Playing poker in a live poker room can be scary the first time you do it. Here are some general guidelines you can use to make it a little easier.
When you arrive at the poker room, you will need to sign up by putting your name on the list. Most poker rooms seat players on a first-come, first-served basis. Some poker rooms have very long wait times (like 1 to 2 hours) while others may have a short wait (5 to 10 minutes). For tournaments, you might want to get there super-early if it is a popular tournament to ensure you will get into the tournament.
You can usually put your name in multiple tables. You can also take a lesser-desired table and switch tables later. In some poker rooms, players can phone in and place their name on the list. In some poker rooms (usually smaller rooms) will offer a bonus to a player that is willing to open a new table.
Buy your chips from the cage at the casino. It is better to make sure that you receive the denomination of chips that fit the stakes you are playing at. For example, if you are playing in a $1/$2 limit game then you should make sure you get some $0.50 chips in order to post your small blind. Otherwise, you will have to get change when you post your small blind. Another example, is if you are playing $10/$20 and buying in with $200, then you won't want any 200 count of $1 chips - you will want a lot of 5s and 10's.
Poker is a game where you are playing against other players, and not playing against the house. Therefore, there is no "house edge". The casino takes a portion of every pot, called a "rake" (or "drop") to provide the casino's revenue. For ring games (non-tournament games), the rake is about 5-10% of each hand, up to a maximum amount.
Instead of charging a per-hand rake, the casino may charge an hourly rate for renting a seat at the poker table. This fee is referred to as a "time fee", or simply "time." Time fees are sometimes combined with a rake, but that is less common. Time fees are more common in higher-stakes games.
For tournaments, the fee is usually anywhere from 0-25% of the buy-in. Anything above 10% is considered high. Fees for charity tournaments though, can sometimes be very high. It is not unheard of to see 50% of the total buy-ins go to the charity. Most players are not bothered by this since the express purpose of a poker tournament hosted by a non-profit is to raise money for the charity. A tournament will usually be advertised as "buy-in + fee". For example, "$200+$20" would mean that the buy-in of the tournament will be $200. This money goes to the prize pool. The $20 is the fee that goes to the house. In this example, the total cost is $220.
If you buy chips from the dealer, than place the money on the table. Casino employees are not allowed to accept money directly from a player.
You may or may not be required to post a big blind. If the big blind is close to coming around to you, then you can just sit out and wait for it to come around.
Note any special rules of the games, such as a "kill".
Take the chips out of your rack and put the rack either on the floor or on a side table near you. You can't play out of your rack.
If you have any question about how things work at the poker table then ask the dealer. He would much rather answer a simple question than have to kill a hand or deal with a dispute between players because someone make a mistake.
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