Poker table with cards

WHAT IS HOT ACTION BLACKJACK?

The old gambling saloons of the Barbary Coast played a French game called “Vingt Et Un” or “21” which gave every advantage to the dealer.   The dealer could require the players to double their wagers after  the dealer saw his or her first card.  The dealer could decide whether to stand, hit or split after seeing how each player hand was completed.  The dealer could even collect quadruple payouts from the players if the dealer had a 21.  The dealer won all ties, which added to the dealer edge.  The players could not double down.   All the strategy decisions belonged to the dealer.  Understandably, the French game proved unpopular.

Casinos later developed the American game “Blackjack,” where the dealer had no discretion and the players could make the strategy decisions including, hitting, doubling down and splitting after seeing the dealer’s first card.  There are now hundreds of variations of Blackjack with different rule sets and odds played all over the world.

At the California Grand Casino, we offer the newer and more player-friendly “Hot Action Blackjack:” blackjack with better action and better odds than Vegas.  We add Jokers to the deck for more winning hands and more payouts for players.  The Jokers count as 12 or 2.  Players win more easily when Jokers appear, and players don’t bust at 22 if the dealer also has a 22.  

  • Players win 4 times their wager if their first two cards are Jokers.  (“Natural 24”)
  • Players win 2 times their wager if their first two cards are suited Aces.  (“Natural 22”)
  • If the Player and the Dealer both have a Natural 24 or Natural 22, the Player still wins.
  • Players are paid 6:5 for any Blackjack unless the Dealer also has Blackjack.
  • A Player 22 is not a bust if the Dealer also has a 22.

We also offer the Buster Blackjack Bonus Bet, which allows you to wager on the Dealer going bust.   You can win up to 200 times your bonus wager.  And with the added Jokers, there is more opportunity for dealer busts that pay more.

Unlike Nevada Casinos or Indian Casinos, at the California Grand Casino you also can wager on the dealer hand against all the other players.  The Las Vegas Casinos and Indian Casinos would never let you do that. At the California Grand Casino, there are more ways to Play and Win.

Girl with two cards

TEXAS HOLD ‘EM POKER TELLS PART TWO: POST-FLOP

Now that you have seen the other players look at their starting hands, the flop is your next opportunity for information.  As tempted as you might be to watch the dealer put out the cards for the flop, turn and river, it can be far more profitable to watch the other players watch the dealer put out the cards, especially the pre-flop raiser and any players who act after you. 

You are looking for some of the same poker tells we talked about in our first article about Pre-flop poker tells, but now your initial focus is on the other players’ reaction to the board. Do they stare at the board trying to make sense of it or do they look at the flop quickly and then look away because they connected (just as pre-flop a player with a good hand will look at their hand quickly then put it down)? Are they touching their chips? Are they shaking their heads or did they talk because they just can’t get any luck or help? Are they relaxed or tight when and after they bet? Are any of the players acting differently than normal?

Think about how long they take to act.  In no limit Texas Hold ‘Em, a value bettor on the river may take more time determining whether to bet and how much.  A bluffer may act faster.  While pausing may be a sign of a value bet, someone who checks slowly at any point may want you to think they have a stronger hand than they do and needed more time to decide.  However, in limit Texas Hold ‘Em poker many players find less reason to be deceptive and these indicators can change.  A quick bet may be stronger.  A quick call may indicate a drawing hand or a weak kicker.

Also pay attention to how your opponents place their poker chips in the pot when betting and calling.  Do they count out the chips deliberately?  Do they drop a pile out haphazardly, or place them down carefully.  How much force do they use to put the chips down?  For some players excess force when betting can indicate a bluff.  Regardless, you are looking for a relationship between how they act and what hands they show.

Lastly, remember to consider the players who have already folded their cards.  If two 5s come on the flop and a player who folded pre-flop grunts or makes a face, they may have folded one of the remaining 5s.  You can use this tell to narrow your opponent’s range. 

