“May all of your cards be live and may all of your pots be monsters. The name of the game is no-limit Texas Hold’em, the game that takes a minute to learn but a lifetime to master.”
— Mike Sexton, American professional poker player and member of the Poker Hall of Fame
Poker has never been this popular. Between big-time online poker tournaments, mobile apps, and even games like Red Dead Redemption jumping on the bandwagon, there’s simply no shortage of places where you can get your poker fix.
Of course, now that you’re all good with poker in the comfort and privacy of your own home, maybe it’s now time to take it to the next level: live poker.
See, before the internet, the only way people played poker was in real life. Face-to-face, with real cards, and real players all around you.
Without a doubt, online poker has its benefits. But nothing’s quite like immersing yourself in the real deal, the way poker was meant to be played.
That said, it would be prudent for you to blend right in, so here are a few tips to keep you from making an ass out of yourself when you do finally sit down at a live poker table.
First Things First
Before you even head out, let’s make sure you have a couple of things nailed down:
You actually know how to play poker. At the very least, you know what beats a straight flush, what the rules are for Texas Hold ’Em, and how games are conducted. A little refresher might help, and you can even take some time to just be a spectator for your first visit. Just remember that before you dive in, you actually know how to swim.
You’re appropriately dressed. Make the effort and freshen yourself up before you head down to the cardroom. Nobody wants to play with the person in the stinky T-shirt who probably hasn’t showered in a week.
Be respectful of everyone. Poker is an elegant game for a more civilized crowd, and such, you can go a long way by being friendly and well-mannered. Be particularly nice to the dealers. Be social. Who knows? You might even make a few new friends before the night is over.
At The Table
Now that you’re about to pit your skills against other players (who are likely to be just as skilled as you are), keep in mind these simple, common-sense tips on poker etiquette:
Be mindful and attentive. Everybody’s got their head in the game, and so should you. Real poker players pay attention to what’s going on in and around the table.
Stack your chips so others can see and count them. Another common courtesy—stack your chips neatly in columns of 20, just so it’s easy for the dealer, spectators, and your fellow players, and just to avoid confusion in general. Keep your higher denomination chips out in front as well, while you’re at it.
Be a good sport. When you’re at the table, don’t discuss strategy, don’t disturb other players, don’t stall unnecessarily, don’t whine when you lose, and don’t gloat when you win.
Be careful with your cards. Don’t flash your hole cards (the cards you’ve been dealt) to your neighbor when you’re about to fold. Just tap out and let the game play out for everybody else.
Don’t touch cards or chips if you’ve been touching food. It’s just bad form to get all that grease on the cards and chips. If you have to eat, do it away from the table, and make sure your hands are clean when you’re ready to play.
There’s a reason why players continue to engage in live poker: it’s a great experience.
Which is why, as welcoming as the live poker community is, you must also make the effort to keep the game enjoyable for everybody else. Be pleasant, be respectful, and be civilized.
A lot of these etiquette pointers are very much common-sense items, but these days, players new to the live poker experience can benefit greatly from these gentle reminders before stepping into the Sacramento poker room and mingling with others.