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Here is some good advice that applies before you play your first hand of Hold’em in a Casino Poker Room:

  • What’s a Low Limit Game?

Keep in mind that what makes a low limit game of cards the skill level of the players themselves, not just the limit that is being played.  If you walk into a poker room and you see ten high limit players playing in the smallest Game in the House, then this is not a true low limit game and you should avoid it like the plague.

You will often see this situation when there is a list for a high limit game but there aren’t enough players to actually start the game.  So these players will sit in a low limit game while they’re waiting for their game to get started.  On the other hand, if you see ten of the worst players you know playing in a $10-$20 game, you’ll know that that’s not a true high limit game either.
  It’s the skill level of the players that determine the true characteristics of a game.  Keep this in mind if you have your choice of more than one low limit game to get into.

  • What Limit to Play?

If you’ve never played before, or if you have very little experience at Hold’em, you should play in the lowest limit game you can find.  There are some excellent $1-$2 games out there but it recommend you move to a higher limit as soon as you’re able to.  The specific advice contained in this book is geared for that limit and this structure has big advantages for the serious player that will be explained later in this book.

  • Phone Numbers

If you play often, carry a list of the phone numbers of the poker rooms you frequent most and call ahead to get on the list of players waiting to get into a game.  That way you can move up the list while you’re on the way to the card room.

  • Getting There

If possible, go by yourself and have your own transportation.  Nothing screws up a good poker game like having your spouse or friend pull you out of the game because they have to go or they have the only means of transportation.

  • Supplies

Before you leave the house, make sure you have the following items with you.  If necessary buy yourself one of those hip hugger pouches that you were with the strap around your waist.

  • A sweater or jacket.  Even if it’s 110 degrees outside you may be sitting still for hours at a poker table situated right under an air conditioned vent.  It can get very, very cold.
  • Prescription glasses if you have them.  Even if you don’t ordinary wear them, you’ll find that after ten hours of squinting at cars in a dimly lit, smoke-filled Poker Room, your eyes could use a rest.  It’s especially helpful if you have prescription sunglasses.  You’ll often be in a seat where the glare of the lights hits the cards just right and you won’t be able to see anything.  At its worse, it looks like a small mirror in the middle of the table aimed right at your eyes.  Good, polarized, light-weight sunglasses are a blessing.
  • Aspirin, Tylenol, Ibuprofen, ,antacid, all the cigarettes and medicine you take regularly.  Many casinos have a policy against providing aspirin for gambles.  Something about liability insurance.  Cigarettes bought from a casino bar can cost is much as $ 3 per pack.

Hot Tip: If you do run out of cigarettes while you’re playing and you feel t hat it will affect your play, then I strongly recommend that you go ahead and pay whatever it takes to get a cigarette between your lips again.  Three dollars for a pack of cigarettes is a small price to pay compared to what you could lose playing play poker while fretting over a cigarette.

  • Time  Limit

If possible, have an open-ended time limit on your play.  Game conditions change and you should play as long as you’re a favorite to win in the game.  I recommended that you don’t if you know you can play a few minutes.
Also, don’t play for any length of time if you feel like you wouldn’t feel well enough to sit through a two-hour movie.  If you don’t fell well enough to watch a movie then you certainly don’t feel well enough to play strongly in a poker game.

  • Scope Out the Game

If you have to wait for a seat you should watch the game you intend to play in.  if possible, talk to a friend in the game to get a briefing regarding the opposition and who is using what style of play.  Find our who the real beginners are, if there are any.
  Also, listen to the table talk.  Too many low limit players will talk about the had they just passed, what their last hand was, why they played it the way they did, or why they didn’t play the hand.  these players will put you on the inside track to their thought process without making you learn the hard way.

  • Keep Learning

If you can’t watch the game you’re going to be in, then utilize your waiting time by reading the latest issue of Card Player Magazine if there’s one available.  Your Poker Education should be an ongoing, lifetime endeavor.  You have to work at it just like you would any other serious job.

  • Watch for Beginners

Pay attention to the floor personnel and the dealers because you might see them explain how to play the game to a customer.  When you see this player in the game you’ll know he’s a beginner.  Two good clues that you’re playing against a beginner.  Two good clues that you’re playing against a beginner is when you hear a player asking a lot of questions about how to play the game, and when a player keeps his skill poker chips in a rack to play out of.  It slows up the game terribly.  Your more experienced players don’t do that.

