How to Play Poker in a Casino (Even if Your Only Experience Is in Home Games)


So you want to know how to play poker in a casino cardroom? And you’ve only ever played in home games?

You’re in luck because I can tell you the pros and cons of playing in a casino as contrasted with playing in a home game. I can also explain the differences between the 2 venues and how to choose which one is right for you.

Finally, if you’ve decided you want to make the transition from home poker games to casino poker games, I’ll tell you how to adjust to the differences.

The Differences between Home Poker Games and Casino Poker Games

Most casual home poker games are played at kitchen or dining room tables. You’ll usually be playing for low stakes, and the experience probably has more to do with socializing than playing cards. In most home games, the choice of poker game being played changes with the dealer.

In a casino, though, things are more serious and structured. You’ll be playing at a professional quality poker table, for one thing. The stakes might be low, but higher stakes games will almost always be available. And the game being dealt at each table will be the same as long as you’re sitting there (usually).

The Rake

In a home poker game, you don’t usually pay any kind of rake or chair rental. In a casino poker game, you’ll pay for the privilege of playing there. Most casinos use a “rake” system to make their cardrooms profitable. They take a small percentage (usually 5%) of each pot. Some casinos might still charge flat rental fees for sitting in their chairs, but that’s unusual.

If you’ve been reading my posts about poker, you’re likely to be the best player at the table in a lot of home poker games.

Since there’s no rake, your probability of walking away a winner is excellent. The rake changes that.

Think about it this way. If you’re playing poker with 8 other people who all are exactly as skilled as you, you’ll eventually break even. If you’re just 1% better than the rest of the players, though, you’ll eventually walk away with a profit.

That’s not true in a raked game. Not only do you have to be better than the other players at the table, but you also have to be so much better than they are that you can overcome the rake.

Professional Dealers and Security Staff

Also, in a casino setting, you’ll have a professional dealer rather than just your buddy dealing the cards. That takes a little of the pressure off, especially if you’re not great at shuffling cards. (I’ve been playing poker for a couple of decades now, and I’m still not great at shuffling a deck of cards. I’m too slow.)

My favorite perk offered by casino poker rooms is the increased level of security

I’ve played in some home poker games in some rough neighborhoods. I remember walking out of one local game in Plano, Texas with $1000 in winnings in my pocket. It was 7am, but it was still almost dark out, and I was terrified someone was going to knock me in the head and take my money.

As luck would have it, that didn’t happen. But it’s unlikely in the extreme in a casino setting. Those places are crawling with security personnel.

Also, the professional dealers and management ensure that no one at the table is cheating. I’ve never played in a home game with a cheat—at least not that I’m sure about. But I sure take comfort in knowing that the staff at the casino are doing what they can to prevent cheating.

Different Kinds of Social Pressure from One Venue to the Other

In-home poker games, if you walk away from the table early to preserve your winnings, you’ll often face social pressure from your opponents. It’s considered poor form to not let your opponents get a shot at winning back their money.

This isn’t a concern in a casino poker game. It’s a good idea at the Texas holdem tables to wait for the blind to come back around, though. After all, you did pay for those hands.

Game Availability

Good casinos offer multiple standardized card games. Most of the following are common:

  • Lowball
  • Omaha 8
  • Stud
  • Texas holdem

When you’re playing at home, you’ll probably have a wider variety of games, but you’ll only get to choose the game part of the time. The rules for these variants are often silly, with lots of wild cards. The rule of thumb, strategy-wise, is to play even tighter in these kinds of variations than you would normally.

Home poker games usually have a slower pace than casino cardrooms. The dealers help with this, but the players at the casino are there to play. They’re not there to socialize.

The final big advantage to playing in a casino is the opportunity to meet people from all walks of life who love to play poker. Most home poker games lack the diversity available in casino cardrooms.

Getting Started in Your 1st Casino Poker Game

When you go into the cardroom, you’ll find a counter where the staff handles the seating of new players. There will usually be an electronic board listing what games are available at what limits, but you can also just ask the person working at the counter. Sometimes you’ll be added to a waitlist.

You’ll just tell the person at the counter what game and what limit you’d like to play, and when a seat is available, you’ll be taken to it. If you’re playing in tournaments or large stakes games, you’ll need a valid form of identification to prove your age. (I’ve been allowed to play in low stakes games without my identification before. I look old, and the stakes were so small that the cardroom manager wasn’t worried about it. This might not be true in every cardroom.)

When you sit down at the table, you’ll need to buy chips. Depending on the stakes at the table, you’ll need to buy in for a certain minimum amount. You might buy chips from the dealer, but more often, a floorperson will come around to sell you chips. It usually won’t take them long to arrive, so be patient.


In fact, at most casinos, you can even play before you get your chips. The dealer will just announce that you’re “behind,” which just means you’re waiting for your chips.

You’ll notice that the dealers at a casino do a more thorough job of shuffling the deck than home poker dealers do. These guys work for tips, so it’s customary to throw them a chip or 2 when you’ve won a pot. Also, the dealer in a casino cardroom never plays a hand. In home games, they’re almost always playing in the hand, too.

You’ll also notice that casino poker players tend to fold more often than people in home poker games. In most friendly home games, a lot of players will play almost every hand just for camaraderie. Casino players tend to be more skilled and willing to fold bad cards.

Most players in the casino, especially at the lower limits, are still loose. They play too many hands. Most novice poker players can break even just by having relatively tight starting hand requirements.

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I still recommend playing for low stakes the 1st few times you play in a casino, though. There’s no point in needlessly wasting money while you’re learning to play in a casino.

I fold probably 75% or 80% of the hands I get at the Texas holdem table preflop. That’s not the optimal number, because that varies based on game conditions, but those are my standards. You should have your own standards for which starting cards are good enough to continue with and play accordingly.

Getting Used to the Fast Pace

Home poker games are slow. The dealers aren’t professionals, so they take longer to shuffle and deal. Most of the players aren’t taking the game seriously, so they’re holding up the game by not paying attention while they jaw with their buddies.

Adjusting to the faster paces of casino poker can be a challenge for some. Once you get used to it, though, casino poker seems to move at a stately pace. If you’re playing tight preflop like I recommend, you might even be bored while the various hands play out.

Once you get used to the faster pace, which is just something that comes with experience, you should focus on becoming more mindful at the table. Just because you’ve folded doesn’t mean you should ignore what’s going on at the table.

You should be paying close attention to your opponents’ tendencies

I usually have to think hard about what I’m going to focus on. Sometimes I’ll “clock” how often a specific player sees a flop. That gives me an idea of how tight or loose that opponent is. If you do that with everyone you play, you’ll recognize tendencies that will inform your betting decisions in later hands.


You might be intimidated by playing casino poker for the 1st time, but that’s not necessary. Once you’ve participated in a couple of games, you’ll probably be at least as good (if not better) than most of your opponents. I don’t know many reasonably serious players who don’t at least break even at most lower stakes games.

Of course, casino poker isn’t for everyone. You might be bored with the lack of game variety or wild cards. Or you might not like the faster pace of the game. You might miss knowing all the other players at the table.

But if you’re at all serious about the game, the best place to play poker in its truest form is in a modern casino setting.

Petko Stoyanov
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About Petko Stoyanov
My name is Petko Stoyanov, and I've been a gambling writer for more than ten years. I guess that was the natural path for me since I've loved soccer and card games for as long as I can remember! I have a long and fairly successful history with English Premier League betting and online poker, but I follow many other sports. I watch all big European soccer leagues, basketball, football, and tennis regularly, and I keep an eye on snooker, volleyball, and major UFC events.