For example, suppose in a no-limit game, you open the betting from late position with a pair of 8s.  The small blind, a loose player who checks and calls, is the only caller.  The flop comes 6-6-9.  The small blind checks, you bet a little more than half the pot, and he calls. The turn is a 9 and you see another player who already folded make a face and turn away.  You suspect that player folded  a 9.  The small blind checks and you check back.  The river is an 8.  The small blind checks, you bet and the small blind immediately shoves all in for 5 times the size of the pot. 

Well, the small blind clearly has a hand.  He usually folds on the river when he misses, but here he quickly shoved.  If he thought you were bluffing or he had only a straight, he may have paused longer before he folded or called. 

So with this board there are a few possible strong hands: quad 9s, quad 6s, and full houses: 9s over 6s, 9s over 8s, 8s over 6s, 6s over 9s or 6s over 8s.  You have the fifth best of these hands.  Your first thought might be that you are in danger, but then you start running through his possible hands.  You are pretty sure another player folded a 9, so that rules out quad 9s.  That also means that the chances of 9s over 8s or 6s is less since there is only one 9 not accounted for.  So even though there are four hands that beat you, the odds of the small blind having a six is higher than the odds of him having two 6s or one 9.  You put this information together with your read of the small blind’s play , then you call.  The small blind turns over a K 6 suited. 

Don’t forget to watch the other players, even the ones who already folded.  Players who have already folded generally aren’t trying to hide anything, and you may get a good read on what they folded which will help you narrow your opponent’s range.  When you are playing Hold ‘Em every bit of information can help.  The California Grand Casino is a great place to improve your poker play and win in the Bay Area.

Girl's eyes and four cards

PRE – FLOP POKER TELLS: PART ONE

In movies the key to winning at poker often is reading your opponent’s body language.  “I don’t need to look at my hand, I saw you look at yours.”  While you can’t make a living solely by noticing when a player reaches for his Oreos after he bets, every piece of information helps.  And there is a surprising amount of information available from watching the other players even after you fold, especially in No Limit Texas Hold Em. 

How Can I Read Hands in Poker Pre-Flop

You can start with whether the player seems comfortable or uneasy. Are their body and eyes relaxed or does the player seem stiff? Then see if you can find patterns in other players’ behavior, and notice when they deviate from those patterns. What did they do differently and why? Where are they looking? Be careful as well to distinguish how they act when the action is on them, while they are waiting for action and after they act. The same behavior may mean different things in each instance.

What are specific things to look for?   Well start before the flop by watching other people look at their cards.  How long does the player look at their cards?  Players that see two Aces tend to keep their hand close to the table and put their hand back down quickly.  There is an almost instinctive fear that other people may see their cards.  Players looking at hands closer to the bottom of their opening range may lift their cards higher and perhaps look at them a split second longer.

Notice what the player does after they put their cards down.  If the player looks at or touches their chips, that may mean they intend to play that hand.  Notice how they look at or touch their chips.  See if you can discern a pattern correlated to when they raise or call.  

And definitely look to your left.  The information about what people may do after you act is potentially more valuable since the players to your right will have acted before you.  Notice if any of the players look at their hands before it’s their turn to act.  If so, then watch them do so whenever you can.  If you see that a player to your left is likely to call, you may want to play your drawing hand and see if there is a multi way pot, or raise to chase them out.  If you see they are going to raise, you may want to tighten your range.  If on the other hand, you can tell they are going to throw away their hand, you might play more aggressively. 

These are a few basic concepts pre-flop.  In the next part, we’ll talk about other things to pay attention to after the flop.

Table with chips in the casino

TEXAS HOLD’EM: CHECK-RAISING IN POKER WITH NOTHING … REALLY?

 

Often when you are out of position and check after the flop the player who took the lead pre-flop will bet into you.  You think “should I call or fold?”  One thing that separates good players from beginners is their willingness to take aggressive action when the situation warrants it.  You should consider also asking yourself  “should I raise” even if your hand doesn’t immediately warrant it.  You may end up raising as a bluff or semi-bluff.

