Playing live: what you need to know

OzExorcist

OzExorcist

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This topic comes up fairly regularly and I often respond with links to half a dozen different threads, so thought it might be helpful to put this all into one place, particularly since we've now got an ideal forum section for it.

The following is information for people who may have been playing online for a little while and are ready to make their first foray into live poker - be it at a casino, a club, a bar game or even a home game. Some of it's borrowed from other posts I've made on the subject, but a lot of it is new.

Hope it's of interest and help to some of you: as far as my credentials in covering this stuff goes, I deal live games as a second job, and play live in casinos on a regular basis.

Feedback is more than welcome, I'm happy to answer any questions (or be corrected, if necessary), and feel free to add if you think anything's been left out. I'll keep adding as well if I think of anything more.

RULES

Live poker has a bunch of rules that most online players will be unaware of. Surprisingly, there isn't actually one hard and fast set of rules used all around the world. Pretty much every casino will have their own take on them. Most casinos defer to either Robert's Rules and/or the Poker Tournament Directors' Association rules, so familiarising yourself with them and then asking about how your particular card room applies them is probably a good idea.

Following is a rundown of the ones that will trip you up most often:

Don't string bet: a string bet is when, in the absence of any verbal announcement, you push forward a pile of chips then go back to your stack and push forward another pile. Only the first pile you pushed forward will be allowed to stand - I see this one happen most often when people are going all-in: they just start pushing out chips without announcing anything, and their bet gets cut short at the first chunk to be moved onto the table. Dealing live games, I have to pull a player up on this at least once a week.

The lesson? Always announce what you're going to do when it's your turn. If you're going all in, just say "all in", then you can take whatever time you need to move your chips in, and do it in as many trips as is necessary. Similarly, if you're going to raise, just say "raise".

The reason: theoretically, if you were allowed to keep adding chips to the pot in several motions, you could pick up a tell on your opponent in between motions and adjust your bet size to suit.

Don't act out of turn: some places will just shoot you dirty looks for this, some will take action if you keep doing it, so just don't. Always wait for your turn.

The reason: if players know that you're going to fold, it could affect their decision. A player that was considering folding their own hand may stay in or even raise if they know you're folding.

Single oversized chips: unless you announce otherwise, if you thrown in a single oversized chip (say, a $100 chip when the bet is only $40), in the absence of any verbal declaration your bet will be deemed a call. If you mean to call, just say call and avoid any confusion. If you mean to raise, say raise.

The reason: consistency avoids confusion - you'll get used to it quick enough.

Don't muck your winning hand: something online players will never have come across - once your hand touches the muck, it's declared dead. So if there's only two of you left in the hand and you muck your cards while the other player still has theirs, then they win the pot. Even if you had the winning hand. So never muck your winning hand - either let the dealer take it away after they've given you the pot, or wait until they ask you to throw it in.

The reason: this is actually a (likely unintended) side effect of the muck rule - you just need to remember it.

Don't talk about hands while they're happening: same live as online, but the temptation live is greater to say "Damn, I would've had a full house" when the flop comes JJ5 and you mucked J5 yourself. Online, you'd be saying it to an empty room. Live, you're saying it within earshot of other people who are still playing the hand and it could influence the result.

The reason: as with the acting out of turn rule above, you're giving players information they didn't already have and it could affect the outcome. If they know what you folded, they'll know those are cards that their opponent can't have.

Don't tell the truth about your hand: a whack rule, but a rule none the less: you're not allowed to tell people the truth about your hand. You're not allowed to tell the other player in a hand "I have a flush" if you actually do have a flush. You're allowed to tell them you have quads if you have a flush though. Go figure.

The reason: actually... as far as I and many others can tell, there is no good reason for this rule :p

'Protect' your hand: this isn't so much a rule as it is a guideline - protecting your hand is optional. It's a good habit to get into though, as it can save some misunderstandings or arguments.

