Live Poker Newbie Guide, Part 1: Pre-Game Tips

Going to the casino to play live poker for the first time can be intimidating, even for seasoned online players. This series will offer some tips and hopefully serve as a guide to make your introduction to live poker a smooth and enjoyable experience.

Assuming you know the basic rules of poker, I will focus more on useful tips, etiquette issues, and common situations in live poker games. In this article, you will learn everything you need to know before getting dealt your first hand at the table. Let’s get started.


Install the Bravo Poker app on your smartphone. Most casinos that offer live poker can be found on Bravo. The app provides real-time information as to which games are currently running, as well as current promotions and upcoming events.

It’s very similar to the lobby of your favorite online poker site. Some poker rooms even allow you to add yourself to a waiting list directly from the app! To check out which rooms are supported by Bravo, visit This app is a must-have for any live poker player!


If your local casino doesn’t sync with Bravo or offer waiting list signup directly from the app, I definitely recommend calling the poker room in advance to get your name on the list, especially during peak times. Sometimes you can walk right in and get a seat but better safe than sorry.

Driving to the casino only to wait an hour to play some poker sucks because you’ll find yourself at the bar drinking over-priced ale or throwing away money into some stupid slot machine. So, do yourself a favor and call at least 30 minutes ahead.


Bring some cash obviously, as ATM fees can sometimes be ridiculous. The amount of cash you walk in with is up to you but the best advice I can give here is to never bring more money than you’re willing to lose. Simple advice, but I’ve seen and heard too many stories where guys bring far too much to the casino and end up losing their entire paycheck (or more).

Depending on how long you want to play, you may want to think about bringing some healthy snacks to stay sharp and alert. Some poker rooms provide snacks but not all of them. It’s better to bring along what you like anyway so you don’t end up eating unhealthy or paying for over-priced casino food (unless you’re into that sort of thing).

Also, make sure to bring a phone charger as well as a pair of headphones. You don’t need to plugin right away and be unsocial from the get-go, but listening to music during a stretch of rag cards is a great way to prevent playing a hand out of boredom, at least in my experience.


For the love of God wear something comfortable. If you’re coming from work and will be wearing dress clothes, plan ahead and pack a change of clothes. I usually wear a pair of loose-fitting jeans, and if possible, a conversation-inducing t-shirt… because a talkative table is a profitable table.

I also bring along a hoodie, even in the summer, since some card rooms are too damn cool for my liking. Last but not least, leave the sunglasses in the car. Wearing a hat is fine but bringing sunglasses to the table is seen as either too series or too douchey (or both).


Once you arrive at the casino, you’re going to want to sign up for a rewards card, or more often referred to as a player’s card. When you sit down at the poker table, or any game for that matter, the dealer will swipe your card. All casinos reward their players differently, but the more you play, the more points you earn. Think of it as rakeback but for live poker. And you might as well start earning points from the very first hand.

Go the customer service desk or main cage to signup for your player’s card. And while you’re there, mention that you’re there to play poker and ask if you should buy your chips right there or if you should buy them from the dealer. That way you don’t have to wander into the poker room and not know where you should buy your chips.


The same goes for playing online but I’ll mention it here anyway. It’s important to be both physically and mentally prepared for sitting in a poker game for hours on end. Things like a good night’s sleep the night before and a good diet are key. Playing when sick or stressed usually doesn’t end well so make sure you’re in good shape mentally before leaving the house.

On the way to the casino, use the commute to get focused. Visualize yourself making fundamentally sound decisions at the table. And don’t listen to music that will hype you up. You want to be in a relaxed state of mind so you’re not playing emotionally.

This is where you can borrow from your normal pregame routine when playing online. If you normally watch a strategy video or poke around the forums, listen to a poker podcast that’s similar.


Hopefully, this article provides useful for you when going to the casino for the first time to play live poker. If you have any useful pre-game tips of your own, feel free to give it a mention below in the comment section.

In part two of this guide, I’ll offer some advice for adapting to live play from an online player’s perspective, such as etiquette issues, angle shooting, and more. Stay tuned 😉

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3 replies
    • Scott
      Scott says:

      Great tip! Definitely look for deals when booking overnight stays… and NEVER be afraid to ask for any available upgrades at check-in. You’d be suprised what you can get simply by asking 😉

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