What to Think About Before Playing Casino Poker

“These two have no idea what they’re about to walk into. Down here to have a good time, they figure ‘why not give poker a try?’ After all, how different can it be from the home game they’ve played their whole lives?”

–Matt Damon as Mike McDermott in “Rounders”

For most of us, our first poker experience was nowhere near a casino. Either we learned from friends or family members in home games, or we plugged into the online poker craze. Still, the idea of playing poker in an actual brick and mortar (B&M) casino, with all the attendant sights and sounds, is very tempting for most. So what do you need to know when transferring your home or online skills to casino play? There are many distinctions between online and B&M play, but two factors you may immediately want to consider are tells and casino type.

1. Tells

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The main concern most people have when moving from online to B&M play regards tells. A tell is a physical action a player performs that may give opponents a clue to his hand, such as putting a hand to the face when bluffing. Online, since your opponents cannot see you, physical tells are not really concern (there are online tells, but that is beyond the scope of this article). In fact, one popular poker site has an advertising campaign where they invite those players who have a “bad poker face” to join, since no one can see your face online. In the movie “Rounders,” quoted at the beginning of this article, the villain is undone by the way in which he handles an Oreo cookie depending on whether or not he has a big hand. In reality, tells are rarely this extreme. Most of the time when you play in a casino, especially a “tourist” casino (see following), your opponents are much more concerned with what they are holding than what you are. Even when an opponent scrutinizes you, staring you down while contemplating a call, they’re generally just considering how much they like their own hand. Real tell-spotting requires long, careful observation of a player’s tendencies; you’re not likely to give much away on an individual hand. Professionals like to give the impression that they can just look right into your soul and know what you’re holding, but there’s a lot more to it than that. If you’re really worried you can buy a pair of reflective sunglasses to wear so no one can see your eyes. You can also always wait a predetermined amount of time (five or ten seconds) before acting whether your hand is strong or not so strong and pick a predetermined spot on the table to stare at while waiting for someone to respond to your action.

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