"Protecting" your hand just means putting something on top of your cards, to signifiy that you'll be playing them. You've likely seen the pros use all sorts of things for this: Greg Raymer's fossils are one of the more famous examples, as are Humberto Brenes' sharks.

If you don't have a fossil or a toy shark to hand, don't panic: most people just use a chip anyway.

The reason: occasionally, especially if you're sitting to either side of the dealer, a player will fold their hand and the cards will land near (or even on top of) yours. If you protect your hand, there's no confusion over whose cards are whose, and there's no confusion later in the hand over whether you've folded or not. If your cards are protected, it says "These cards are mine, and I'm not finished playing them yet".

High denomination chips go at the front: not all places will insist on this, but enough will that it's worth mentioning.

Particularly in tournament play, you can be expected to keep your highest denomination chips clearly visible, either at the front of your stack or on top of it. So put your lowest denominations at the back and work from there.

The reason: this one's mostly just to prevent you deceiving other players. If you've got three stacks of $25 chips at the front of your stack, but you're hiding another couple of stacks of $500 chips behind them, an opponent could think you have less than you really do when they're betting against you. Some places will also insist that you don't have any 'dirty' stacks (stacks with mixed denominations of chips) in them for the same reason.

WHAT TO EXPECT

In addition to having different rules, live games can also play a little differently to online ones, depending on what you're used to. A few things to look out for:

Don't expect to be able to pick your own seat: in a casino, at any rate, you'll usually just go up to a registration desk or window and put your name down for the stakes and game that you want to play ($2-$5 no limit, for example). When a seat at that game becomes open, you'll be called for it. This means table selection as you might know it online doesn't really exist when you first sit down. Unless you're especially friendly with the floor manager, but anywho...

Also, don't be surprised if you have to wait for a seat in a ring game, particularly at busy times (weekends and evenings, mostly)

Nobody comes to the casino to fold: or at least, most people don't. The effect this has is that you'll find a lot more players willing to play any two cards. Pots with five or six limpers aren't uncommon.

There's a couple of reasons for this: one is that a lot of players aren't necessarily in the casino to play poker - they're there to gamble. They could just be playing poker as a change from craps or roulette, where they're used to taking -EV against the house. Playing J8o at the poker table seems like a fantastic proposition in comparison.

The other reason is that people often make a special trip to the casino, and dammit, they came to play! If they've only got four hours to play in, they don't want to be folding every hand.

This doesn't apply to everyone, of course - there will be some solid players there who will either wait for a good hand or will be much more effective at playing the loose style. What you need to do is work out relatively quickly (and it'll usually be obvious within a few rounds) who is playing what style, and how you're going to play against them.

Live players often seem "worse" than online players: this isn't actually true, I don't think, but the stakes people play at will make it seem that way. The lowest ring games most casinos offer is $1-$2, so this is where most of the fish and casual players end up. In a lot of cases, you can expect this to play similar to a 5c-10c (or lower) online game.

Pay attention to the pot size: unfortunately, live poker doesn't have a HUD. Online, at the very least you're used to the pot size and stack sizes of your opponents being on the screen in front of you. Live poker doesn't have anything like this, so you've got to train yourself to keep rough track of the pot size.

OTHER STUFF

Don't heckle your dealer: there's one at every table: someone who keeps telling the dealer "This is the third time you've given me this hand" or "What's with these crap cards you keep giving me" or something along those lines. We've heard it before, we've got no control over what cards you're getting and while we might even sympathise sometimes, there's not much we can do about it. So please don't heckle, and frown at anyone who is heckling for us :D

Get used to handling cards and chips: something that can only come with experience, unfortunately. But good live players will be able to pick someone who's new to live poker pretty much straight away by the way they handle their chips and cards.

It sounds superficial, but if you can try to learn a few simple chip tricks at home before you go to the casino, it can save you getting so much undue attention from the experienced players. Put "poker chip tricks" into YouTube and you should find a few short but helpful videos.

Just don't become one of those douchebags who's come up with some incredibly sexy looking way of folding their cards which makes the them fall face up every other hand.

