Poker For Dummies
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Call them rules, conventions, or Poker etiquette, some guidelines are common to all forms of Poker, especially Poker in card clubs or casinos. Although you may find some minor variations from one casino to another, many card casinos are working diligently toward a uniform set of guidelines.

Going all-in

If you don't have enough to cover the bets and raises, you are said to go all-in and are simply contesting that portion of the pot your money covers. Others who are active in the hand can still make wagers, but those bets constitute a side pot. At the hand's conclusion, the side pot is decided first, then the main pot. You aren't eligible to win the side pot because you invested no money in it, but you can win the main pot. You can buy more chips or put more money on the table between hands.

You can't drive someone out of a pot just by betting more money than he has in front of him. The player with the limited chip supply goes all-in — by calling with the remainder of his chips. If the all-in player loses, he either buys more chips or leaves the game.

Knowing how to raise

If you want to raise, just say "Raise." Then you can go back to your stack and count out the proper amount of chips. If you want to let your action announce your intention, you usually must put the correct amount of chips into the pot, and do it all in one motion.

No splashing

Avoid splashing the pot: Don't toss chips into the center of the table where they mingle with the others. Instead, stack your chips neatly on the table about 18 inches in front of you. The dealer will pull them into the pot when the action has been completed on that round of betting.

If it's your first time in a public cardroom, tell the dealer so he can help you through the mechanics of the game. After a few sessions, you'll be familiar and comfortable with the majority of playing procedures. Soon you, too, will feel like a regular.

Protecting your hand; cards speak

In a casino, unlike in many home games, you are always responsible for your hand. Toss it in the muck (the pile of discarded cards), and your hand is fouled and cannot win. The rule in all cardrooms is that cards speak — your hand is worth whatever value the cards have. Dealers, however, can make mistakes. If you think yours is the best hand, turn your cards face up and announce it. Place it halfway between your chips and the pot, and hold on to it while the dealer determines the outcome.

If you're not sure whether you have the best hand, turn all of your cards face up at the end of the hand and allow the dealer to read your hand. If you are in a Poker club or casino and there is a doubt or debate, even if the hand is over, casino security cameras can review the hands that were shown down to determine the winner.

Sticking to table stakes

Most games, including most casino games, are table stakes. You can't add chips or money to the amount in front of you during the play of the hand. If you run out of money during a hand, you can contest only that portion of the pot that your bets cover. You can't go light — that is, pull more money out of your wallet — as you might do in a home game. You can, of course, always add more money to your playing stake between hands.

Taking time out

Anytime you are unsure of anything, the best procedure to follow is to call "Time!" This freezes the action. Then get your questions resolved prior to acting. Poker etiquette suggests that you not abuse this privilege, particularly if you are in a game where you are charged a fee for sitting at the table. Players usually want a fast, efficiently run game with as few interruptions as possible.

Dealing and decks

Dealers — and decks — generally rotate every half-hour. In addition, players unhappy with their run of cards are prone to holler "Deck change!" Most cardrooms permit a change once a deck has been in play for an entire round.

Grasping the finer points: Etiquette

Poker rules and etiquette helps speed the game along and keep it orderly. These conventions are as much a part of the game as the cards themselves. In fact, when you play casino Poker for the first time, Poker etiquette may take more getting used to than the game itself.

Keep in mind the following points of Poker protocol:

  • Act in turn. Each player is expected to act in turn as play proceeds clockwise around the table. If someone bets and you plan to discard your hand, wait until it's your turn to act before doing so. Not only is acting out of turn impolite, it can give a big advantage to one of your opponents. If he knows you'll fold your hand, it makes it easier for him to bluff and is unfair to the rest of the players. In Poker, as in most things, it's considered polite to wait your turn.
  • Keep your cards in plain sight. In order to maintain the integrity of the game, players must keep their cards on the table during the play of the hand. The best way to protect your hand is to keep it on the table and look at the cards by shielding them with your hands while lifting a corner of each card to peek at it. In a game like Texas Hold'em, where players have only two cards in front of them, it's customary to leave them on the table after looking and to place a chip on top of them. This alerts the dealer that your hand is still in play.
  • Avoid discussing hands in play. Discussing your hand with others, even if you have released it and are no longer contesting that pot, may provide information that would give another player an unfair advantage. If you want to discuss a hand with a neighbor, wait until the hand concludes.
  • Practice toking. Toking (Poker parlance for tipping) the dealer is customary when you win a pot. In Poker casinos, tokes constitute a significant part of each dealer's income. The size of the pot and the game's betting limits generally determine the amount of the toke. If you're new to casino Poker, take your toking cue from the other players at the table. In games with betting limits of $10–$20 or higher, a dollar is a typical toke for all but the smallest pots. In smaller games, tokes of fifty cents are the rule.

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