Your First Live Poker Session

If you’re new to live poker, it might seem a little daunting at first. Whether you come from an online background or not, playing live poker in a casino or cardroom is a little bit different.

So today, I want to walk you through the process in case this is your first time doing it to ensure you don’t make any social faux pas. I’ll even give you some tips for how to play live poker even better.

Push play and/or continue reading to make sure your first live poker session goes smoothly.

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My name is James Sweeney, aka SplitSuit. I’m a poker player, coach, and author, and I’ve been around this game for about two decades now. I actually started playing live poker when I was just 18. I went to college in Syracuse, which was right next to Turning Stone Casino, which is an 18+ casino.

So I got to cut my teeth on live play very early. And I can still distinctly remember the first time I ever played live poker at Turning Stone. It was very overwhelming. It’s the first time you have to interact with floor, you have to deal with dealers, you have to manage your own poker money, you have to deal with physical chips and cash, and just so many different things that can happen.

Not to mention, there’s a lot of noise going on.

It can be a lot. So, if you’re a little nervous about it right at this moment, don’t worry about it. You’ll get through it. Just make sure to follow some of the steps we talk about in this guide. Alright, so let’s just start from the very beginning.

Finding Your First Live Poker Game

How do you find a live game? Well, there are two major places I would look for if you’re looking for a local card room or casino.

  1. The Bravo App:
    You can download the Bravo app on your phone and look around for card rooms near you. It’s also very good because it shows you how many games are running in those places. Not all rooms use the Bravo app, so it may not have all your options.
  2. The Poker Atlas App:
    The Poker Atlas app or webpage is also very helpful. It can find everything near you and provide reviews on the room.

Get A Poker Seat Quicker

A quick tip whether or not you are new to live poker. You can typically call your card room in advance and put your name on the list. This can save you waiting time, especially on busy nights.

Some rooms will hold your name on the list for 30-60 minutes, and so long as you get checked in before that time expires, you will find yourself at the top of the list.

If you have a longer drive to your poker room, call ahead (hint, the apps from earlier have the direct phone numbers to the poker room!)

Checking In & Getting Chips

Once you actually get to the poker room, where do you go first?

You should go directly to the front podium in the poker room and talk to whoever is there to figure out the situation. If you haven’t already put your name on a list, now is the time to do so.

When it comes to getting chips, it’s essential to ask the floor how they prefer you to get them.

Some rooms allow you to buy chips directly at the table, while others require you to go to a cage. A cage is the area where you trade your dollars for chips and vice versa. Make sure to clarify the process to avoid any confusion.

How I Buy Poker Chips In Live Games

You are more than welcome to use my personal method for buying chips in a live game.

I go to the cage and trade my cash for chips. This is usually 2-4 buy-ins for the game I will be playing.

I keep my main buy-in in chip denominations that make sense. And the rest goes into my pocket in bigger denomination chips.

I explain the process more in this video if you’re interested:

Essentially, if I bring $1K to play $1/$2, I get $200 in reds and the remaining $800 in green. All the green chips go into my pocket in case I need to reload later, and the red stays in the rack and is ready to go to the table when I’m called.

If I’m playing $2/$5 and bring $2K, then I get $400 in reds, $500 in greens, and the remaining $1,100 in black $100 chips. I use a 2 pocket system where black chips are in the left pocket, and green chips are in the right pocket. Then I’m ready for reloading and topping off if need be.

Just be sure to empty all of your pockets when you cash out for the night!

Understanding Your Poker Room’s Rules

Before sitting down at a table, take a moment to inquire about any specific rules or atypical things you need to be aware of in that particular card room is always helpful.

Rules can vary from room to room, so it’s wise to gather information in advance to save yourself future headaches.

Now Play Live Poker

Finally, once you have checked in and everything looks good, your name will be called and you’ll be given a table number. Go to the table, take an empty seat, enjoy yourself, and hopefully cash out with more than what you came with.

Remember, live poker is still just poker at the end of the day, but with a slightly different process than when playing online. Therefore, it’s important to observe, ask questions, and clarify any confusion you might encounter during the game.

Play poker, stay focused, and have fun!

Live Poker Tips

As promised, here are a couple of tips to make your live poker experience more enjoyable and profitable, especially if you’re a beginner player.

  1. Be Selective:
    Understand that live games are typically loose and passive. Therefore, it’s crucial to be selective with your starting hands and play aggressively with your strong hands. Bluffing should be done in moderation, considering most players did not come to fold.
  2. Keep Quiet:
    When you’re not in the hand, avoid discussing the board texture or speculating on other players’ hands. Aside from potentially violating rules, talking about your hypothetical holdings gives away information about your own poker ranges and serves no purpose.
  3. Verbalize Your Actions:
    In live poker, verbalizing your bet sizes and actions when involved in a hand is usually binding. Failure to verbalize can lead to confusion and unfavorable outcomes. Make sure to announce your actions and bet sizes to avoid any misunderstandings.
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Playing live poker as a beginner can be a fun experience. By following the steps and tips outlined in this guide, you’ll be better prepared to navigate the live poker scene and improve your overall gameplay.

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