Suppose pre-flop you are in early position with Q J of diamonds.  You limped or made a small raise pre-flop only to have a solid player in middle position raise or re-raise, which you called.  You go into the flop heads up.  When the flop comes 10, 8, 4 rainbow with one diamond, you have a backdoor flush draw, a straight draw and two overcards.  You check. 

The pre-flop raiser bets and you think you are behind but before folding you pause to consider the odds of calling to see if one of your draws improves.  At first, you don’t think about raising.   But as you start to put your opponent on a hand, you consider whether his bet is a continuation bet with overcards (probably stronger overcards than yours) or whether he is protecting a pair or better.  You know that pairs are less common for starting hands than his other possible hands, like AK – AJ, all of which missed the flop.  Even if he has a pair it might be an under pair and the 10 on the flop may make him nervous and ready to give up, although he may wonder why you didn’t bet it after the flop. Given how he has played, you think he probably did not raise with an unpaired 10 pre-flop so maybe it’s time to think about check-raising.

Check-raising is a very strong move in poker, and sends a clear message that you think you are ahead.  By check-raising you are putting a great deal of pressure on your opponent to decide whether continuing with the hand makes sense.  They have to consider not only the chips needed to call, but what may happen after the turn, when you possibly bet again.  You also have to consider your own table image in calculating the odds of whether they will believe your check-raise is strong and fold.  You will have to make the same calculations after the turn if they call your check-raise.  Of course, if you check-raise and get re-raised you will know where you stand.  In addition, if you do check-raise here and then give up your hand to a re-raise, next time you check-raise with a monster, you may get called or re-raised.

One thing to consider when check-raising as a bluff or semi-bluff is how much money you will have left in your stack after the raise.  You must be careful check-raising when short-stacked.  Without the threat of more bets to come your bluff will be less powerful, and you may find yourself committed to the pot with a marginal hand.

So while in most cases I would fold in this situation and not continue to play this hand out of position, if you think you have a good read on your opponent, check-raising can be the right move.

Poker table with cards

ADVANCED PAI GOW POKER STRATEGIES

Our Pai Gow (Double-Hand) Poker game is fun and exciting to play.  In our Pai Gow Poker game, the Joker is fully wild — it can be any card — and can be used to make any hand, not just as an Ace or to complete straights or flushes, giving you more ways to make a winning hand.  You can also wager on the Dealer hand and have the advantage of playing against all the other players.

PAI GOW POKER IS A VERY SIMPLE GAME TO LEARN AND PLAY.

You separate your 7 cards into a 2-card and a 5-card poker hand. Your 5-card hand must outrank your 2-card hand. Your 2-card hand plays against the Dealer 2-card hand and your 5-card hand plays against the Dealer 5-card hand. The object of the game is to set your hands so that both your hands defeat both the Dealer’s hands.  The hands are ranked using standard poker hand rankings, i.e., straight flushes, 4 of a kind, a full house, flush, straight, two pair etc…

If both your hands rank higher than the Dealer’s two hands, you win. If you win one hand and the Dealer wins one hand, you push, which happens about 40% of the time.  If the Dealer wins both hands, the Dealer wins. It’s that easy!  

The Dealer wins any 2 or 5-card hands that tie. This is a built-in advantage for the Dealer hand but at the California Grand Casino every player gets a chance to bet on the Dealer hand.

SETTING THE HANDS.

You are often dealt hands that can be set in different ways. If you want to increase the odds of a push, you might set one hand very strong and the other weaker, or you might try to balance your hands in order to win both. The most common decision you make is when you are dealt two pair.  When should you put both pair in the 5-card hand, and when should you split the pairs and put one in each hand?  In addition, since we play with a fully wild Joker, how does that change how you set your hands?

Don’t want to set your hand?  We can set it “house way.”

At the California Grand Casino, you also can ask the house dealer how to set your hand the house way and you will stay almost even playing this way.  The Dealer hand is always set house way, but the player betting on the Dealer hand can reset the hand another way. 

