Public cardroom rules
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Popular poker variants
While different casinos offer different poker variants, the most popular poker games offered in U.S. casinos include:
Most casinos manage table seating on a first-come, first-served basis. During peak periods, there may be long waiting lists for poker seats. Players can normally be on multiple waiting lists (for different types of games and money amounts). In some rooms, players can phone in to get a place on the list, and it will be held for some set amount of time. Players on the list can similarly inform the manager that they will be dining, and their places on the list will be held until they return.
Chips are the primary currency of the game. These can be purchased from the casino employee dealing the game or from cashiers at windows found around the casino. Most casinos employ chip runners, who sell chips to players. Most public cardrooms will not allow players to buy chips from each other at the table. Some houses allow cash to play; some allow only $100 notes.
Public card rooms typically charge a fee for conducting the game. The rake is the scaled commission fees taken by a casino operating a poker game. This fee structure is common in low-stakes cash games. For ring games, it is generally 5-10% of each poker hand, up to a predetermined maximum amount, such as 3% up to $3.00. This fee is sometimes referred to as the "drop" since the dealer will drop the rake into a container at the table. In California, rakes based on the size of the pot are not legal, so a fixed per-hand drop is assessed based on the betting limits at the table.
The casino may alternatively charge an hourly rate for renting a seat. This fee is referred to as a time fee, or simply "time." Time fees might be combined with a rake, but that is not common. Time fees are more common in mid or high-stakes games.
For tournaments, the fee might be 10% of the buy-in, but can vary widely. The fee might or might not be spelled out clearly. Generally, a tournament will be advertised as "buy-in amount+fee". For example, "$100+$10" would have $100 going to the prize pool and an additional $10 going to the house as the fee for a total of $110 cost to the player.
Poker is a player versus player game (unlike blackjack or roulette) and the house has no interest in the money wagered. The rake, drop, or time fees provide the house's revenue.
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Aside from the particular rules of gameplay, some common rules in U.S. public cardrooms include:
- Players must protect their hands, either by holding their cards or placing a chip or other object on top of their cards. An unprotected hand may be mucked by the dealer in turn. As this rule has the potential of sparking heated argument, the player or table is often warned once or twice before the house dealer begins mucking hands. A variety of "card covers" are sold for the specific purpose, and the objects used are often revered as lucky charms.
- Players must act in turn. Players should not telegraph or otherwise indicate intentions to act prior to their turn to act.
- In the event of an action out-of-turn, the action may be binding if there is no bet, call or raise between the out-of-turn action and the player's proper turn.
- Verbal declarations are binding and take precedence over non-verbal actions.
- Betting actions without a verbal declaration must be made in a single motion or gesture ("no string bet" rule).
- Knocking or tapping the table is usually a check, except in cases where a player already has an oversized chip in the pot and is facing a bet and/or raise(s) that add up to a sum less than or equal to the value of that chip - in such cases a knock or tap will be considered a call. Tossing or pushing cards away is a fold.
- In the absence of a verbal declaration of "Raise," if a player puts in chips equal to 50 percent or more of the minimum raise, he will be required to make a full minimum raise. Otherwise, the action is deemed a call and the excess chips should be returned to the player.
- In limit games, an oversized chip will be constituted to be a call if the player does not announce a raise. In no-limit, an oversized chip before the flop is a call; after the flop, an oversized chip by the initial bettor put in the pot will constitute the size of the bet or raise unless the player states a smaller amount. In pot-limit and no-limit, if a player states raise and throws in an oversized chip, the raise will be the maximum amount allowable up to the size of that chip. In all rounds, an oversized chip following a bet or raise constitutes a call unless the player verbally declares a raise. A bet with an oversized chip that is subsequently raised to an amount still less than (or equal to) the chip's value can be called by tapping the board as if the player were checking. At the end of each betting round, the dealer will make change as required for players with a chip in the pot larger than the actual bet or call.
- Bets should be placed in front of the player's cards. Chips should not be thrown (splashed) into the pot.
