First time playing no limit hold’em cash games live?
So, you’re ready to head out to a casino to play No Limit Texas Hold’em live for the first time. You’re excited and anxious at the same time. You have practiced, feel confident that you understand the basics of the game, and want to test your skills. You’re looking forward to playing no limit live for the first time – and – you hope it doesn’t show.
Here’s a few tips to keep you focused. Like the How to Play No Limit Texas Hold’em: The Basics series, these tips are about the mechanics of the game. They are intended to make you feel more comfortable when sitting down at a no limit table for the first time – so you can free your brain to focus on the play.
- When you arrive at the casino, go to the Poker Room desk. Register with the Board Person to play at a $1/$2 no limit hold’em table and pay. (Presumably, you have done your research online and know the minimum and maximum buy ins for the Poker Room you are at. The minimum buy in is the amount you have to pay in order to get a seat at a table. If the min buy in is $100 and the Big Blind is $2, you will start play with 50 Big Blinds. [Bellagio’s and the MGM Grand in Las Vegas both have $1/$2 games with min buy ins of $100 and max buy ins of $200. The max at the Mirage and Mandalay Bay is $300.])
- When you first sit down at the poker table, give the dealer your membership card. Some dealers will ask you for it, and others are distracted with the current play. For the distracted ones, have your card ready and visible and when the dealer is ready he/she will swipe it. (You don’t have to have a membership card, but, hey, why not gain points while you are learning.)
- When you join a table already in progress, the dealer will ask you whether you want to begin playing immediately or wait until the Big Blind. I usually wait until the Big Blind so that I can observe the players at the table. If you begin right away, there is an extra Big Blind in that hand – yours and that of the “real” Big Blind.
- When it is your turn to put chips in the pot, count the chips, then place them in front of you. The dealer will sweep them into the pot when he/she is ready. Place the chips over the line on the table. There may not be an actual line drawn on the table; there may be a demarcation in the table design or an imaginary line. The imaginary line is about 6″ – 8″ in front of you. A friendly dealer will reach over and move your chips to the correct area if you didn’t quite make it. Watch for this so that you can be prepared the next time.
- When betting, count the chips and move them in front of you in one action. It is against the rules to move chips in, then go back to your stack for more chips. That type of action is called “string betting” and is not allowed.
- Do not ever reach into the pot or touch anyone else’s chips. If you need change, the dealer will make it after sweeping the chips into the pot. So, if you are in the Big Blind and need to put in $2 in chips and you only have $5 denominations, put a $5 chip in front of you, and the dealer will give you three $1 chips after the blinds are swept into the pot.
- Your stack of chips must be on the table visible to all players at all times.
- If you have so many chips that you are stacking in rows, the largest valued chips need to be on top or in the front of the stack.
- Do not pick up your chips or place them in your lap or pocket. Occasionally, you’ll see a player doing tricks with one or a handful of chips. This is acceptable as long as the chips are visible at all times.
- Stack your chips neatly so that they can be quickly counted.
- Remember to not look at your hole cards before it is your turn. Okay, so I know that you can’t resist the temptation. If you must look at your cards before your turn, always cap them with a chip or your favorite token until it is your turn. Doing the same thing every time after seeing your hole cards, gives opponents little information. The tendency of novices is to look before it is their turn, cap the hands that they are going to play and do something different with the hole cards they are going to muck – broadcasting their intentions. Do not give the other players at the table any inclination of the action you might take.
- When you look at your hole cards, do it so that only you can see them. Even if the players next to you are not in the hand, do not let them see your cards. (Easy as this sounds, it takes practice to find a comfortable angle for your eyes only.)
- When you raise, if you verbally announce the amount, make sure to clearly state your intention. There is a difference between “raise $12” and “raise to $12″. If you “raise $12”, you must put in any amount already due, say a Big Blind of $2, plus an additional $12 for a total of $14. If you raise to $12, then you put in the Big Blind of $2 and an additional amount of $10 for a total of $12. Properly stating your intention can save you $2.
- If you bust out (run out of chips), but want to continue playing at the same no limit table, put your money discretely in front of you where your chips were and the dealer will take the money, count the chips out and ship them over to you. (Point is: don’t be waving the money or tossing it toward the dealer.)
If you’ve got the mechanics down, read How to Crush Live $1/$2 No-Limit Hold’em by Daniel Skolovy. He has great advice for keeping beginner no limit players out of trouble during live sessions.