Online poker has opened the world of poker to many who do not live near a brick-and-mortar casino. Inevitably, many of these new poker players will plan a poker trip to have a chance to play live poker.
Commentators on ESPN have joked that online players making the transition to live poker look like fish out of water. I don't think this is the case, especially when these players are just playing the typical low-stakes cash games spread at the Vegas casinos. After all, Chris Moneymaker was able to win the WSOP with very little live poker experience.
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Nevertheless, here are a few tips for online players looking to test out a live game at a casino. They are a mixture of standard casino etiquette, as well as some hints on how to avoid giving off the most obvious poker tells.
1. Make sure you do not "string bet." When you play live poker, you must state your raises clearly. If you decide to raise, it is advisable to say "raise." If you say "I call and raise," it will be interpreted as just a call. If you do not say "raise" and you put in the chips necessary for the call, you can not go back to your stack to get more chips for the raise.
Also, if you make a raise that consists of just throwing in one chip to the pot, it is imperative you say raise. For example, if the bet is 150 to you and you throw in a 500 chip, it will be interpreted as a call and not a raise. For it to be a raise, you need to say "I raise to 500" and then throw in the chip.
2. If you decide to listen to music, make sure you do not delay the game. Many poker players think they are cool if they sit at the tables with their iPods. However, some of these players can be extremely annoying, since they are often unaware that it is their turn to act. If you listen to music at the table, make sure you keep focused on the action around you.
3. Tip the dealers after each hand you win when you are in a United States casino. The most common tip amount is $1. If you just win the blinds, then a tip is unnecessary. If you win an especially large pot, consider giving a larger tip. Outside the United States, tipping etiquette varies. In British, Australian, and New Zealand casinos, tipping is actually forbidden, while tipping still occurs in Spanish casinos.
4. In a low-stakes games, people generally will not pick up on tells, so do not worry too much about giving them off. However, you should still be mindful of the most obvious tells. These include shaking hands (which means you have a strong hand) or suddenly sitting up in your seat (indication of a strong hand).
5. Most players new to live poker do not bluff much. This is because they are often intimidated by the live poker setting and are afraid they will give away a tell when they bluff. If you are sitting at a table with a bunch of live poker novices, more than likely there will not be too much bluffing at the table (though probably a lot of bad play). Furthermore, if possible, quickly get over whatever reservations you have about bluffing at a live game and play as well as you normally would.
6. The games tend to be looser and easier late at night. This is partly because more casual players play at night. However, it's mainly because people are just tired and more impatient. A fixed-limit game where a flop is typically heads-up or three-handed can become a game where four or five people see the flop every hand.
7. The rake at brick-and-mortar casinos can vary greatly. The rake will almost always be higher than an online poker room, though most B&M casinos still charge reasonable rakes. The rake at Vegas casinos is usually 10% up to $4 or $5, which is still a beatable rake provided you are playing a game of $5-$10 or higher. However, there are some casinos that charge outrageous rakes in various parts of the world, especially in places where poker is not very popular.
8. Make sure you act in turn. Acting out of turn is both rude and can give another player a tremendous informational advantage.
9. Do not "slow roll." When it is your turn to show your cards at the showdown, show them. Do not make your opponents wait to see your winning hand.
10. Pay attention to your opponents' stacks in no-limit games. Sometimes, they will have very high value chips buried in their stacks. Make sure you know how much your opponents have before making bets that may put you or them all-in.