Setting Your Hands: Both Hands are Equally Important

If you set your own hands, because you need both hands to win in order to win your wager, you should never neglect your 2-card hand.  A simple rule to remember is that ideally you would like to have an Ace high or better in your 2-card hand.  And you would like at least of pair of 7s in your 5-card hand. 

Here are a few specific situations, including advice on how to play your Joker.  At any time you can ask the dealer for advice.

  • Five of a Kind. Put the Joker with the highest single card in the 2-card hand, and keep four of a kind in the 5-card hand.
  • Four of a Kind (with a Joker). If these are fives or lower, keep them together. Otherwise put the Joker with the highest single card in the 2-card hand, and keep three of a kind in the 5-card hand.
  • Four of a Kind (No Joker). Keep them together if these are fives or lower. If you have an Ace or King to put in the 2-card hand, you can also keep nines and higher together, except if these are Queens or better, in which case you are usually better off splitting them.
  • Full House. Put your highest possible pair in the 2-card hand and three of a kind in the 5-card hand. If you have four of a kind and a pair or three of a kind and two pair, put the three of a kind, full house or four of a kind in the 5-card hand.
  • Flush or Straight. Keep your flush or straight together, unless you also have two pairs or three of a kind, in which case you should follow the rules for three of a kind or two pairs. If you have one pair, keep the flush or straight in the 5-card hand and split the pair.
  • If you have a six or seven card flush or straight, put the lower cards that make the flush or straight in your 5-card hand and the highest cards in the 2-card hand.
  • If you need your Joker for the straight or flush, put the two highest cards in the 2-card hand that will still leave a flush or straight in the 5-card hand. If you make the straight or flush without the Joker, use the Joker to make the highest possible pair in the 2-card hand and keep the flush or straight in the 5-card hand.
  • Three of a Kind. Keep them in the 5-card hand unless they are Aces in which case you put a pair in your 5-card hand and one Ace in the 2-card hand. If you have a Joker, play your Joker with the highest other card in the 2-card hand. If you also have a straight or flush, then put that in the 5-card hand and a pair in the 2-card hand.
  • Three Pairs. If you get three pairs, the best pair should be used for the 2-card hand and the other two pairs should be in the 5-card hand. If you also have a Joker, keep it with the 5-card hand to make a full house.
  • Pair. Put the pair in the 5-card hand and the highest two other cards in the 2-card hand. If you are using a Joker to make a pair, play the first and third highest cards in the 2-card hand and use the Joker with the second highest card to make a pair for the 5-card hand. If you have a natural pair and a Joker, match the Joker with the highest other card and follow the guidelines for two pair.
  • Pai Gow / No Pair. If you do not have a pair or better, put the highest card in your 5-card hand and the second and third best cards in your 2-card hand.

Setting Two Pairs.

There are several ways to play two pairs depending on whether you are trying to push or win.

  • House Way.  If the highest pair is AA, KK or QQ, place that in the 5-card hand and the other pair in the 2-card hand.  If the highest pair is JJ, 10s or 9s, split them unless you can put an Ace in the 2-card hand.  If the highest pair is 8s, 7s or 6s, split them unless you can put an Ace or King in the 2-card hand.  If the highest pair is 5s, 4s or 3s, split them unless you can put an Ace, King or Queen in the 2-card hand. 
  • Another method is to make the 5-card hand stronger.  For example, when your second pair is deuces, you may want to keep your two pair together and play the two highest remaining cards in the low hand.
  • Some people want a stronger 2-card hand  and they will split two pairs unless the highest pair is 77 or less and you cannot put an Ace in the 2-card hand. 

However you choose to play your hands, we are here to have fun.  You can always ask the house dealer for advice.  And you can always make friends and enjoy the camaraderie at our Pai Gow game, along with great food and service right at the table. 

learning the game

To Bluff or Not to Bluff!

To Bluff or Not to Bluff, That is the Question!

Welcome back my friends! I hope that you’re enjoying the change in seasons and the additional sunlight that comes with it. The season isn’t the only thing changing around here…when you have a moment, check out our brand new website! All the information you need is there, including our latest promotions, great offers, and current JACKPOTS!

