First Time at the Casino Part 2: At The Table

The field
Don't be the guy who never knows it's his turn. Seriously. That's worse than being the guy who smells like Gary Busey's housecoat.

This is Part 2 of a two-part article on making your first trip to a casino poker room. In Part 1, I explained what to do before you sit down; now some basic table tips.

Like I said in Part 1, your first trip to a casino poker room is usually pretty overwhelming. There's a lot going on.

But if you take a few minutes to get adjusted before you even sit down, you'll be fine. Once you sit at the table, here are a few other pointers to keep in mind.

When You Are Seated

1) Posting to get dealt in. Most casinos require you to post an amount equal to the big blind before you can get dealt in. Not all casinos have this rule, so if you're in doubt, don't be afraid to ask the dealer.

If you're close to the big blind, don't bother posting, as you'll have to pay the big blind soon anyway. Once you're seated the game plays exactly like any other poker game - except now you have a trained dealer running the game for you.

2) Always call out your action. This will make the game infinitely easier for you and everyone else at the table. There are so many situations that arise that would never happen if everyone just called their action. So get in the habit now.

If you want to call, say call; if you want to raise, say raise, say the amount and then move your chips; if you want to fold, say fold.

If you call your action you can also avoid the infamous string bet. (A string bet is when you wish to bet or raise and you come out with only part of the bet and then go back to your stack for the rest of the bet. This is not allowed and only the first part of the bet will count.)

3) Always have your cards visible in front of your stack and protected with a chip on top of them! This shows everyone you are still in the hand. The chip on your cards protects your hand. If a player throws his cards toward the muck and they accidentally hit your hand and it's not protected, your hand is dead, no questions asked.

Likewise, if you are sitting in seat 1 or 10 and the dealer takes your unprotected hand and puts it in the muck, your hand is dead, no questions asked. So always always always protect your hand. You don't even have to use a chip - you can use your lucky Hello Kitty bobblehead if you really want.

Stacks of 20 make the game run smooth as silk.

4) Follow the action. Always follow the action. Don't be that guy who never knows whose turn it is. The dealer makes it obvious who the action's on so always be prepared when it is your turn to act.

5) Arrange your chips into stacks of 20. This makes betting much easier. A stack of twenty $1s is $20; a stack of twenty $5s is $100; a stack of twenty $25s is $500; etc. Stacks of 20 make the game run smooth as silk.

6) Always make sure you're awarded the pot before relinquishing your hand. Many people have thrown their hand toward the center of the table thinking they're the winner, only to find that someone else holds a live hand.

In this situation the pot is awarded to the last player with a live hand. So don't ever give your hand up until the pot is shipped your way. Some dealers may even ask you to give them your hand first. Never do this; tell them, "I'll trade you - the pot for my cards."

7) Don't be afraid to ask questions. Asking questions does not tell everyone at the table you're a fish. If you are unfamiliar with how a casino does something ask the dealer, ask the poker manager, ask anyone.

Remember it's only natural to feel intimidated your first time playing at a casino. So don't let your nervousness faze you. It's the same game you've played your whole life. Just find your zone and concentrate on playing good solid poker and eventually all the distractions will just melt away.

Once you become acclimatized to the casino you'll see past all the glitz and glam and your eyes will be open to the beauty that is casino poker. A game that is just one step above shooting fish in a barrel!

So good luck at the tables!!!

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