Tipping: if you're playing in the US, you'll usually be expected to tip your dealer (when you win a pot, I believe). If you're in any doubt as to what the norm is, just sit out the first couple of hands and see what other people do.

If you're playing in Europe (or Australia), tipping the dealer is usually discouraged and/or prohibited.

So know which applies, and act accordingly. If you're playing in a tournament and not a ring game, a different procedure may apply if you're lucky enough to make the money. Some tournaments take out tips as a percentage of the buyin, others assume you'll do it yourself out of your prize money should you feel so inclined. Check with a floor person or the payout cashier if you're in any doubt.

It's OK to ask for clarification: even if it seems like a stupid question, the dealer is there to help and should be happy to help you out.

Though if you by some bizarre conincidence find yourself at my table, please refrain from asking me what the minimum bet is more than once in the same hand. It's kina dealer-tilt-inducing :rolleyes:

Hope this was helpful to someone, and like I said at the top, I'm happy to answer any questions or for people to post additions and corrections :)
 
LyndaNova

LyndaNova

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:hello: Hey Oz! What a great post! I really enjoyed reading it!
It's not often one gets to read about what to expect at a live poker game.
I think you did a fine job of covering many different aspects.

:congrats: Well done!



 
C

CfPoker

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Nice post.

I'd suggest you edit the single chip rule to include this clarification:

If betting has not been opened then throwing an oversized chip (compared to the minimum bet) then the bet is the value of the chip. If you mean to bet less you must announce it befiore it hits the felt.

I had this happen last week. Blinds were 100/200 and there were 2 of them in the pot, which only had 400 in it. Player A only had a single 5000 chip, and first to act on the flop he threw it in. I told Player B it was 5000 to go and Player A thought he should have got 4800 change. The 5000 stood, player B happily called it with a set and Player A was eliminated.

Oh, and maybe a slight clarification on string betting/string raising:

Announcing "raise" without giving a figure does not give you the right to string-raise, which follows the same rules as string betting. When raising there is an optional second trip you can make however, and that is to make up the previous bet, before throwing in your raise.
 
C

CfPoker

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Oh, and I also find the rule about not being able to announce your hand to be completely baffling :)
 
ajrobin

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Great post, especially as im going in for my first live tournement soon! Thanks for the tips :).
 
NineLions

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Very useful and well written post Oz! I only play live once or twice a year at charity tournaments so this is good reference stuff for me.
 
Jillychemung

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Add another one to seat choices.

Once you are seated at a table, it doesn't mean you have to stay in that seat forever. If a player leaves the table you may ask to move to the vacated seat before anyone else is seated at the table. This can help you get a better position on a 'fish' that you have a read on or get out from a bad position on the table maniac.
 
beardyian

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Nice piece and very informative

Its always good to be sure you dont stick out like a sore thumb before you even get dealt a hand :D
 
zachvac

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ok so how do string raise rules work? I was actually wondering that myself, I'll usually just say raise, count out the amount to call, and then say "6 on top" or however much more and then throw the chips in. But I'm assuming if I say raise, take out the 2 to call, put 2 more in the pot, make another trip back to my stack and put 4 in that it'd be ruled a min-raise? I've never played live in anything but home games, but even these games the players know that string betting is wrong. Usually if someone does it they're just given a warning especially since most of the time people don't try to gain something from it, they just made a mistake. I've got another 2 years before I can even play in a casino anyway, just wanted to clarify on that rule if it happened in a casino.
 
Jillychemung

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I think of string bets pretty simply as trying to put chips into the pot more than once without making a verbal bet. Verbal bets are binding and can't be overridden after the fact by how many chips you put in the pot. Without a verbal bet, you may only make one action into the pot with chips and this one action is the one that is evaluated as to whether it is a call or raise.

If you verbally announce, 6 on top, then you can make as many motions into the pot as you want to accomplish this.

