By Steve Beauregard
In a home game, it’s common courtesy to give your friends a heads-up that you’ll be leaving soon. This is often done by letting them know you’ll have to take off in a half-hour or the wife will kill you.
Alternatively, you could give the “round” warning, as in “This will be my last round.” In other words, when the deal gets back to you, you’ll leave.
Both of these are acts of respect and common courtesy you naturally show to your friends. The proper etiquette when leaving a poker table in a casino however, is much different.
Unlike a home game, at a casino, you can leave whenever you want.
When playing live poker in a casino, you leave whenever you want to leave. Right then and there. No warnings. No “heads-up,” and no explanation necessary. Unlike a friendly home game, leaving without warning is not impolite, but rather, it’s a traditional, socially acceptable practice.
“But what if I just won a huge pot?” you ask. Again, leave whenever you want to leave. There are no house rules or social norms that must be followed here. It doesn’t matter if you’ve just raked in a monster pot, or haven’t played a hand all night – when you want to leave, leave.
I remember my very first time playing poker live in a casino. Some friends and I had drove up to the casinos in Black Hawk, Colorado where limited stakes gambling had recently become legal, to play cards at the Colorado Central Station Casino (now the Lady Luck).
This was before the Chris Moneymaker poker boom, and we didn’t know how to play. On top of that, we had been drinking. If you ever wanted the perfect four guys to sit down in your poker game, we were them.
In fact, we were so new, the card room manager sat us down and showed us how to play Texas Hold’em. Being nervous, I asked the manager if once seated, we had to stay there a for a certain amount of time.
“Nope,” he said. “You can leave whenever.”
“Even after just one hand?” I asked, to which he replied, “Even after just one hand.”
Fast forward a few minutes later to my very first hand of hold’em, in which I river a set and end of taking down a pretty good sized pot. It was pure beginners luck of course. I still d not have a firm grasp of hand rankings and had no clue when it came to determining where I stood in a hand. I was clearly out of my league playing in this game, and thus – satisfied with my winnings – collected my chips and left.
The rest of the table, undoubtedly licking their chops at my chip stack and inexperience, started protesting. That’s when I pointed at the nearby poker room manager, and told the table “That guy said I could leave whenever I wanted to.”
The manager just shrugged and nodded in agreement.
So leave whenever you get the itch to leave. If you’re tired, leave. Broke? Leave. Bored, leave.
I would, however, add one caveat here: if you live near a casino, and are a regular in a casual low stakes poker game full of friendly locals (such as yourself I presume), I would treat it more as a home game and not necessary walk away immediately after a big score.
Playing daily in a friendly low-limit game with the same cast of characters means your local card room is more of a social club, and to keep it enjoyable experience, you should act with respect to your friends on the felt.
In Mesquite, Nevada, for example, many of the local retired good old boys gather at the Eureka Hotel and Casino’s poker room each morning for some $2-$8 spread limit hold’em.
The game is very casual, with lots of friendly banter thrown around, and it seems that nearly everybody knows everyone else.
(Go here to find out the minimum buy-in for playing $1 $2 no-limit Texas Hold’em).
In this scenario, it would be bad form to rack up your winnings and leave after winning a large pot. I’m not saying you have to stick around for another three hours and try to dump some chips off to keep everyone happy, but staying around for at least a couple of more rounds should ensure the vibe stays friendly for the numerous sessions you’ll have there in your future.
In a friendly local card game in which you know most of the participants and play with them daily, don’t ever leave right away after a big win. Otherwise, you’ll be tagged as what’s known as a “Hit and Run” artist – or someone who makes a score and runs away with his winnings. Hitting and running is not against casino rules or anything, but it would create a bad vibe in the poker room for you and who wants that? If you plan on spending every day there playing, you’ll want it to be a fun experience I presume. After all, you’re not counting on this money to buy groceries (I hope).
Leaving a Poker Room to Go Eat Dinner, or Go to the Bathroom
Like most new players, during my first game, I wasn’t sure if it was OK to leave the poker table to use the restroom.
So if you are new to the game, please know that it is perfectly fine to get up and go to the bathroom, or get some fresh air, or whatever. Just don’t do it while you are in the middle of a hand (even if you plan on folding).
The best time to use the bathroom when playing Texas hold’em (limit or no-limit), is after the dealer button has passed you. Normally, I wait for the dealer button to move two seats to my left before getting up to leave. I do this, because in hold’em, the players on the button, or just to the right of the button, are the last players to act in a round, and therefore have a strategic advantage. I don’t want to get up and leave when I have this positional advantage.
Using the restroom when the button still has to get to five or six people before me, ensures enough time for me to get back to the table before it’s time for my big blind.
As for catching a bite to eat: you’re allowed to take an extended break to go to a restaurant, or for any other reason. The time allotted depends on the poker room, but times ranging from 1/2 hour, to one hour are common.
What this means, is that you’re allowed to remain away from the table for this period, but if you’re not back before the allotted time ends, you can be removed from the game.
This will only happen if there is a waiting list, or if someone wants to join the game. What will happen is that the card room manager will count, and collect the missing player’s chips. The player will be able to collect the chips of course, but will have to wait until another seat opens up before he or she will be allowed to join a game.
The dinner break sit-out is a nice option, but one that shouldn’t be abused. Most poker players desire to have a full table full of players, and it’s just common courtesy to stay in your seat for most of the time and play the game.
If you want a long leisurely dinner break or two, just pack up your chips and come back afterwards. It’s respectful and polite to the other players in the poker room, and will have the added benefit of making you not feel rushed during your dinner.