Poker Clubs and Card Rooms
Most casinos offer poker rooms or clubs where players pay a fee to sit at the table. Sometimes this fee is a time-based charge, perhaps $5 or $10 per half-hour, depending on the stakes of the game; some rooms offer twenty-four-hour “club memberships,” which allow you to play as long as you like for the duration of your membership for a set price. Standalone card rooms usually use the membership structure for their fees.
Some card rooms make their money by “raking” a percentage of the pot in each hand. The percentage is usually around 5 or 10 percent with a maximum dollar value, say $3 to $5, and only players who win the final pot pay the fee. Another method is the “button charge,” in which the player with the dealer button is charged a flat fee, usually a couple of dollars, before each hand begins.
If you're new to the poker room, it's a good idea to let the dealer know as you take your seat. The dealer will then know to explain your options when the action comes to you, and other players will be more forgiving when you slow down the game. The action can move surprisingly quickly in a public card room; it's not uncommon for novice players to find the action coming to them before they've even had a chance to look at their cards.
Card Room Etiquette
A public card room can be a frightening place for the novice player. Even if you've spent hours playing simulated games on your computer or playing with friends around your kitchen table, you might find yourself intimidated by the staff, players, and general atmosphere of the card room. Knowing what to expect, and what's expected of you, can help calm those natural jitters.
Given the rapidly increasing popularity of poker, most card rooms are busy places these days. They handle the crowds by having sign-up sheets or boards; you indicate which type of game you want to play and for what stakes. If the tables are full, you might have to wait for a seat to open up. If this happens, be alert; if a member of the staff calls your name and you don't respond, you'll be passed over.
If the action is moving too fast for you, and particularly if another player is impatient to act out of turn, call “time.” This gives you an extra moment or two to decide what to do; it also makes it clear to the dealer and the other players that you haven't acted yet. Refrain from any nervous tapping while you're thinking. This is usually interpreted as a signal to check, and it will be binding.
Never put your cards in your lap or intentionally show them to another player; these are grounds for declaring your hand dead, and you're out of the game. Also be sure to place a chip on your cards while they're on the table; cards that aren't so “protected” may be mistaken as a fold.
Poker dealers, like their counterparts elsewhere in the casino, typically make a relatively low hourly wage and depend on tokes, or tips, for much of their income. Most poker players tip fifty cents to $1 every time they win a pot, depending on the individual and the size of the pot. You'll find some players who won't tip if they have to split the pot. Whether to tip is up to you. Remember, though, that the dealer is just delivering the cards; it's not the dealer's fault if your luck or your skills aren't in the game.