How to Play Poker in a Casino

People playing poker in casino
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If you've never played poker in a casino, it may seem intimidating compared to a night at your home game, but not to worry! Once you sit down at your first casino poker table, you'll realize it's not so different and you'll be raking in the chips before you know it. Here's how to get started!

Step 1: Get on a List

The first thing you're going to need to do is to sign up on the queue or list for a game with the poker host or manager.

There will be a podium in almost every casino poker room where there's a list either on a board or, more likely, on video monitors that list every game going on and who is waiting to sit down. If you're not sure where to go, just ask a waitress or any other casino employee. They will point you in the right direction.

Once you locate the sign-up area, you can ask if any games are "open" or have seats and they'llfor you know -- otherwise, you'll want to sign up on the list for a few games. They should have a list of what kinds of games -- you'll always find Hold'em, but there maybe games of Omaha or Seven-card stud too. They'll also list the limits, or betting amounts, for each game and whether it is a limit or no limit game. For your first outing, it's probably best to stick to the lowest limit tables, which will likely be a $1/2 no limit hold'em game or a $2/4 or $3/6 limit hold'em game.

Give the poker host your initials and tell him which lists you'd like to be added to and voila! You're done.

Step 2: Buy Your Chips

While you're waiting for your initials to be called, it's a good idea to find the cage and get some chips. The people working the cage know just what kind of chips you'll need for your game so you can just tell them you are buying into a $1/2 no-limit game or a $3/6 limit game and they will give you the right chips.

I recommend buying $100 for either of these games, but you can also check what the minimum buy-in is with the poker host and get that amount. If you do need more chips, you can always buy more at the table, but most places prefer that you sit down with chips instead of holding up the game and getting your first buy-in at the table.

The exception to this rule is if they call for a brand-new game or table. Then they usually will have a dealer sitting there with racks of chips you can buy. And many casinos have chip-runners who will get your chips for you. All that said, there is never a downside to having your chips already.

You've signed up on the queue at the poker room, now the real fun begins.

Step 3: Sit Down and Play!

When you hear your initials called for your game, tell the poker host to "lock it up" for you if you want that seat. He will point you to your table and the dealer will let you know what seat is yours if it's not obvious (it'll be the one without someone in it or chips in front of it).

The dealer will ask you if you want to "post" -- that means put in the big blind and get dealt into the next hand right away. I recommend saying no and waiting until the big blind reaches you to start playing.

It will give you some time to get used to things and observe the action before jumping in.

Once you've posted that first big blind, that's it, you're officially playing poker in a casino.

Step 4: Remember the Rules and Maintain Good Poker Manners

Once you're in the game, you'll want to follow all the rules of poker etiquette you'd follow at a home game, but there are some rules you'll want to pay more attention to you might skip at home:

  • Remember to say "raise" if you are planning on raising. String bets are not allowed.
  • When you fold, make sure it's obvious and push your cards towards the dealer.
  • Casino poker is always played for table stakes, meaning you cannot bet more than you have on the table in chips at the time. In some casinos, $100 bills play if they are on the table, but check first before assuming this is true.


Step 5: Taking Breaks and Calling It a Night

If you need to take a phone call, go to the bathroom, or just clear your head, you can get up at any time as long as you're not in a hand. Just stand up and take your time. If you miss your blinds, you'll return to a token letting you know you'll need to post your blind to re-join, or you can wait until the big blind reaches you again to come back into the game.

If you're done playing for the night, just tell the dealer to deal you out and leave. You are not obligated to stay any length of time -- you can play 10 minutes or 10 hours -- it's up to you.