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What To Expect My First Time Playing Live Poker?

What To Expect Your First Time Playing Live Poker At A Casino: A Beginners Guide


 I often get asked for tips on what to expect your first time playing poker at a casino. After all these years, I quickly forgot the intimidating feeling of stepping into a new world, completely clueless and overwhelmed. It can be an intimidating environment. But have no fear! By the end of this article, you will be well on your way to feeling comfortable at the tables.


I've heard many stories of women feeling too intimated, and they shy away from trying to play live poker. As an ambassador for the Women's Poker Association, that breaks my heart. So I hope that men and women alike will have an excellent first live poker experience. 


Today I'd like to help prepare you whether you play home games or are an online player trying your hand at live poker. And if you're someone who frequents the casino, you might learn some new tips you didn't know.


These tips will be helpful in most casinos, although some situations will be a bit different.


First, make sure to bring as much cash as you might need to play your poker game of choice. The ATMs at casinos usually charge a frightening fee. These can add up over time, so it's best to come prepared!


Secondly, there will be a player's reward area when you arrive at the casino. Ask someone to locate this area for you. When you get to that area, give them your ID, and they will sign you up for a rewards card. Your rewards card tracks how many hours you've played and accrues credits for food or items at the casino shops. Because the casino takes a rake (a percentage of the cash game pots), it's a way to get a rebate and reward you for your time spent there. I find this to be beneficial, especially when I can get a meal or free drinks because of my points. Also, in some cases, you'll need to swipe your player's card at the table to be eligible for special promotions (Aces Cracked, Bad Beat Jackpots, etc.)


Okay, let's get you in the game. You're here to play some poker! Once you locate the poker room, there's usually a front desk or podium. Tell them the game you wish to play, and they will add you to the list. For example, "I'd like to get on the $1/2 No Limit list, please." Once they add you, your place in line will show on the TV screens. Stay close by so you don't miss when they call your name when it's your turn!


It's time! You hear your name called for your game of choice. The employee at the podium area will give you a table number. I play at many new poker rooms and don't know the table numbers, so I always ask to be pointed in the right direction.


Now what? Let's talk chips. Before heading to your table, you have the option to get your chips from the cage (cashier). Various limit games will use different denominations of chips, so if you get them from the cage, let them know what game you are playing to ensure they give you the proper breakdown of chips. Your other option is to sit down in your seat, and the dealer will have a chip runner grab them. They will automatically bring the appropriate chips for the table stakes. It is customary to tip chip runners at least $1 for getting your chips, so if you're looking to save money over time, I recommend getting your chips at the cage.


It's time to take your seat! Find the open spot at your table. If the chip runner is grabbing your chips, you will still be able to play/bet while you wait, despite the chips not being physically there. If you already grabbed your chips at the cashier, grab them from the rack and put them on the felt. The dealer should ask you for your player's card. And since you got your card already, you've come prepared!


The dealer will swipe your card, and now you're ready to play! I won't bore you with the game rules as I hope you're familiar with them. However, my first time at a live table differed from only playing online. But have no fear; even if you're confused or overwhelmed, the dealer will help guide you. Don't be afraid to ask if you're not sure.


Here are a few practical poker tips that will help make your first time as smooth as possible:


  1. Always be ready to post your blinds. Having your blind out helps speed up the game and makes the experience smoother overall. 

  2. One chip is always a CALL. If you put one chip out there as a bet when there's prior action, the dealer will assume you're calling even if you intended to raise. Verbalizing any action you want to take will ensure minimal confusion.

  3. If you want to raise or go all in, make sure you grab all your chips in one motion and put them across the betting line. Remember, when you place your bets, you must make them in one forward motion. You cannot reach back across the betting line to put more chips in the pot.

  4. Protect your cards. It's your responsibility to make sure the other players can't see your hand. 

  5. Don't forget to tip your dealer! It's customary to tip the dealer a minimum of $1 after winning a pot. It's simply a part of the live game. Be kind to your dealers :)


I hope after these tips, you're ready to hit the tables! But, while all these things will help ease your first-time jitters, don't forget to HAVE FUN! 


It's perfectly normal to be nervous. But once you've got a couple of sessions under your belt, you'll quickly adapt to all the subtleties and nuances.


Poker is a social game. Don't be afraid to talk and make conversation at the tables. Cheers and... may the cards be in your favor!

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