Something I overheard at the tables the other day really caught my attention and caused me to think a great deal about the topic. A regular opponent of mine said, “You just can’t bluff in this game, no one throws away their hand!” It struck me for two reasons. First, I have successfully bluffed this particular person on several occasions (in LIMIT poker no less!) Secondly, while his perception is a common one, it simply isn’t true. It certainly has some credence to it, as bluffing in limit poker is no easy task, and not one I would often recommend. That being said, there is a time and a place for it, both in limit and in no-limit Hold ’em. It’s impossible to pin down exactly when you should or shouldn’t bluff, but there are a couple things that you want to keep in mind if you’re considering making a move.

Know your opponent(s)

If you’re going to attempt the most daring play in poker (outside of playing Omaha!), be sure to have a decent understanding of who you are trying to bluff. We all know the few players that simply never fold a hand like top pair or better. It just doesn’t happen and they want to see your hand no matter how badly they’re beaten. You see them make hopeless calls on the river all the time against other players. Despite knowing this, you may find yourself in a pot with this person on the river when you completely missed your hand. You will feel the urge to bet. After all, it’s the only way you can win now, and the pot is so big…what’s one more bet? You MUST fight that urge. Take a second, remind yourself of whom you’re playing against, and simply let this one go. Save that bet and live to fight another day.

Now take that same situation and replace Captain Calls-a-Lot, with Pondering Patrick. Patrick is a thinker at the table. He tries to make the best play and often gives his decisions a lot of thought. He prides himself on his solid play and isn’t shy about telling people about it. He might even show a fold face up just to impress the table with his hand reading ability and his knowledge. Here is your opportunity. Now that’s not to say that you go out of your way to bluff Patrick, but if you happen to find yourself in a situation like the one above and Patrick is your only opponent, a bluff just might be in order if other conditions are right. What other conditions? Glad you asked…

Know your situation

Simply put, your bluff needs to make sense in order for it to have the best chance of working. If you haven’t been taking any aggressive action when other people have shown weakness, and now at the end of the hand you bluff trying to represent top pair, you’re going to have a tough time. Especially against more observant players, you want to make sure that your bet/bluff AND your previous actions in the hand are along the lines of what someone would expect you to do if you had the hand you are trying to represent. This advice is especially important in no-limit. When your actions are inconsistent and things don’t make sense to your opponent, they are far more likely to call your bet. This advice also applies when you are facing a potential bluff. Think back through the hand. Does your opponent’s play make sense? If something doesn’t quite add up, chances are a call is in order.

If you find yourself considering a bluff, be sure that you’ve thought about who your opponent(s) are and if your previous actions in the hand make sense. If both of those variable are favorable, then you may want to take a stab at it. If one or both of those factors are out of whack, you may be better served by waiting for a better spot. Don’t be afraid to go with your gut and put yourself (and your chips) out there! Until next time, see you at the tables!

Player Tips

Table Talk – When to Walk Away

Happy Holidays everyone! I hope you are staying warm and dry this season, as it sure has been cold and wet lately. The change in weather combined with people taking time off of work means that the action inside the California Grand Casino has been heating up! We’ve talked a lot about various aspects of poker strategy in the past, but something that doesn’t get covered very often is how to quit a poker game. How does a player know when it is time to get up from the table and call it a day? It’s not nearly as easy as it sounds. When do you quit when you are running well and winning pots? When do you quit when things aren’t going your way? The reasons vary from person to person, so there’s no single right answer I can give you. What I can tell you is that there are some factors to consider when deciding whether or not to get up from a poker game, and by taking a few moments to really consider your motivations and options, you should be able to figure out exactly what course of action is right for you.

In order to answer the question of when to walk away, you have to first establish why you started in the first place. Everyone starts because they want to play poker, but it goes beyond that. Why do you play poker? What motivated you to sit down at the poker table today? Let’s discuss a few of the main reasons that people play poker and when they should quit based on their individual motivations for playing.