  • House Rules

The house rules should be posted conspicuously nearby.  Read them.  Typical house rules look something like this: 

  • All games are table stakes.  No short buy-ins (or one) are permitted.
  • Only one player per hand.
  • Check and raise is allowed.
  • One bet and three raises maximum, unless head-up.
  • No string bets allowed.
  • Players are responsible for protecting their own hand.
  • No food/reading at the table.
  • Any player at the table may ask to see any called hand at the end.*
  • The decision of the floor person is final.
  • Jackpot Games

Find out if there’s a jackpot in the game you’re going to get into.  Depending on the limit, there may or may not be one.  It’s possible that even though a jackpot is advertised in the card room, you may be in a game that doesn’t have one.  Ask.

  • How Many Hands?

Notice if the game you’re going to be in is nine or ten handed.  Sometimes a player will leave the game without the floorperson noticing and the game will go on nine handed without anyone realizing it.  A Game is not necessarily full just because the floorperson think’s it’s already full.

  * At the showdown, any player at the table can ask to see any called hand, regardless of whether they’re in the pot or not.  If the hand is not called, no one may ask to see the hand.

  • Comps Available

Find out if the poker room offers any type of comps to the poker players.  Most of them do.  The typical deal is that the poker room will treat you to a free meal in the casino restaurant if you play poker for a minimum amount of time.  You can usually still get the comp if you lose all of your money before you’ve played the minimum three hours or so.

  • Game-Playing Tips

Systematically reviewing the above list will pretty much prepare you to Play Hold’em without encountering some of the most common problems that face beginners.  The floorman has just called your name and you’ve just been seated in a Texas Hold’em game.  Here’s what you should keep in mind now that action is coming your way:

  • How Much Should You Buy in For?

Absolutely no less than $100 in a $1-$ 8-$ 8 game, proportionately more in higher limits.  You need to have enough money in the game to play your hands correctly without regard to how many chips you have in front of you at any one time.  You must be able to lose a hand and still have enough chips (called checks in a casino online poker game) left to put a lot of checks in the next pot if the hand calls for it.

If you’ve decided that you’ll put $20 or $40 more into the game should you lose some of your original $100 buy-in, then you should go ahead and buy in for the whole $120 or $140 in the beginning.  If you lose $40 of a $100 buy-in that would represent a 40% loss to you.  But a $40 loss with a $140 buy-in is only a 28% loss to you.  Psychologically, you’ll feel better about it and you’ll still have more money left in your stack. 
If you’ve decided that you’re going rebuy should the need arise, then you should rebuy at that time for the largest additional amount that you’re willing to put into the game.  Don’t wait to rebuy once you’ve made the decision.  Do not put $20 on the table and lose that, you’re playing your money and not your cards and that’s a sure prescription for disaster.

  • New Player

In most low limit games, a new player does not have to play his first hand in the big blind.  You have the option of not playing for two hands and when the deal passes your position you can receive a hand just to the right of the dealer.  This means you can at eight hands for free before you have to put in your $2 big blind.

  • Which Hand to Miss

If you have to miss one hand for any reason, the best hand to miss is when you’re just to the left of the big blind.  Because of your position relative to the other players, this is when you’re at the biggest positional disadvantage of any player at the table.  The playing requirements are so high for this position that you’ll almost never have missed a good, playable hand.  there’ll be more about this later under the heading of what Hands to play poker odds in which positions.

  • When to Take a Break

If you have to be away from the table long enough to miss two hands then the best time is when it is your big blind.  Get up and do not play when it is your big blind or small blind.  Then, after the dealer button passes your position, put in both your big and small blinds (you must make up missed blinds in this game).  You will be coming back into the game in the best of all possible positions, late positions, and you will have already called to see the flop.

  • Don’t Lose Your Seat

Remember that if you leave the game for more than one hour in most cardrooms, you are subject to having your checks picked up and your given to another player.

  • Pick a Good First Hand

As obvious as it may sound, choose the first hand you voluntarily enter the pot with very carefully.  It really helps when you can win your first hand.  It will  give you more room to play future hands more freely.  On the other hand, when you lose your first hand, you’ll have to start out by trying to dig yourself out of a hole and that affects your attitude toward the game.

  • Don’t Drink Alcohol

Not even one drink, unless you’re not going to play poker after your drink.  The advantage that you have as a poker player over the other patrons in the casino is that your decisions matter.  When you play poker, you’re not playing against the house.  You’re playing against other poker fundamentals players.  And the fact is that, in the long run, good players beat bad players.
  When you drink, you give away your edge as a good player and you become no better than, and often worse, than the bad players.  If you must drink, buy something with your poker winnings at the liquor store and take it home with you.

