It can be a terrifying experience, entering a casino. Fresh with images in the mind from Hollywood scenes that suggest fiery dealers and intricate etiquette, casino virgins might feel daunted when laying their first bets. And, especially, us poker players, who may have only played online, could consider a physical felt a scary proposition.
Today I hope to alleviate some of these fears to ensure everyone can enjoy the true experience of playing Hold 'Em without the fear of looking like a newbie. These tips should help you hold your head high in the face of sharks and, finally, make that transition to live play that you've always dreamed of.
One of the biggest flaws to my live game (until it was publicly, and embarrassingly, pointed out) was how nervous my resting face was on the table. When I was grinding in the casinos of London at the start of this decade, players would tell me how shaky I looked on the tables compared to when at the bar or in the smoking area. One of the most obvious reasons for my exterior while playing was because I was trying to be overly conscious of my body and its subsequent tells.
But I found when I stripped back this consciousness, the cognitive capacity taken up by such a block was freed up to play poker. Not only did this make me feel more confident on the tables, it almost completely cut out some of my more stupid plays. Jared Tendler's famed coaching book, The Mental Game of Poker goes into this in more detail.
Understand the Etiquette
While this seems obvious, a sure-fire way to look stupid is to be told off by the dealer. While most are charming as a result of their profession, after an eight hour shift, if you're trying to put money into his hand, he's unlikely to be happy with you. No, dealer's can't touch money that you are touching, so place it on the table if you'd like to hand it over. Don't sit too close to other players and, for the love of god, don't put your eyes anywhere near your neighbours' cards when they pick them up.
Try and go with someone who's been before and, hopefully, they can fill you in on the biggest dos and don'ts. Make sure you understand your maximum and minimum buy-ins for the cash games. Most players, up to NL1 will buy in with 100 big blinds, but 1/2 players can go up to 400. Study what you have and check what other players are using. Sitting with a particularly small or large stack could raise suspicions.
When all's said and done, visiting a casino or a poker room is supposed to be an enjoyable activity. They are setup to ensure you have a good time. If you're raging at everyone who sucks out on you or screaming at donkeys, you're not going to be adding to that fun so will. probably, be ejected.
Verbal assaults have been an intimidating part of poker - especially for those of us with a more limited understanding of the game. Salty losers are never appreciated and its these experiences which make it a daunting experience for newcomers.
In keeping with these rules, you should find your casino experience all the more enjoyable. But, the first thing to remember, is that with experience comes confidence. Cultivators of the game will be keen to ensure there's as little tension on the tables as possible, but tension is as much a part of the game as cards - so don't take a frayed tempers personally.