Playing for fun

You love poker. You’re the type of player that plays to relax, unwind, socialize, and have a good time. You come after work to de-stress and sometimes come in on the weekends to enjoy some friendly competition. Poker to you is simply a fun game that provides recreation, interaction, and occasionally a little extra spending cash. When should you get up from the game? Get up from the game when the game ceases to be what you want it to be anymore. If you came to enjoy yourself and relax, and yet find yourself getting frustrated by bad beats or irritated by the chatterbox sitting to your left, then it’s time to take a break and consider cashing out. Maybe a break or a quick bite to eat is all you need and you can get back to enjoying the game. If not, then perhaps it’s time to end the session.

Another reason a recreational player may want to quit the game is when he or she simply has other responsibilities to attend to. If you are someone with a lot of things to take care of, I would suggest giving yourself a time limit and sticking to it. You can be a bit flexible if things are going extremely well and you’re having an absolute blast, but for the most part you should keep your promise to yourself and abide by your self imposed poker curfew.

Playing for keeps

You are a serious player. You’re competitive, better than most, and came to win. Don’t let others be fooled, you love a great time on the felt just as much as the next guy, but the chips are what brought you here and you plan to walk out with a ton! You work on your game and discuss strategy with your peers. You even read a small poker blog to see if there are any pearls of wisdom hidden among the verbosity! When should you get up from the game? That can be a bit of a trickier question than it is for a recreational player because there are factors outside of yourself to consider. Firstly, do you have the time to continue to play? If deciding to continue to play puts you on the clock and you’ll have to leave by a certain time, then it’s definitely best to call it a day. Playing with a fixed time limit looming can throw even the best players off of their A game. Speaking of playing your A game, that’s another reason to cash out. Any time you’re not playing your A game and you become aware of it, take a quick mental break. Ask yourself why you slipped from playing your A game and answer yourself honestly. If you can get back to the top of your game, then it’s safe to carry on. If other factors are contributing to your sub-par play such as being tired, tilted, or tense, then perhaps you would be best served heading to the cage.

As poker players there are so many things that we have little control over; our opponents’ actions, what cards will come, and any number of other variables in a card room. One of the few things we do have control over is when we get up from the game. A little bit of self reflection and honesty is all that is needed to help you arrive at the conclusion that’s right for you. Until next time, see you at the tables!

Player Tips

A Poker Life – Part 1

A Poker Life at California Grand Casino-Part 1

I hope your summer has been full of fun, adventure and huge pots! Mine sure has been.

Some of you have been asking me what it’s like being in my line of work…what a loaded question! I took some time recently to reflect on my growth and experiences in poker, and open up a bit about how I got my start, how things progressed, and some of the skills it takes to move your game from casual hobby to serious financial pursuit. In part one of this series I’ll share with you my personal poker journey, from a baby faced 21 year old, all the way to a casino employee with a poker blog…with several large bumps along the way.

The very first time I played cards competitively was not in a smoke filled Nevada casino or a friendly California card-room. I played heads up gin rummy against the most skilled player and most ruthless competitor I knew at the time. I was about 5 years old and at the mercy of my wonderful grandmother. While no money changed hands, score was meticulously kept and no punches were pulled. She never took it easy on me and she taught me the basics, as well as how to keep score. I owe her a great deal of gratitude for always playing to win, as I was forced to learn and develop skills in order to compete and improve.

My introduction to poker didn’t come until my college days. My fraternity brothers had a weekly game that they would play, mostly small tournaments, that drew my attention. I wasn’t the best player in the house when we first started playing, but by the end of my college days I was winning a great deal of free beer! My 21st birthday led to my first authentic casino poker experience at the now defunct Frontier casino on the Vegas strip. They had a grand total of two poker tables and I had the choice between seven card stud, or…seven card stud. Not a lot of choices and not exactly an environment that I was familiar with. Keep in mind this was back in 2001, a few years before the softening of poker’s image and the widespread acceptance that came along with the poker explosion fueled by Chris Moneymaker, PokerStars, and a booming economy. I was staring at a table full of cigarette smoke and players at least twice my age. Nevertheless I was very intrigued and sat down to play my first hand. I picked up the game quickly but must have looked like a complete rookie handling my chips and placing my bets. I didn’t leave the table with chips that day, but what I did leave with was an inner desire to play again. At the time I couldn’t figure out why, but now I understand completely what kept drawing me back to the poker table.

