Playing Casino Poker for the First Time
By: Robert Marinelli

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If you are one of those poker players that has been playing the game locally or online for some time, but never ventured into a casino poker room before, here are some things you can expect your first time at the tables.

While it may be natural to be nervous the first time in a new, usually noisy and flashy environment, poker is poker. In a casino poker room, there is a person in charge of seating players at the various tables. Approach them, and you can ask what games they are dealing and if there are any seats available. They will either place your name on a waiting list, and notify you when a seat is available, or, if you're lucky, they will seat you right away.

If there's a chip cage in the room, you may be directed to buy chips from there before heading to the table. Or, you may be directed to buy chips straight from the dealer. Either way, the floor person will guide you in the right direction. they will also let you know the minimum and maximum buy-ins for the table.

Once seated, you may have to post a blind bet to enter the action. Some rooms require this, others do not. Also, you may have to wait until the dealer button passes you before you are dealt into a game. Once again, some rooms follow this procedure, others do not. Either way, the dealer will gladly guide you on this matter.

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Now that you're being dealt into the hands, here is some common poker etiquette.

Act in turn. Even if you know you are folding, wait until it is your turn to act before doing anything. Acting ahead of time gives an unfair advantage to some players at the table. The dealer will let you know it's your turn to act either by looking directly at you, or gently prompting you.

When it is your action, you can check by gently knocking or tapping on the table. This is a sign to the dealer, and allows you to avoid speaking and giving away information to your opponents.

Declare your raises. If you simply put up enough chips to call the bet, the dealer may think you are only calling and move action to the next player. When raising, you can either declare how much you want to raise, and then move your chips into the pot, or simply move your chips in one motion. You cannot keep going back and forth between your stack and the pot moving in more and more chips. That's called a string bet, and it's not allowed.

If a player doesn't have a small enough chip to call a bet, they may move in the smallest chip they have, and the dealer will make them change. This is another reason to declare your raises. Moving in a more than it costs to call doesn't always mean someone's making a raise.

Casino poker is played for table stakes. If the money is not on the table at the beginning of the hand, you cannot bet it. So, if your chip stack is low, re-buy before the hand is dealt. Don't wait until you find pocket Aces and then try to buy more chips.

In online poker you don't have cards to worry about. In a casino, you have to protect your cards. That's why you see people putting objects or chips on top of their cards. That keeps your hand from being accidentally mixed in with other cards. So, protect your hand by placing a chip on top of your cards.

The muck is poison. Should you muck your hand, you cannot retrieve your cards. If you mistakenly think that you have no opponents left at the end of a hand, and you muck your cards at the showdown, they become dead cards. This can cost you the pot.

When it comes to declaring hands, feel free to let the dealer declare yours if you are at all unsure about it.

About the author:
Robert Marinelli, known as mongoose, is a webmaster, author and gaming enthusiast. http://www.online-poker-rules.net

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