Many first-time visitors to Sin City are looking forward to hitting the Hold’em tables and finding out just how good they really are. Before you do, however, it’s a good idea to brush up on your poker etiquette. If you play poker live at your local casino then you are off to a good start!
Thing is, the Best Vegas poker rooms can sometimes have their own etiquette and rules to follow, just like the rest of the Las Vegas casinos, so be sure to check our list of the Do’s and Don’ts before grabbing a seat at a table – a few minutes spent now could well save you a great deal of embarrassment – and even money! – later down the road.
The Do’s of Las Vegas Poker Rooms
Let’s start with the positives – be sure to follow these rules, and you’ll be off to a great start.
DO Always practice good table etiquette
This can be a tricky one to master at first, but if there is anything you are unsure of, ask the dealer straight away – they will be able to advise you on what is considered acceptable and what is not.
- Ask the dealer what the card room’s cell phone policy is – most of them now allow them at the table, but not while you are in a hand.
- You can step away at any time if you need to visit the bathroom or want to check on friends at other tables etc. Whether you are playing cash or tournament poker, there should be no penalty for this.
- Most card rooms have food and drink service, and you are generally allowed to eat and drink at the table – but never place any drinks or plates on the poker table itself.
- When placing bets, avoid “splashing” the pot. This means simply throwing your chips in rather than placing them neatly in a pile where the dealer can check them easily.
- State your action before you make your play – for example, declare “I fold”, and pass your cards face side down to the dealer, or say “I raise $50” before making the bet. This will ensure there are no misunderstandings, but know that verbal declarations are always binding, so think before you speak.
- Confirm if a betting line is enforced at this specific cardroom – you might want to make a $60 call but have $100 worth of $5 chips in your hand. As soon your hand crosses the betting line, the dealer will say “raise”, and all the chips in your hand that have crossed the betting line are now part of that raise, and you are forced to raise $120 rather than $60, since you brought more chips across the betting line than the call.
Note that all card rooms try and treat players fairly – if this is your first time at the room in question, the floor manager may decide this was a genuine attempt to call rather than “angle shoot” (see our don’ts section for more information on that) to allow you to call this time.
DO Consider sticking with limit Hold’em at first (Cash Games)
The thrill of no-limit Hold’em is tough to resist but remember – you are on new territory here. You have no idea what is going to happen at that table, or who you are playing against, until the cards are in the air. If you play no limit, you can be sure to find yourself risking your entire stack within the first few hands you play. You’ll find 2-4 limit and 3-6 limit tables dotted up and down the strip, so give those a try before playing No-limit Hold’em.
DO Consider how much to buy in with when moving up in No Limit (Cash Games)
If you are an online player, you’ll probably think that buying in for the maximum possible – and keeping your stack always topped up – if the best way to increase your Return on Investment (ROI). In Vegas, play a different strategy – buy the table maximum in chips, but divide them into manageable piles.
Yes, you are limiting what you can win – but more importantly, you are limiting what you can LOSE. Suckouts are going to happen, just as they do at home and online, but it’s much easier to handle when you can just rebuy using a fresh stack of chips from your jacket pocket rather than questioning if you can really afford to keep playing tonight!
DO Consider tournaments instead of cash games
Tournaments allow you to budget much easier than cash games. You need to make sure you have enough time to complete the tournament though if you get on a run – Mirage and Bally’s both have great tournaments with $60-$80 buy-ins with structures that won’t take a whole day to complete.
On the other hand, Aria, Wynn, and Venetian have much stronger regular players and their games are usually structured to last 6-10 hours.
DO Follow good tournament strategy
Most tournaments will allow a single re-buy, as well as an add-on that can usually be used any time up until a set deadline. Keep an eye on what the other players at your table are doing – for example, at Caesars Palace there are tournaments where you receive more chips for the add-on than you do to start with. Let’s be honest – every player at the table is going to take that deal, so the $80 tournament is really a $130 tournament considering the 1,500 starting chips and 3,000 for the add-on.
If most of your table re-buys immediately, you should do the same. If they wait, then you should do the same. If this happens and you start building a nice stack, you can consider the add-on as insurance later down the line.
DO Be polite – whatever happens
To be fair, this one could go in either section. Many players will lose their temper after a loss, and you absolutely must avoid doing this. Allow every player to take their time, if they need to, just so long as you are sure you are not being slow rolled. If you stick to playing at tables within your comfort level, you are much less likely to be angry when you lose, so keep that in mind.
The Don’ts of Las Vegas Poker Rooms
And now for the flipside – remember, you are the newcomer and the existing players at Las Vegas poker rooms will usually know what they are doing. The last thing you want is to be identified as a fish and have the whole table pick on you! Follow these simple rules, and your chances could rise dramatically!
DON’T Drink too much during a game
This is especially relevant when playing tournament poker where you are guaranteed to be at the table for a long time. Drink like a fish, and you’ll become a fish – your poker will suffer. If you want to have a beer every now and again, go for it, but keep some bottles of water for the times when your beer is empty, rather than just ordering another straight away. Trust me, your bankroll will thank you.
DON’T Go for the big games straight away
The best hotels aren’t just the best hotels because they have nicer rooms – it’s because they have the best EVERYTHING, including their poker rooms. These hotels will be stuffed full of highly talented players who have travelled into Las Vegas to fight against one another. Join a high-limit game, and you can pretty much guarantee you are going to recognize at least one of the players at the table! As cool as this may be, don’t kid yourself – you can’t take on these players and win.
In the Poker world, who is sitting at your table is what counts – not where you play. The “economy” hotels will have much softer tables, so this is where I would recommend you make your start. The worst that can happen is you will lose – which you would certainly have done at the bigger rooms anyway!
DON’T Angle Shoot
There are many underhanded and unfair methods that are technically “legal” but trying these “angle shooting” techniques is a sure-fire way to get yourself into trouble when you leave the table. One example of this is pretending to muck your hand by telling another player “Nice Hand” and making a deliberate action as if you INTEND to muck, only to get more information from the other player.
There are endless “angle shooting” techniques, and you need to watch out for them being used on you too.
And always remember…
- Never stall or delay the game. Pay attention when it’s your turn.
- Don’t ask another player to show their cards before they muck.
- Never reveal any of your cards to another player at the table
- Don’t discuss the current hand whilst it is in play – never speculate about another player’s hand, or what decision they might be considering making.
- Don’t assume any other player is going to help you! It’s your hand, and these are your competitors, they have their interests at heart – NOT yours.
There is much more we could discuss playing poker in Vegas, but this guide should have you reasonably prepared. Good luck at the tables!