Casino Poker differs from typical home games. Although kitchen-table Poker may be long on camaraderie and unusual variants of the game, there are many reasons to play in a public cardroom. The most important factor may be that there is always a game. In fact, you frequently have a choice of games, which are often available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Another major advantage, especially in the very large Poker clubs in urban locations, is the safety of public cardrooms. These venues offer professional dealers, floorpersons, and video security the equal of any Las Vegas casino to ensure that games are run squarely. Because people walk around cardrooms with large sums of money, there are more security guards than you’d find in most banks. Parking lots are brightly lit, well patrolled, and free of strong- arm crime. Because most large clubs offer check cashing, safe deposit boxes, and ATMs, there’s no need to walk around with large sums of money in your pocket. You can also take advantage of the players banks available at many large clubs. Although you can’t write checks against it, a players bank is like a conventional bank account except that it’s in a casino. You can deposit money and withdraw cash when you need it.
In a public cardroom, there’s never any pressure to stay. Nobody minds if you quit the game a winner. Someone else is usually waiting for your seat. You do, however, have to pay to play. It costs more to play in a casino than a home game where all you have to do is split the cost of food and drinks.
Casinos, however, offer a variety of games. If you don’t feel like playing Texas Hold’em you can play Stud, Lowball, or Omaha High-Low Split. If weak players are at your table, you can punish them continuously. Weak players in home games eventually become ex-players if they can’t win some of the time.
You’ll find the pace of a casino game to be much faster than most home games. Dealers in a casino try to maintain a quick pace. If you are playing in a game with a time collection, you are paying the same fee per half-hour of play regardless of how many hands are dealt. Consequently, dealers act efficiently, and players are expected to make prompt decisions.
Things you’ve probably done in home games just won’t happen in a card room. No one ever fishes through the discards. The dealer handles the deck. You play your cards without the help of a neighbor.
Entering a game: The how-to
When you enter a cardroom, you may see a white board full of players’ initials. These initials are listed under games that are available. For example, if you walk into a large casino, you might find seven players ahead of you waiting for a $2–$4 Hold’em game. Just give your initials to the board attendant and indicate the games you want to be listed for. You might say:
“My initials are ABC. Put me up for the $2–$4, $3–$6, and $5–$10 Hold’em, the $5–$10 Stud, and the $4–$8 Omaha High-Low Split games.”
That’s all there is to it. It’s as easy as taking a number at Ben and Jerry’s. Your initials will go up on the board for each game you request, and you’ll be called as seats become available. If the board for a particular game is so long that the club can start another, the attendant will announce that game and call the players in the order they are listed. When you hear your initials, go to the table and grab a vacant seat. You’re in the game.
Some cardrooms don’t use a board. Just give your initials or first name to the attendant and tell him the games you want to play. In small cardrooms, where there are only one or two tables, ask the dealer if a seat is available or if there is a waiting list for the game.
When you first sit in the game, either the floorperson or dealer will ask you how much you want in chips. Each game has a minimum buy-in. Give the floorperson your money, and you’ll get your chips. Large casinos have chip attendants. One of them will take your money, announce to the table that “Seat five (or whatever seat you occupy) is playing $200 behind.” That means you bought in for $200, and the casino is in the process of fetching your chips. You can play that hand, even though your chips have not yet arrived. The dealer will either lend you some chips or keep count of how much you owe the pot. Your chips should arrive about the time that the first hand is played to its conclusion.
Shuffling and dealing
You may never have noticed, but the shuffle procedure in a casino is much more rigorous than it is in a game with amateur dealers. Home game players are usually unfamiliar with the mechanics of a good shuffle, and many lack the manual dexterity to perform one. Well-trained casino dealers assemble the deck so the cards face the players, frequently preceding that by scrambling the cards on the table. This is followed by a four-step procedure of shuffle, shuffle, riffle, and shuffle. Finally, the dealer cuts the deck and deals. The procedure is efficient, quick, and designed so no cards are flashed in the process.