It may sound a bit corny, but what really appealed to me (and still does!) about poker is equality. Sure I love the competition, the strategy, and of course winning money, but the fact that everyone that sits down at the poker table is an equal is what I really love. Everyone at the poker table shares a common interest and there is an instant camaraderie that is formed. It doesn’t matter what culture you’re from, what native language you speak, how old you are…we’re all equals on the poker table. When you buy into a poker game, you’re instantly accepted. Obviously this should always be the case, but life doesn’t always work that way. Poker does.

It’s amazing how small events and accidental roads traveled can lead us down a certain path. Had my grandmother not introduced me to competitive card games at a young age, I may never have found my way to a game that has provided me with countless amazing experiences and a profession that I enjoy every day. Thank you grandma!

Part 2- Next time I’ll share how I went from novice player to semi-professional poker player (getting laid off from a job and blowing out a knee in a soccer match were big game changers!).

Until then, see you at the tables!

learning the game

Poker Table Etiquette – Part Two

Poker Table Etiquette – Part Two
I hope you have all been enjoying the summer and the hot weather that comes with it! It is by far my favorite season with all of the fun activities that can be done. When I need a break from the heat there’s nothing better than playing some poker in our nicely air conditioned cardroom here at the California Grand Casino. Relaxing. joking with familiar faces and dragging some pots always puts me in a great mood. You just can’t duplicate that feeling that you get at the poker table anywhere else; it’s why we play the game.

What doesn’t put me in a good mood is seeing players chastise and berate one another over perceived poor play. In my last blog posting Table Etiquette: The Flow Is Good For the Game we talked about appropriate etiquette at the tables,basic good manners and self-awareness. Today’s article takes that a step further.

It’s completely understandable to feel upset after suffering a bad beat but it’s not OK to verbally attack the player that put the beat on you. It makes that person uncomfortable and kills the mood at the table. We’re all here to have fun and win some pots but taking your frustrations out on another player accomplishes neither of those things. In fact it actually hurts your ability to do both. If you find yourself feeling the urge to let someone else know that they made a bad play at the poker table I have two techniques that will help you let go of that hostility and get your head back in the game where it belongs. I use these techniques all the time and have found them to be quite effective. Hopefully they will work for you too.

Inject Logic

Technique One: Inject logic. I use this phrase all the time. I use it at the poker table as well as in my everyday life outside the cardroom. There’s no hidden meaning here. The phrase means exactly what it says. When you encounter a situation at the table where your emotions seem to be getting the best of you use your mind to inject logic into the situation. Ask yourself What will I be accomplishing by giving this player a hard time? Don’t just stop at the question, answer it! One correct answer is you will be making the player feel bad and killing the mood at the table for everyone else. Another correct answer is that you are pointing out a mistake (or so you think) that your opponent made which may help him avoid making that same mistake in the future thereby improving his or her game and making it harder for you to win money off of them.

When you simply look at the facts it’s easy to see what the right decision is: Keep your thoughts to yourself and do your best to let it go. Not only does this help keep the game fun for everyone but it also keeps your head in the game and doesn’t help to improve your opponent’s play. I understand that this course of action is much easier said than done which brings me to my other point:

Know Thyself

Technique Two: Know Thyself. No one knows how you react at the poker table better than you. You know what triggers frustration and anger for you. You know how well or poorly you deal with it. You know what makes you tilt and play less than you’re A-game. I can give you all the advice in the world but it may not be perfect for you. Find out what is. If taking a break from the table for a bit helps you get back on track do it. If you feel you need to stay at the table and muscle through it do it. If you need to vent to feel better do it-but not AT the table!

The bottom line is: the only person that knows how you tick and what truly works for you is you. Understand where your strengths and weaknesses lie and manage them accordingly. By keeping your emotions in check everyone will have a friendlier game and your own poker game will improve.