  • Don’t Splash the Pot

That means you should put your bets in a neat stack directly in front of you so that all concerned can see how much you’re betting and the dealer can move the game along faster.  When you throw your checks into the pot no one can be sure exactly how much you bet.  It’s for the protection of all.  There are players who deliberately throw six checks into the pot and then say, “I bet $ 8.”

  • Let the Dealer Make the Change

If you call a $ 2 bet with a $ 5 check, let the dealer give you the $ 3 change.  It may be raised $4 more behind you and it saves time to just say, “$1 more, please,” since you already have $ 5 out there.  Hold’em is pretty much an automatic game as far as decision making is concerned and every little thing that speeds up the game is appreciated by all.

  • Be Ready to Act When it’s Your Turn

You’ll instantly know what you want to do 95%of the time and you’ll often know what you intend to do even before it’s your turn to act.  When it is your turn to act, say  what it is you intend to do.  A verbal declaration of your intent made in turn is binding upon you.  This will allow the players behind you to think and start to act on their hands while you’re putting chips in the pot or folding your hand.

  • Don’t Act Out of Turn

It’s very time consuming to reconstruct the action and correct sequence of events after someone has acted out of turn.  This also means that you should not make distracting remarks about your hand or your intent to call or raise out of turn.  Good players do not have to rely on tricks or ruses of this type to win at poker.

  • Don’t “Hollywood”

Don’t needlessly delay on purpose when it is your turn to act.  While there is no rule against it, it is considered rude in Hold’em poker basic odds to take an inordinately long time to make a play that you knew you were going to make from the beginning anyway.  The benefit of this is that on those rare occasions when you do need extra time to figure out what to do, the dealer and the other players will give you all the time you need.

  • Don’t Criticize

You shouldn’t make comments that could be constructed as criticism or criticize another player’s play even when he hits a  1080-to-1 longshot to beat your full house (it’s happened to me).  There is no need to needle losers or make fun of winner who are playing badly.  And besides, you can be asked to leave the game for criticizing another player’s play.  Even a dealer who makes a comment about your play can be fired for it.

  • Don’t be Involved in Other’s Disputes

If there is a dispute or if there is an irregularity in the play of a hand, you should not say anything unless you are involved in the pot.  That means that if you’re not in the hand, don’t say anything.  The dealer, the participants in the pot and the floor person will straighten it out.  It’s been my experience that you only make things worse if you try to get involved in a dispute that is not yours.

  • Rake Break

When the game gets short-handed, ask the house for a rake break.  The house can reduce the rake to us low as $1 per hand or even let you play with no rake, but there is one rule you have to know about: the dealers are not allowed to suggest it first since they work for the house and the rake is how the house makes their money.
Also, be aware that if you play with a reduced rake, you may not eligible to win the jackpot if there is one.  If you have a choice of playing with a full rake and a jackpot, or a reduced rake and no jackpot, you should always opt for the reduced rake and no jackpot.  That’s the way to make the most money in the long run, according to the Odds.

  • Switching Seats

If you happen to be in a seat that you’re not happy with, you should be on the lookout for other players about to vacate their seats.  The first player to inform the dealer that he desires a certain seat is first in line for that seat.  There will be more about why you should change seats later in this book.

  • I Saved the most Important Tip for Last

When you win a hand, don’t give your cards to the dealer until the dealer pushes the pot to you.

Tipping Advice
  How much should you tip a dealer when you win a hand? if you already play in a casino, you already have an idea of what is comfortable for you.  I personally tip a dealer fifty cents for pots up to $ 50 and I tip $1 for pots over $ 50.  The dealer is not your partner in this game unless he or she is your spouse, he does not risk any money like you do, and he certainly does not give you any money when you lose a hand.  The dealer doesn’t share any of the risk you take when you put your money in the pot.
  I believe that the dealers are not automatically entitled to a percentage of your wins and you therefore do not have to tip more just because you win more.  I do, however, believe in tipping for good, efficient, friendly, competent service.  If you Play Poker regularly you will find that dealer tokes can be a significant part of your win if you let it get out of hand.  You should look at poker playing as your business and tips as part of the overhead.

One more Tip
  Here’s one miscellaneous thought to wrap this chapter and get you in the right frame of mind to study and enjoy the rest of this book:  Motivation times Ability equals Performance (M x A = P).  If your motivation is high and your ability is high, then your performance will be high.  If your performance is low, then you will have to determine if either your motivation or ability  (or both) is low.  I will leave this up to you to figure out how this applies to poker.