If you make no announcement and were to just put in 2 and then try to put in 6 for the raise, you would not be allowed to put in the 6. You first motion was with 2 and that would be deemed your action and a call.

And if you verbally only say Raise, then you are allowed 2 motions into the pot. The first to put in the chips to make the call and the second to put in the chips for the raise.
 
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JimmyBrizzy

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I play in the casino's once or twice a month, and I just make sure to announce every action before I do it.

As long as you announce your action, and say the amount of your raise before you touch your chips, you'll never have to worry about a rule.

Doing this also puts you in a routine to make a decision, announce it, then make the motion. Being in a routine, no matter what hand you have, helps eliminate confusion and also helps decrease natural tells that you might not know you give off.

Chris Ferguson has one of the best processes/routines I have seen and it seems to work for him.

YouTube - Can you spot Jesus' tell?http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UmPa7gRcMdghttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UmPa7gRcMdg
 
OzExorcist

OzExorcist

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Jilly's got it - I'll make a couple of quick edits to the OP to clarify that and the single overside chip rule.

...or maybe I won't - don't seem to have an edit button on the OP, suspect it's because it's so giganto-huge already :p

So:

String bets, part deux:

Jilly is right on the string betting issue. If you make no announcement, only your first betting motion will be allowed to stand (and you'll be required to correct it to make it either a complete call, or a complete minimum raise if you get the amount wrong somehow).

If you announce "raise" and nothing else, you're allowed to make two motions: one to put in the amount for the call, and a second to put in the amount for your raise.

If you announce "raise" and then the amount, so "Raise - $20K total" or "Raise, $50K more" or the always fun "Raise - all in", your verbal action will be binding and you'll be allowed to make as many motions as is required to get the right number of chips in the pot.

FWIW, pros can actually be among the worst at string betting - you'll see pros at wsop and WPT final tables making string bets fairly regularly. I think once you reach the final table of a big tournament they treat it kinda like the travel rule in professional basketball: they'll only pull you up on it if you don't do something cool afterwards.

But for us mere mortals, it's best just to remember to verbally declare your actions.

Oversize chips, part deux:

CfPoker is right: what I've said above only applies to calling a bet. If you open the betting on any given round, the chip will play for its full value unless you announce otherwise.

Note that, before the flop, an oversize chip should always be ruled as a call unless announced otherwise, because there's always a live bet (the big blind, at the very least) to you.

Moving seats:

The above is also correct: while you can't usually choose your table or your initial seat, you can ask to change seats once you're at the table.
 
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nevadanick

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Oh, and I also find the rule about not being able to announce your hand to be completely baffling :)

Not all that baffling, really. In a live game, it could well be the most obvious collusion tactic available, no matter whether it is used to aid 'a friend' in a decision or to accomplish major collusion efforts at a table, live or online.

bluffing is allowed, live and online. Bluffing (generally) means you DO NOT have what you are stating. To state your exact hand, live or online, is not considered 'bluffing' and is therefore out of bounds.

The real trick in this is deciding when to call a specifically stated hand, if it occurs. If the casino has a 'dead hand' policy on this, you need to make the call to see the villain's hand in a showdown.
 
zachvac

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lol so say there are 3 spades on the board, and you have AJs for the nut flush. You can say "I have AQ of spades" since it's not technically true but for all purposes of deciding to call or fold it is. Am I correct, or would this be ruled illegal since I basically am saying in both cases that I have the nut flush?
 
OzExorcist

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lol so say there are 3 spades on the board, and you have AJs for the nut flush. You can say "I have AQ of spades" since it's not technically true but for all purposes of deciding to call or fold it is. Am I correct, or would this be ruled illegal since I basically am saying in both cases that I have the nut flush?

I think that'd be legal, because you've lied about your hand - you 100% do not have AQs.

It really does illustrate how silly the rule is.
 
C

CfPoker

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Another scenario is there might be 3 spades on the board, and you say "i'm on a flush draw". A lot of players use speech play like this, and the silly no declaring your hand rule makes this a very fine line to tread.

