If you have never played poker in a casino before, or even sat at the table with friends, you may wonder what/how you get started and what you need to know. This little intro is a crash course for a few of the games and limits.
The list person or brush: they are generally situated at a podium and have exactly that…a list for different limits and games. In order to take a seat in a game, you need to check with the list person and put your name on the list if there are no open seats - and you may need a roadmap to find a certain table, the list person can point you in the right direction. If you are in a game and want to transfer to another game, the list person will let you know when you can move.
Cocktails are usually free if you are seated in a game but tipping is expected - although not mandatory.
Limit games mean there is a limit to the amount of money that can be bet or raised on each card. An example would be $4-$8 Holdem. On the first two cards, dealt down to each player, it is a $4 bet and raise limit. On the Flop (three board cards placed, face up, in the middle and shared by all players), it is a $4 bet and raise limit. On the Turn (fourth card placed face up in the middle by the Flop), it is a $8 bet and raise limit. On the River (the fifth card placed face up in the middle by the Turn), it is a $8 bet and raise limit.
No Limit means that you may bet any or all of your chips at any time during the hand. And you surely have watched poker on TV at some point where the standard game is No Limit Holdem.
Spread limit or unstructured means there is still a minimum and maximum amount you can bet but if the limit is $2-$25, you can bet any amount from $2 on up to $25.
Pot Limit allows a bet or raise that's equal to what is in the pot.
For the sake of simplicity, the two examples of games are Holdem and 7 Card Stud.
Holdem is played with a ‘dealer button’ on the table. The Button moves from player to player in a clockwise manner and the first player to the left of the Button must post the small blind (the small blind is half the amount of the small bet limit, i.e. in $4-$8 Holdem, the small blind is $2) and the next player must post the big blind (the big blind is the size of the small bet limit, i.e. in $4-$8 Holdem, the big blind is $4).
The Small Blind player is also the first person to be dealt cards. And throughout the hand, the first player with cards, to the left of the Button, is always first to act.
On the first two cards dealt in Holdem, each player, in turn, must call the Big Blind bet, raise, or fold…they cannot check.
The Blinds are the weakest position because the player is forced to post the Blind without seeing their cards. This is how the pot starts, with the Blinds. The strongest position at the table is the Button player because they can see what everyone else is going to do before the action comes to them. But keep in mind that a ‘blind’ player has the option to raise when the action completes back to them. The only time you can raise your own bet, is when you are in one of the Blinds.
Once the first round of betting has finished, the dealer puts up The Flop. At this point, the first player may check or bet. If the action is a ‘check,’ each player may check. A check simply means you are passing the action to the next player; you want to see what they are going to do. If a player behind you bets after you check, when it is your turn to act, you have the option of folding, calling, or ‘check raising.’
In 7 Card Stud the ante starts the pot, just as the Blinds start the pot in Holdem. The deal always starts with the first person to the left of the house dealer. Each player is dealt two down cards, one at a time, and one up card, the upcard is what starts the betting action…this ‘up card’ is known as the ‘door card.’
The low card has to start the betting action. The low card is designated in alphabetical order by suit…i.e. the deuce of Clubs is the lowest card. The ‘low card bring-in’ is close to one third of the small bet limit. If the limit is $15-$30, the ante is $2, the bring-in is $5 and any player, in turn, can complete the bet to $15.
The next card, dealt up, is known as Fourth Street. Checking is allowed at this point and the high hand starts the action throughout the remainder of the hand. If a pair shows in the two ‘up’ cards of any player, the bet may be $15 or $30. THIS IS THE ONLY TIME a player may bet $30 on Fourth Street…if a pair shows. Otherwise the bet limit is $15.
The next card, dealt up, is known as Fifth Street. The bet limit now goes to $30. The next card, dealt up, is known as Sixth Street. And the last card, dealt down, is known as ‘The River.’
In Holdem and 7 Card Stud, you play the best five cards out of seven. In each of these games, you will notice the house dealer putting a card face down on the table (usually under the edge of the pot) before they deal ‘the flop’ or ‘fourth street' in stud. This card is never in play. It is the ‘burn card’ and protects the top of the deck in case a card is marked; it prevents cheating.
Most casinos limit the number of raises per card if there are three or more players in the hand; this prevents collusion. If there are two players left in the hand, they can continue to raise each other until one of them runs out of chips. If you run out of chips, you are entitled to win the pot that your chips matched the other players – if you have the best hand. This is known as ‘all-in.’ The dealer will create a side pot for the other players to continue betting against each other.
Games are ‘table stakes’ meaning that all money on the table, must remain in play until you are ready to leave and you can only play what you have in front of you when the hand begins. You can, however, add to your stack between hands.
If you call a hand to the River, always make sure you turn your cards face up in front of you and let the dealer read your hand. If your cards aren’t face up in front of you, you have no claim to the pot; consider them to be tickets to the lottery, you need them to win.
Read Poker Basics for more information