A Gentleman’s Guide to Playing in a Poker Room.
As life in the UK slowly returns to normal, more people are heading out of their homes to make the most of what life has to offer. And in urban city centres like London, there’s so much to see and do. From parks and aquariums, to museums and dazzling displays of architecture — London is a treasure trove of attractions for both tourists and locals alike. What you may not know, however, is that much like Vegas, London is home to many a good poker room, like those in The Hippodrome, The Grosvenor, and The Empire. With a new James Bond film coming out this year, and venues like Secret Cinema already hosting dedicated events, visiting a casino will allow you to channel your inner gentlemen spy.
So whether you’re a complete poker beginner or a casual player who’s only ever dealt cards with friends, these tips can help you fit in at the exciting poker tables here in London Town.
Get properly set up
If you don’t know where to begin, know that poker is best played on weekend nights, and you’re better off sticking to rooms that fit your budget and level of experience. The Grosvenor, for instance, is home to some very serious poker players registered with the establishment. Though novices can sign up for free, it’s generally better to visit once you’ve had some experience under your belt. The Aspers, on the other hand, are much more welcoming to beginners.
Our insider tip? To save time, try signing up for the poker room’s wait list.
Don’t be self-conscious
Typically, poker room culture is very forgiving towards new players, though some may try to take advantage of that fact. That being said, a healthy dose of self-confidence can help you play your hand better, as it can even earn you a little respect from those you’re playing against.
For example, don’t ask questions like, ‘is it my turn?’ Turns move clockwise, so play accordingly. It’s also best to stack your chips in piles of 20 each, as it makes computation easier. And always make sure you get the pot before relinquishing your hand, or you may find yourself foolishly throwing your ‘winning’ hand on the table while someone else still holds a live, and better, hand.
Cards on the table
If you’ve been playing casually for a while, you may have become used to pulling your cards onto your lap. Poker rooms are much stricter about not allowing players to do this to prevent cheating, so accept cards face-down and bend them up enough for you to figure out what they are. And put a chip on top to keep them in place.
Watch your body language
Chances are, your opponents will be able to tell you’re a newbie just by the way you act. This in itself is fine, but make sure that none of your subsequent actions reveal any more information. Holding your hands in a way that looks like you’re about to fold, for instance, or counting out the chips you’re going to bet, can give considerable insight to others.
Follow poker room etiquette
One crucial part of poker is maintaining the spirit of the game. For example, slow-rolling, or revealing your winning hand slowly to increase suspense, may look good in movies. However, it’s a pet peeve for many players, so just turn your cards over quickly.
You shouldn’t try and mislead other players either. A common way to do this is by hiding chips or mis-disclosing the hand you have in order to force your opponent to make a move based on false information. These are examples of what poker players call angle shooting, which is when a player violates an unwritten rule that gives them an unfair advantage — even if it isn’t technically illegal. Though you won’t get kicked out of the poker room, it does take the fun out of the game for all involved.
Another rule is that, if you have questions, don’t ask the dealer during the play of a hand, as this can distract them. Finally, celebrating your wins after each hand can be seen as unnecessarily arrogant and an extra blow to the ego for those who’ve lost theirs.
Dress for success
Finally, being well-dressed can determine how others at the table perceive you, so pick a strategy and go with it. You can dress like a true gentleman, but you may also opt to wear more eccentric clothing to throw your opponents off-guard. In any case, make sure to dress comfortably — the air-conditioning can make some establishments exceptionally cold.
Meanwhile, check out more of our men’s lifestyle features here.