Going into a casino and playing poker for the first time can be a daunting experience. It’s not the same thing as getting a bunch of buddies around a folding table at home. However, follow these simple rules, and you might find yourself fitting in and perhaps even winning a whole lot faster.
1) Watch before you play: Some casinos will randomly place you at a table, but others will give you a choice as to what group you join. Either way, you should take a moment to watch the chemistry at the tables before you play. See how the betting is going and who the power players are. Having a feel for the rhythm of the table before you start to play gives you an edge.
2) Lurk for a bit: The worst thing you can do when sitting down at a new table is to try and take charge of the game, either by placing huge wagers in an attempt to control the hand or by simply talking up a storm at a table where quiet contemplation is the norm. You don’t want the table to unite against you based on first impressions.
3) Be friendly with the dealer: No, the dealer isn’t going to risk his job by cheating on your behalf just because you’re pleasant. However, it’s always good to have someone on your side at the table. The other players aren’t going to look out for you, but a dealer, especially one who you’ve tipped after a win, is going to pay extra attention to make sure the rest of the table is not hustling you.
4) Don’t give out more information than you need to: As the expression goes, “loose lips sink ships.” Professional gamblers are always fishing to find out what cards you have in an attempt to learn your betting habits. If you don’t have to turn over your cards, then don’t. It’s hard enough to win at the table without having your “tells” broadcast to the world. You may be tempted to let the whole table know you just won a big pot on a colossal bluff, but doing so will only ensure the victory in a one-time affair.
5) Remember where you are: You are not playing at home with your friends. These people at the table, while they may be decent folks, engaging conversationalists, and terrific story-tellers, they are NOT your friends. Don’t be lulled into a sense of security. When push comes to shove, they’re going to take advantage of you, so stay on high alert at all times.
6) Don’t chase lost money: After a significant loss, many players will go “on tilt” and end up making ill-timed oversized wagers in an attempt to climb out of the hole in one fell swoop. It rarely works. Win or lose; you should never change your strategy based solely on what just happened in the previous hand.
7) Get up and go: Set an amount of time for yourself to play and stick with it. Whether you are up or down, spending too much time at a poker table can only cause your concentration to suffer. The longer you stay, the more mistakes you will make. That’s not going to help your bottom line in the long run.
Poker can be an entertaining diversion, but while you can have fun in the process, you must treat it seriously, or else you won’t be able to stay solvent long enough for the enjoyment to come your way.