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Card Club Survival Skills

First it was the proliferation of television shows covering poker, with such venues as ESPN changing the status of the once beloved but disreputable game to that of a sport. Then it was the far greater proliferation of online venues for playing poker that changed the way millions honed – or failed to hone – their poker playing skills.

The result has been a number of young people not only buying their own poker chip sets, but hitting card clubs and casinos nationwide. Though poker has long been portrayed as an edgy pursuit, many newer players may still not be quite ready for what happens when poker played between strangers becomes up close an personal. Here are just a few tips that might prepare you for your first night playing in a card club or casino.

Don't Get Caught Up in Appearances

A large number of the people at any given card club are regulars. To put it delicately, some folks who spend a lot of time in card clubs and casinos may not seem to be the best and the brightest. Don't let that fool you. Some are far smarter and more educated than they appear.

Others are more of a mixed bag. The vaguely smelly guy in the ill-fitting t-shirt next to you spouting off ignorantly about politics or sports might not be a Rhodes scholar, but he plays poker a lot. While there's an excellent chance you'd best him at almost any battle of wits outside of a card club, at the tables there's a good chance he might have a great deal more knowledge than you.

Be Prepared to Be Shocked

People who spend a lot of time gambling are often somewhat "on the edge" and you'll occasionally hear language that might put you in mind of early Quentin Tarantino films. Also, while out-and-out racial epithets or name calling are relatively rare, be prepared to encounter shocking opinions and even the occasional out-and-out bigot. Ignore them as much as possible. If the situation is starting to look seriously ugly ask the dealer – who's probably just as uncomfortable as you – to contact security.

Anger: Foe or friend?

A somewhat related issue is the tendency of some players to get angry for no particular reason or to constantly criticize the hardworking dealer for minor – or nonexistent – mistakes. While it can be a little unsettling to see a player who seems ready to run amok and grab poker chip sets from players, the good news for you is that they are usually angry because they are losing and their lack of emotional equilibrium can make them outstanding potential sheep for you to metaphorically shear. Very often, these people are regulars, so if everyone else seems to be taking the angry displays in stride, follow suit. Most card club anger is 100 percent bluster. If not, again, most casinos and card clubs have competent and experienced security personnel.

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