If you’ve only ever played poker at home or informally, it can be intimidating to play for the first time in a casino. However, casinos have some advantages – you can play at pretty much any time of the day or night, there’s plenty of security, you can maximize your winnings if you encounter a weak player (with less guilt than in the average home game!) and you can learn from stronger players.
On the down side, you can probably lose a lot more money in casino poker than you’d consider risking in a home game. Know what you’re willing to lose before you walk in, and know when to call it a day.
See poker etiquette for dos and don’ts that apply for both casino poker and home poker.
Joining a Casino Poker Game
To join a game in a casino, you generally need to give your initials to an attendant, who’ll add them to a whiteboard under the name of the game – Hold ’em or Stud, for example – you’ve said you want to play. Once a seat is available for the game, you’ll be called and can start playing.
Once you’re seated, the dealer or an attendant will ask how much you want in chips. You hand over the relevant amount of money, and the chips will be fetched for you. However, you can start playing before they arrive – the dealer will call out how much you’re "behind" (that is, the value of your chips) and track what you owe the pot.
Before play starts, the dealer will shuffle the deck using a four-step procedure, ensuring that no cards are shown in the process, cut the deck and then deal.
Casino Poker Strategy
Especially if you’re new to casinos, it’s a good idea to start with low-limit games.
The main ways that casino poker differs from home poker are that play is faster and players are more selective. If in doubt, fold! The biggest mistake players generally make in casino poker is to continue betting, calling and raising with weak hands.
Instead of wasting time on each round trying to decide whether to stay in the game or fold, it’s important to decide on a set of standards. This involves learning what constitutes a hand you should bet with, as opposed to a hand you should throw out, for a particular poker game. If you’re equipped with this knowledge before you enter a game, you’ll have more time to observe other players and worry less about assessing your own cards.