The pandemic brought a myriad of changes to the world - including the influx of new players to the world of mobile poker. With the reopening of casinos around the globe, many online players are tempted to join their live poker counterparts. If you’re curious about the ins and outs of how to play poker live, read on.

One element of poker that’s made the game so durable throughout generations, is its ability to transform to satisfy the changing needs of players. This change has come in many forms but none so obvious as its leap to the online landscape. With the advent of online poker, there was an easy and accessible way to play the game without ever stepping foot in a brick-and-mortar casino. Throughout the pandemic, while the masses were isolated in their homes, for many, online gaming and poker became a lifeline to the outside world. With the world officially opened up for business, many of these new players are contemplating travelling to real-world casinos. But how do live poker rooms and casinos compare to their online counterparts? 

Depending on the casino and its location, each poker room operates based on its own specific set of rules. These standards can vary from casino to casino but only slightly. Once you know the basics of poker room etiquette, you can’t go far wrong. The first thing to realise is that the staff of this establishment are trained to make you feel as comfortable as possible during your visit. If you have any questions about the live casino environment, don’t be afraid to approach them. 

How to Play Poker in a Casino

A player’s journey at a live casino or card room begins at the main counter or sign-up area. It’s here that all players either register their interest for the current tournament or cash event. It’s also where you hand over your tournament entry fee - an important step in the live tournament process! Once the entry fee is taken care of you’ll receive your tournament ticket outlining your table and seat allocation. Following this, the process is simple. You make your way to your seat and wait for the tournament to begin.

If your interest is in cash games, the good news is that most establishments offer a wide variety of these games for players to choose from. The most popular is typically no-limit Texas Hold’em but pot-limit Omaha and other poker variations are very common. Given the variety of games available to online players, there’s no doubt that skilled players will find a variant to suit their needs at these tables. Like with tournaments, joining these games are fairly straightforward. Both large and smaller poker rooms will have a sign-up area, whiteboard or designated staff member that’ll allow a player to register their interest and join the waiting list for their game. If a seat is available, you’ll immediately be able to start playing. If you’ve chosen a game with a full table you may have to wait for a seat to become available. When this happens, the staff will call your name, and you’ll be directed to your table.

It’s worth mentioning that some establishments may permit a player to call ahead and reserve a spot on their waitlist. Your place will be reserved for typically 1-2 hours in the poker room or casino until you arrive and claim it. 

How Do I Buy Poker Chips at a Casino?

If you’re an online player then you’ve never had to navigate buying your chips before. They just appear in your account! In a brick-and-mortar casino, there are a couple of ways to accomplish this task. At some establishments, a player can make a trip to the counter where staff will simply ask them how much in the value of chips they wish to purchase. When you’re carrying out this transaction remember that most games have a minimum and maximum buy-in. Make sure you consider these factors so you don’t have to make another trip to the counters! Typically, an average no-limit Texas Hold’em game will host a $40 minimum and $300 maximum buy-in. 

If the cards aren’t being dealt in your favour and you wish to top up your chips at the table, you can do so. At any time during the game, a player has the option of replenishing their stack to the maximum buy-in. To carry out this transaction a player can typically just place their money on the table and inform the dealer that they wish to buy chips. It couldn’t be easier! 

If you want to take a break from the table but still have chips left, you don’t have to keep playing until they’re gone. Instead, you can simply stand up, leave the table and exchange your chips for cash at the cashier cage. When you’re getting ready to cash out, give the dealer neat stacks of chips and let them count and change them in for larger denominations. This is a small act that shows everyone at the table that you’re no novice. Also, make sure to exchange your chips in between hands and not during a play.

What is Casino Poker Room Etiquette?

We mentioned general casino etiquette above but what exactly is that? If you’re a newcomer to the environment, don’t worry, it’s not overly complex. Follow the general rules below and you won’t go too far wrong. 

Firstly, wait your turn to make a play. Often, online players find this element of live games difficult to get used to. The online landscape makes it impossible to act out of turn. Thus, if you even try, it has no effect and no one knows! In live games, this is very possible and very frowned upon by experienced players. While nerves can make even the best player make silly moves, do your best to pay attention to who’s turn it is at all times. 

Secondly, there’s exactly how to bet - an important step in the game of poker! There’s nothing wildly different here than how you would bet online but there are a few elements worth mentioning. In live games, a player has the option of verbally declaring their bet but simply pushing it in the pot will suffice. Just make sure your full wage makes its way across the betting line outlined on the table for it to count. 

Verbalising your bet is also important in live games for another reason - the one-chip rule. If a player places a single chip of any denomination in the pot without verbally declaring it a “raise” or a specific bet amount, that qualifies as a call instead. If their chip is of a greater value than the previous bet, then the dealer will generally give them change from their bet as it’s considered a call. That means, if you want it to be considered a raise, speak up!

Of course, now that you’re playing with real cards, there are a few etiquette rules around how to handle them. Firstly, respect the cards by not bending them or marking them in any way. Once the cards are dealt, if they’re face down, only touch them with one hand. If the cards are dealt face up in a game, however,  then NEVER touch them.

A final etiquette tip is one of the most important - tip your dealer! When lady luck gives you a win, make sure to share the wealth. While this is not a hard rule, it’s considered polite to leave your dealer a fair tip when you leave the table. This tip is especially useful if you intend to return to this table later.