- Re-raises must be at least the size of the previous bet or raise in that round, unless a player is going all-in. Calls must of course match the bet to the player, also unless the player is all-in.
- "Show one, show all" – Hole cards, including folded hands, should not be revealed to other players until showdown. If a player reveals his hole cards to another player active in the current hand, all players have the right to also see the hole cards. Also, revealing hole cards to inactive players and/or spectators is being increasingly frowned on. Finally, if an uncalled winning hand is shown to only one player, then any other player at the table has a right to see the winning hand. Note that, contrary to a common misinterpretation, "show one, show all" does not refer to the number of cards in the hole – an uncalled winning hand may expose a single hole card to all players without revealing the other hole card(s).
- Folding players should not expose hole cards, although enforcement of this rule tends to be lenient as such exposure is usually accidental. An uncalled winning hand is not required to be exposed, and it is not recommended to do so, but it is not disallowed.
- Players may not verbally disclose the contents of their hand.
- Players or spectators may not advise other players how to play a hand ("One player to a hand" rule; the practice is also known as kibitzing).
- Cards may not be removed or held below the table or otherwise concealed from view.
- Players in hands cannot reveal their hole cards to convince other players to fold; if so, the player's cards are considered a dead hand.
- Players must keep their highest denomination chips visible at all times.
- Players may not remove a portion of their chips from the table (called going south or ratholing) unless they cash out and leave the game. However, casinos generally allow players to use chips to purchase and/or tip for food and drinks.
- Cards speak for themselves and prevail if a player misstates the value of his hand at the showdown.
- Speaking in foreign languages at the table is prohibited (unless all players and the house dealer are fluent in that language; ASL and other sign languages are considered foreign but often allowed due to the Americans with Disabilities Act).
- Players should not discuss or otherwise influence the hand-in-progress after folding.
- Cell-phone use at the table is usually prohibited. However, some cardrooms now permit players to send and receive text messages from the table, provided they are not involved in the current hand and/or they are not slowing down the game. MP3 players are generally allowed. However using a smartphone as a music player is often not. If in doubt check with the room's staff.
- Profanity is prohibited. How strictly this is enforced depends on the discretion of the cardroom staff and the context of any foul language that might be uttered. While occasional cursing may be tolerated, abusive language directed at other players or staff almost certainly will not be.
Variability and enforcement
In many cardrooms, the rules in effect at a particular table can be varied if the players at the table give unanimous consent to the change (for example, whether or not to allow straddling at a table), or alternatively may dispense with certain rules on a case-by-case basis provided no player objects to the dispensation (for example, to allow one player to sell or give chips to another). Depending on the cardroom (or even on the particular dealer), some rules (such as the "show one show all" rule) might not be enforced unless a player requests enforcement.
Legality in the United States
The authority to operate public cardrooms in the U.S. is primarily prescribed by state laws, with some Federal laws covering tribal gaming. States usually limit public poker cardrooms to casinos and parimutuel betting facilities (e.g., horse tracks, greyhound tracks, off-track betting (OTB) facilities, and Jai Alai frontons) or tribal reservations.
Local laws may limit the type or nature of poker games offered in public cardrooms. For example, North Dakota has a limitation of $25 per individual hand, game or event. In Montana the maximum size of a won pot is $800. As of July 2010 Florida no longer requires that in limit games, all bets be no more than $5 and in no-limit games the maximum buyin is unlimited. In Florida, poker tournaments are exempted from the betting structure rules and may use any betting structure the cardroom wishes. Tournament formats are used to circumvent gambling rules in other states as well. Unlike some other forms of gambling, tribal gaming may be subject to state laws governing poker.
- Slotboom, Rolf. "Ocean's Eleven Casino Vol. 17, No. 1 Card Player Magazine". Cardplayer.com. Retrieved 2016-10-23.
- By I. Nelson Rose (2005-06-11). "Poker Tournaments in Bars, Clubs, Online ... Everywhere". Rose.casinocitytimes.com. Retrieved 2016-10-23.