How To Play Poker

13 Hot Tips for Your First Poker Game in Las Vegas

Las Vegas sign

Published: April 12, 2024
Written by Global Poker

Do you really know what you’re getting yourself into when hitting the Vegas poker tables for the first time? Find out…

Vegas is, without a doubt, the gaming capital of the United States.Whatever you want to play, odds are you will find it in Sin City. Whether you’re doing the tourist thing or are there to hit up the casinos, you’ll be immersed in the bright lights, incredible entertainment and some of the best poker tables in the world. Before you take a seat though, you should get across a few quick and simple tips to prepare yourself. So how do you get ready for your first ever poker game in Las Vegas? Here’s the low down… But first, how is Las Vegas poker different from any other card room?

Playing poker in Las Vegas is pretty different from your local card room, not only because hey — you’re in Vegas, but also given the standard of players. There will be more card sharks in Vegas, a higher calibre of talent and of course, expectations around customs like tipping. 

Now let’s get into it — your hot tips for playing poker tables as a Vegas rookie.

1. Eat Sensibly, Drink Responsibly

Even though most venues in Las Vegas  offer table service for food and drinks, it doesn't mean you have to use them. A cold beverage at the poker table can be great, adding to the atmosphere while helping you relax. However, indulge too much and you could severely impact your poker skills by taking risks you wouldn’t normally take. So don't get caught out, and drink alcohol responsibly.

Keep in mind that, while tempting to knock back a beef slider mid-game, it's best to leave the table before you eat. You might be on a hot streak, reluctant to leave, but consider that everyone will be looking at you to look for tells the whole time, and might it be just a little awkward stuffing your face with said slider while the rest of the table watches? If the scrutiny doesn't bother you, go for it, but there is one other factor you may want to consider first: the poker chips you are handling have been touched by dozens — if not hundreds — of hands, rendering them a petri dish of germs. The casino probably cleans them, but not nearly enough. Simply wash your hands and go to the restaurant rather than awkwardly eating as a bunch of strangers stare at you and your dirty chip pile. Stay classy, no?

2. Perfect your Tipping 

Leaving a tip is always your choice; it's not compulsory in a casino. It is an unspoken expectation though. The card dealers, servers, and every employee in between work hard and often rely on tips to make up parts of their salary. As a general rule of thumb for dealers, tip around 2% of your winnings when you get up to go home.  

Aim for about $2 for each drink as a tip, and about 10% of the total cost for a meal. Put your solid poker observation skills to work as well, see what everyone else is doing, and adjust accordingly. It might be the custom to tip after every hand. After a bit of time, you will learn when to tip, how much, who to tip, and how often; just like poker, it's trial and error.

You can certainly refuse to tip, but don't expect the dealer or servers to do you any favors next time you sit down at the tables. A positive customer-server experience can make for a great trip, especially if you frequent the same casinos, bars, or restaurants during your stay. Nobody wants to be known as a lousy tipper or tightwad, so think very carefully about your tips. 

3. Experience Everything Vegas has to Offer

Gone are the days when Las Vegas was merely synonymous with casinos. Sin City now offers all the comforts and entertainment of a high-energy holiday destination in one sweet location in the middle of a desert. Don’t get us wrong — poker is arguably the best game to play while you’re in Vegas. Just remember to take a break and see a show, do some sightseeing, get a spa treatment, experience the nightlife and hundreds of other delights the city has to offer. There’s also plenty to do outside the city too, like checking out the Grand Canyon. This golden nugget of a city has so much to keep you entertained and suitably refreshed so you’re ready for another round of poker. So soak it up. 

4. Always Adhere to Good Poker Etiquette

Knowing the technical aspect of poker is a given, but understanding the art of good poker etiquette is non-negotiable before you go to Las Vegas. Pay attention at all times. If you don’t pay attention to the gameplay, it slows down the flow for everyone else at the table, and you could also miss an integral moment like the ace that just came down on the turn.

Never, ever discuss a hand in progress either, especially if you have folded. Comments should also be kept to a minimum unless you’ve been asked a direct question. No one really wants or needs to know your feedback or advice. Seriously, just don’t. 

A faux pas such as slow rolling should also be avoided at all costs. Slow rolling is when a player deliberately takes time to call or raise, even when they know full well they have the winning hand. In a friendly live game, it can be mildly amusing to trick your friends into thinking they’ve won, but it’s considered incredibly rude at a casino.

