21 Things You Can Do While Waiting for a Seat in a Poker Game
Do you ever visit a busy card room? Do you ever find yourself waiting for a seat? I do. It happens a lot.
I hate waiting. I'm an impatient person by nature, and waiting brings out the worst in me. Handled incorrectly, a long wait can throw me off my game. When I finally do get a seat I'm pissed off, irritable, and ready for a fight. It's often hard to avoid being more aggressive than my better judgment would have me behave.
I'm not exaggerating when I say that it can be the difference between a good or a bad session. And even if I do manage to play well, I'm in a bad mood. What fun is that?
I decided long ago to try and embrace the wait, finding useful things to do with my time before I'm seated. I've reduced it to a list of 21 activities you can engage in while waiting. It will not make the time pass faster... but it will seem to go more quickly.
There's nothing wrong with using your waiting time just to decompress, meditate, or do nothing. Your brain is like a muscle. It needs its rest. So sit down and do what you've learned to do to relax. Maybe that's listening to music, playing a game, or even moving a chair near to the wall, putting your head back, and taking a quick snooze.
You can bring a book, read one of the poker magazines that many rooms hand out for free, or review notes you've taken on your play.
3. Watch a poker game
It's sometimes fun and educational just to watch the play of others, with nothing in mind other than being a silent observer.
4. Follow the action
You can play along as you watch the game, thinking through the hand from the perspective of one particular player in the hand.
5. Put someone on a hand
Look at the board (or exposed cards in stud games), the betting action, and what you can pick up about different playing styles to figure out what a player actually has.
6. Count down the pot
Practice adding up the pot as people bet, raise, and call. This is a useful skill to have when you're in a game. It becomes second nature if you get into the habit of doing it. Might as well start while you're waiting.
7. Have a conversation
There's nothing wrong with being sociable while you're waiting. If you're not sure how to get started in conversation, realize that most floor people have very interesting stories about their career. Get them started by asking where else they've worked. I bet you're called to a seat before they're done telling you career history.
8. Characterize each player in the game
As you watch a game, try to come up with a playing style label for each player in turn around the table. This may help you later on if you're seated with any of them.
9. Estimate stack sizes
Focus on one stack of chips at a time and try to calculate how much each player has in front of him or her.
10. Critique player action
Form an opinion of a player's betting action, then see if the hand would have turned out better if he had taken the action you would have recommended.
11. Compare games
Don't just check out one game. Look at them all. Try and discern which one would be the most profitable for you. If you're given a choice, which game would you prefer?
12. Create back stories for each player
Using your imagination, create fictional background information for all of the competitors based on the available evidence before you.
13. Write notes on your own play
Think back to your most recent session. Did you have any tough decisions that you couldn't think through at the time? Now that you're waiting, take the necessary time to break down the hand completely.
14. Pick the perfect seat
After observing the playing styles and stacks of each player in a game, decide which seat at the table would be most profitable for you.
15. Buy your chips early
If the poker room allows it, buy your chips early so you can take the right seat in the right game the moment it becomes available. Why have a second wait while you go and get chips after you're seated?
16. Use the restroom
Why wait? Once you finally get into a game, you're not going to want to get up again.
17. Look for chips or money on the floor
Hey, it will make the time pass. And you may get lucky.
18. Check the dealer's drop
Not all dealers rake correctly. While you're waiting for a game, see if you can accurately calculate the correct rake. Then see if the dealer's taking out too much.
19. Play another game
It's often helpful to learn another game or play at stakes other than what you're used to playing. So if there's a long wait for your game of $1/$2 no-limit hold'em, sit in for a while in a low-stakes limit game or stud game, or even $2/$5 NL. Experimentation has its place, and this is may be a good time for it.
20. Get something to eat
We've all got to eat. It's a good activity while you're waiting. Why do you think the mediocre restaurants in airports are often so busy? It helps people pass the time.
21. Go for a walk
If it's a large casino, you can probably ignore the outside weather and get in some good exercise without getting wet or cold. Just take a few interior laps of the building. If it's a small urban card room, you can walk around the block outside. Poker is a sedentary game, and thus bad for your health. Get your cardio where you can get it!
Ashley Adams has been playing poker for 50 years and writing about it since 2000. He is the author of hundreds of articles and two books, Winning 7-Card Stud (Kensington 2003) and Winning No-Limit Hold'em (Lighthouse 2012). He is also the host of poker radio show House of Cards. See www.houseofcardsradio.com for broadcast times, stations, and podcasts.