Don’t delay the game by taking unnecessary time, no matter your poker strategy, but don’t rush other players, either. And don’t slow roll your opponents (more on that later).

Make sure you act in turn, and move your chips and cards with caution. You may upset your opponents if you splash the pot, throw your cards into the muck too hard, or keep your chips in random stacks. 

Make sure to tip during cash card games. Be nice to the dealer and opponents. And pay attention to your own hygiene, especially if eating or drinking at the table. Clean up after yourself and don’t touch the chips with dirty hands.

Many of these rules apply to other casino games as well.

Never make it obvious you’re a newbie

Experienced poker pros love to pounce on the fish — especially those with minimal playing experience. Therefore, you should refrain from telling anyone at the table this is your first time playing live. Be especially quiet about your newbie status if it’s your first time playing poker at all.

You might be a bit nervous and confused when you arrive at a poker room for the first time, and that’s okay. One great way to calm your nerves is to show up early and watch others play before you hop into a game. Once you think you have the hang of it, go join a game.

Don’t muck your cards until you’re certain you lost

One of the biggest benefits to online poker is that you won’t run into any angle-shooting, which is a scummy way of trying to gain an edge over another player. In live poker, however, you’ll encounter certain players who will do anything, even if it goes against poker etiquette, to win a hand they don’t deserve.

Keeping that in mind, never fold at showdown until you’ve seen your opponent’s cards. If the other player says, “I have a flush,” don’t just take their word for it. Make them show the flush before you throw your cards face-down in the muck. Once your cards are in the muck, you can’t win the pot because your hand is ruled dead. Never trust anyone’s word at the poker table.

Common rules to follow

We touched on poker etiquette a bit already, but there are other rules all players should follow when playing poker in a casino. Let’s take a look at them.

  1. Most importantly, in cash games, tip the dealer after every pot you win. Dealers work hard to earn a living and they can’t do that if players don’t tip. It’s customary to toss the dealer a $1 chip after every pot you win, but most will tip another buck or two after winning a big pot.
  2. Keep your chip stack organized and make sure your large denomination chips are out front so that everyone at the table can see how much you’re playing with. You can actually get penalized if you hide the large denomination chips.
  3. Don’t celebrate after a big win. Remember that someone else lost when you won, so be respectful. Floor staff can penalize excessive celebrations, too, so try to maintain your composure. You wouldn’t want other gamblers to be rude when they win a hand, either.
  4. No “slow rolling.” Slow rolling is only cool in the movies, when done for effect. In real life, slow rolling is rude. When you know you have the winning hand, play it promptly and show it respectfully. Taking more time than is warranted is a bad look and can cause bad feelings at the table.
  5. Be discreet with your hand. Your two hole cards are for your eyes only, with only the community cards for everyone. Other players are not supposed to look at your cards, but it is ultimately your job to protect them and not look at other players’ hands. It secures your hand and keeps others from gaining an unfair and unethical advantage by seeing your cards.
  6. Only act when it’s your turn. Don’t fire out a bet or fold before it’s your turn to act. By acting out of turn, you’re giving away information to other players that haven’t acted but are to your right. In Texas hold’em and Omaha hold’em, the action goes clockwise around the table, starting with the player to the direct left of the big blind.
  7. Lastly, just play your game. Don’t let the other players intimidate you or put you on tilt. Show up with a game plan and execute that game plan. But always be prepared to adapt based on how the table is playing. If you like playing loose-aggressive but others at the table are doing the same, adjust your strategy and tighten up. Most importantly, have fun and make some money.

Featured image source: Flickr