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7 Differences between Online Poker and Real Casino Poker

Last updated on March 4, 2018

Because so many poker players begin as online aficionados, there are often some misconceptions about what flies and what doesn’t in a brick-and-mortar environment.  Having been a casino poker player for many years, I am often privy to these misconstrued malcontents’ outrage as they argue with the floor on sundry decisions, rules, and variations from house to house.

I have also learned some truths about casinos and how they are designed over the years, which are interesting to note as either trivia or simply helpful information to know.  So, read up on the following top “lucky seven” advisories, and you’ll be better prepared for your next casino vacation or outing.


English only at the tables . . . player or not!


Yes, I know they have this rule online as well, but it is weakly enforced and doesn’t apply to “invisible” friends who may be talking off-screen.  Pretty much every casino in Vegas allows no foreign language spoken by players or their friends (even if they’re not seated at the table) or to speak anything other than English. This is for the obvious reason of avoiding more than one player to a hand or the possibility of cheating.  It’s also, quite frankly, to your benefit to understand what the dealer and other players are saying, especially when it comes to action. So please, take the time to get your English reasonably polished before your next trip to a casino – it also helps when ordering food!

Don’t assume there are set “rules” that are the same in every casino you will play in.

This is a widely-held misconception among many tourists who come to casinos for the first time, particularly in a city with as many poker rooms to choose from as Vegas.  So, to set the record straight: every casino is its own mini “autocracy,” and can and will set its own house rules in every area of the casino, including the poker room.  Moreover, within any given room, one floor person may interpret a ruling slightly differently from another, and at times, to be blunt, existing rules are not enforced.  Basically, whatever the person in charge at the moment says, goes.  Yes, you could theoretically complain to some higher up, but this will seldom get you anything but bad future service, if you get my drift.  Let it rest – its their casino and their rules stick.

Shills are legal in casinos.

Most, if not all, poker rooms in Vegas have shills who are generally dealers or floor people who are paid a small hourly fee to play in games with their own bankroll.  They are usually pretty easy to spot because they play tighter than an old rock on Social Security.  Generally, if you ask the dealer if so-and-so is a shill for the house, they must tell you. They are usually only put into games that are short on players, or during slow times and really nothing to worry about.

Security is everywhere, so you never need to watch out . . . NOT!

Truthfully, most Vegas casinos probably have better security than you will find at many major international airports.  Between the eye-in-the-sky, uniformed and undercover agents, and a general alertness amongst employees, you are probably safer than almost anywhere else you can go these days.  That being said, nothing is foolproof, and the main purpose of the  eye-in-the-sky is to protect the house’s coffers, not yours or your personal safety.

Women, in particular, should exercise common sense:  use valet parking (which is always free, save the well-worth-it tip when you pick up your car to leave), and don’t get so plastered that you lose your ability to make intelligent judgments about who to hang out with.  You are always entitled to have security walk you to your car if you feel uncomfortable for any reason.  Use this great benefit without hesitation should you feel you are being followed or harassed.  Also, you can always walk up to the easy-to-spot security desks in casinos and they will generally assist you with any issues that fall under their purview.

It’s always hot in the desert so just pack shorts and swimsuits.

I am always amused at what people think the weather will be like in the desert.  Just because they put tall modern buildings and fancy restaurants on the previously tumbleweed-covered dirt, doesn’t mean the basic climate isn’t still desert. That means, temperatures tend to veer to varying extremes from morning into evening all year, but even more so in our “winter,” which is generally late October through February.  Expect morning and midday temps in the 60-80s F at this time of year; but evenings, you may be surprised by the nip in the air, as we’ve been known to get down to 30s and even occasionally upper 20s, and usually get a dusting of (usually non-sticking) snow for a few days every December.  And regardless of temps outdoors, the indoor thermostats are always set low in casinos to keep players awake and compensate for body heat.

Bring lots of layers so you can peel off or add on as needed.  And pack warm jammies for those winter nights, so you don’t end up spending too much on an impulse-buy flannel set at one of the overpriced casino gift shops!

The easier the game, the more likely you are to lose your shirt (and everything else you packed)!

When you get to any casino, take a look around: whatever you see the most of, is the most lucrative game for the house in terms of their edge.  That’s why slot machines are the mainstay of any casino’s gaming equipment.  After that, things like keno and roulette follow suit.  Another good rule of thumb is, the less time it takes to learn, the faster you are likely to rebuy.

And while it’s easy to say “set a budget and stick to it,”  few people who caught up in the ether of a casino environment (and surrounded by the ease of ATM machines planted every 10 feet,) are actually able to stick to that resolve.  Personally, I recommend you avoid the machines and table games as much as possible.  With poker, you at least know you only have to beat the other 8 or 9 players at your table; the house gets its share no matter what.

Remember, there’s lots to do in Vegas besides play poker or gamble!

Yes, we know most of you are virtually salivating before you even get off  the plane, you’re so excited to sit down in your poker game of choice once you arrive.  But Vegas also has some of the best shopping and dining on the planet.  It even has some beautiful surrounding scenery, should (gasp!) sunshine and fresh air appeal to you on occasion.  The good thing about most Vegas poker rooms is, the action is non-stop 24/7, 365 days a year.  So take some time to comb the boutiques or enjoy a gourmet meal, knowing that you will almost certainly find a seat when you return to the tables.

And there you go:  seven tips to make your next Las Vegas (or other casino) visit more enjoyable and safer.  Here’s to a wonderful time on your next visit!

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