String betting is also frowned upon, so it’s essential to always verbally declare how many chips you put in the middle. It can be very easy to get caught up in the excitement and bright lights of the city that never sleeps, but just remember: if any action might disrupt the flow of the game, don’t do it. You will draw the ire of your fellow players, and the casino, which is the last thing you want to do. 

5. Watch Out for the Pros and Sharks

Las Vegas is where many card sharks and pros make a living and hunt down fresh-faced new players to feed on. Taking on a real poker pro is very different to beating the players at your local club or casino. You might be a shark in your region, but in Vegas you’ll be the little fish in a very large pond. In general, always be wary of people who earn their living by playing poker, because they are likely highly competent at the game.  

6. Look for Weak Players

Ignoring what we’ve just said in our point above, keep in mind some venues and game times have a reputation for attracting new players or soft competition. Playing against loose, wild amateurs who you can outmanoeuvre with your superior skill is far more likely to result in wins than going up against solid regular players. 

Put your observational skills to work again and look for tables with people who overbet, underbet, limp into hands, call out of turn, fold the nuts or make any other beginner mistakes. The best way to find out where the beginner tables are is to ask your dealer, other players, or casino personnel, which is why tipping can be necessary. The servers and casino workers will likely have some great insider knowledge, so keeping them happy and friendly is always a good idea. 

7. Stick to Good Poker Fundamentals

Always stick to good poker fundamentals regardless of where or who you play. Don't play every hand, because that's the fastest way to lose your entire stack. Play position; wait until you are first or last to act. Pick your spots and be patient — you might have to wait an hour or more before you actually play a hand, and that's totally fine. Play the odds and seize the advantages presented to you, and keep bluffing to a minimum as well. Poker fundamentals should always be followed if you want to win, and that’s why you’re there, isn’t it?. 

8. Look After Yourself

Eat, sleep, hydrate, repeat. Falling asleep at the table or being so hungry you can't focus doesn't help anyone, namely you. So, get some rest, go to the bathroom, have a few snacks and down a glass of water before you sit down. Also, make sure to take regular breaks — tilt is far more likely to strike during a long grind session. 

9. Research Comps First

Complimentary items, also known as comps, are free services casinos offer players to stay at — or return to — the venue. The quality of the comps usually depends on the game, how long you stay at the table, and how much you play with. Las Vegas is well known for its comps; with some casinos offering upwards of $2 per hour for playing ring games, or perhaps a free drink or meal. 

In extreme cases, comps can include free rooms for the night. If you are only sitting down for a few hands of poker though, don't expect a free room. At the very least, it is worth getting whatever you can. Look around, do your research and choose the casino with the best comps. 

10. Check the House Rules in Advance

House rules are specific to a casino and vary from venue to venue. Perhaps you can play with jokers, allowing for five of a kind. Or, the casino could offer the 7, 2 rule, where everyone who wins with 7, 2, statistically the worst starting cards, gets some extra chips for their trouble. House rules are outside the standard ruleset, so it's also a good idea to check for any before you sit down. 

11. Bankroll Management 

An often overlooked and very important aspect of poker is bankroll management, which is even more important when you’re in Las Vegas. Planning out your budget and sticking to it will ensure you can focus on having a good time and not worry about your losses.It will still hurt, but at least it won't affect your way of life. 

12. Remember: it's Just Poker!

Know the game, and practice hard.Check your poker face in the mirror before you go, but remember, outside of all the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas, it's just poker. The people might be better than at your local card room, or worse, the venues might be grander, but that doesn't change the fundamental aspects of the game. At the end of the day, it's just poker - nothing to be scared of or intimidated by.

13. Have Fun 

Casino games are supposed to be fun; so enjoy the ride and don't focus on winning. Refrain from stressing about the result, and it could end up helping in the long run. As we mentioned, if you have planned out your bankroll in advance, the losses shouldn’t bother you too much, other than bruising your ego!. Las Vegas covers many poker variants, from Texas Hold 'em and Five Card Draw to Razz and Three Card Poker. If you’ve ever wanted to try one of these games, Vegas is the perfect opportunity, so give them a go and enjoy yourself in the meantime.