Until next time see you at the tables!

learning the game

Poker Table Etiquette

Poker Table Etiquette: The Flow Is Good For The Game

I’m sure you’ve all experienced playing at a poker table where everyone is having a great time. People are in good spirits cracking jokes (okay not all are funny) and enjoying each other’s company (and money) all while playing the game that we love to play. Not every player gets dealt a winning hand on each draw but everyone is enjoying good times. The personalities the mutual enthusiasm and some good cards help make poker great for all involved. Yes ALL of us even the dealers enjoy Good Flow.

From the casual low limit player to the serious player looking to pay his or her rent a lively table full of good vibes is good for everyone and helps create the flow. It’s easy to see why a full table of players enjoying themselves is good for the recreational mindset. It may not be as apparent why it’s good for a serious player looking to make a profit. The serious and winning poker player relies on the flow to consistently achieve positive end-results. If players are getting nothing else out of the game won’t they eventually lose interest and look for better flow elsewhere? It’s a collective effort. Nobody is here to play solitaire. We all have it in us. With that in mind knowing and exercising good poker etiquette and bringing your best flow to the table is something everyone can strive to do. Here are a few common situations I’ve come across at the tables that relate. They may seem obvious to some but being aware of these situations and knowing how to act accordingly makes for Good Flow.

Pay Attention!

Be aware of the flow. If the dealer has to remind you that it’s your turn to act take that as a friendly reminder to pay closer attention. You’re not only missing critical information that can help you win the hand but you’re slowing down the flow for the other players at the table. Be considerate and keep your focus on the game while you’re in the hand. Post your blinds when it’s your turn to do so. Improve your odds of play by keeping your mind on the game in addition to keeping up with the flow.

Playing poker from seats 1 and 10

The seats on either side of the dealer are generally not the most comfortable as they tend to afford the player less physical space. It can be more difficult to see everyone at the table especially the person directly across the table from you. Pay extra careful attention when you’re playing in either of these seats. We see players fold out-of-turn when you can’t see around the dealer however the end seats have tremendous advantages of seeing more cards turned before your play. If you cannot see the player that acts immediately before you watch the dealer to know when it’s your turn. Dealers will often let you know it’s your turn simply by turning and looking in your direction. Not sure if it’s your turn? Simply ask. Playing from seats 1 and 10 has a perceived challenge but good advantages so be aware of that when you take one of those seats and make great flow a part of your game.

The Phone

Phones are a tricky topic since many people use phones for different purposes at the table and many card clubs have different rules on what is and is not allowed at the table. The first thing you need to know before sitting down in any poker game is exactly what the cell phone rules are (if any) at that specific card club. Secondly and perhaps most importantly respect the rules. You may or may not agree with the cell phone rule at whatever club you play at but you’ve chosen to play there. Everyone else is required to play by the rules and you’re no exception. Trying to bend or get around the rules of the club makes other players feel uneasy and forces employees to police you which I can promise you kills the good flow. Even if cell phone conversations are allowed at the table none of us likes to hear another person’s phone conversations. Been there. Excuse yourself from the table when you get a chance and finish your call away from the table. If you simply must stay at the table while you’re on the phone keep your volume to a minimum so the flow is not disrupted.

Conversations

Table chat is a good part of the flow! The camaraderie and social aspects of poker are a big part of what makes it an enjoyable hobby and a large reason many people come to play regularly. That being said if you’re talking to your buddy a couple seats away and there’s a person in between the two of you that’s in a hand pause your conversation until he/she is done with their play. Poker is a challenging game and to play it well requires concentration. Be respectful of the other players around you and keep loud conversation to a minimum during play.

What constitutes a positive poker experience may vary from person to person but everyone wants to have an enjoyable experience when they take the seat at the table. Keeping some of these basic etiquette tips in mind will help to achieve Good Flow for everyone. Hopefully the next time you sit in a game it will be full of happy and respectful players looking to enjoy themselves!

Until next time see you at the tables and keep up the Good Flow.