I can see how it might be exploitable for collusion, but I think if there's a couple of players colluding they might be able to think of something more sophisticated than verballing announcing their hands to each other.
 
C

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Don't muck your winning hand: something online players will never have come across - once your hand touches the muck, it's declared dead. So if there's only two of you left in the hand and you muck your cards while the other player still has theirs, then they win the pot. Even if you had the winning hand. So never muck your winning hand - either let the dealer take it away after they've given you the pot, or wait until they ask you to throw it in.

An example of this happened in my favour this evening. Blinds were 100/200 and I was on the big blind with 23o. 6 of us saw the flop for a pot of 1200. SB and me checked. Player after me bet 800. Everyone folded to me. I'd completely missed so picked up my card protector and moved my hand to my cards ready to fold them. The other guy threw his cards onto the muck at which point I quickly stopped my folding action (my cards were not yet folded - i'm quite entitled to move the cards in my area however I want for some sort of read). I win the 2000 pot because my opponent has mucked his cards.

It's one of those rules that sounds a bit silly (why would you muck a winning hand), but it does happen, so it's worth being aware of :)

Simple rule of thumb: don't muck your cards until the dealer has awarded you the pot.
 
zachvac

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Sorry but one more question about casino play. Home games this happens all the time, for example just last night I had TT against this total maniac and he shoves on a J high flop. I tank for a bit, start talking to him, seeing if I can get something, and during talking I flip my hand over and say "well I have tens, you want me to call here?". I realize of course it'd never be legal (even in the home game) unless it was heads up and there were no future decisions. But in a casino can you show your hand when it's heads up and you have an all-in decision with no action behind you?

(lol and if it is legal do you have to lie about the hand even after it's face up? :D)
 
OzExorcist

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Zach, I think that one varies a lot from casino to casino and, more importantly, varies a lot between cash and tournament play.

In a tournament, in theory it should get you a penalty every time under TDA Rule 31. Note that the hand will not be ruled dead - the penalty will commence at the end of the hand.

Cash games tend to have a slightly more anything-goes approach. I suspect if you just did it the once and someone objected, you might get a quiet word from a floor person but not much more. Some places might be more strict than others - I've not actually seen it done in any casino cash game I've played, but I don't see there'd be any harm in just asking the dealer "Am I allowed to show him my hand?" if you wanted to have a go at it.

So in short:

In a tournament - definite no
In a cash game - kinda sorta no but maybe yes it depends :p
 
B

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Don't tell the truth about your hand: a whack rule, but a rule none the less: you're not allowed to tell people the truth about your hand. You're not allowed to tell the other player in a hand "I have a flush" if you actually do have a flush. You're allowed to tell them you have quads if you have a flush though. Go figure.

The reason: actually... as far as I and many others can tell, there is no good reason for this rule
tongue.gif
Wow, I had no idea this was really a rule. I tell people what I have a lot (sometimes the truth, sometimes not) if a pot is HU and they are pondering a call. No one has ever said anything to me. I mostly just do this if Im playing in a home game, but I know Ive done it at the casino before without anyone saying anything.
 
C

CfPoker

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As far as showing your cards go my understanding of that one is:

If it is heads up (the tournament, not a specific pot) then you may do this without penalty.

Otherwise this will earn you a penalty but the hand is not dead.


Now, this gets strange given that your hand is dead for telling the truth, but showing your cards (which is telling the truth..) is just a penalty afterwards..
 
tenbob

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Great thread +rep.

Zach, it depends from place to place. My local casino had a rule that if you exposed even one of your hole cards then your hand was deamed mucked, even if it was HU. Ive played in other places where ive seen a guy play the turn and river with his cards totally exposed (go figure, and it was allowed).
 
4Aces

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Great post OZ. I shall read this again and again if I ever venture into playing live. I'm sure this will help a lot of people. +rep.
 
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switch0723

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very nice Oz, can we have this moved to strategy forum?
 
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