I understand why you would like to play more hands. I, at times, also find live poker tables very dull. Players that take ages don’t help to make it any better, which could mean that the poker game you are having is so slow that only 20 hands are played per hour or even less.
The same goes for the dealers. They, too, are bored and can get grumpy if the game is slow because they make much less in tips.
Speeding up your poker games and playing more hands per hour is easy in online games. You just add up more poker tables and set up your hotkeys. But what can you do to speed the game in a live poker game? How about if you are hosting a poker game and want it to play faster?
What to do to speed up your poker game
I will let you know of 9 essential things to make to speed up your poker game and play more hands:
- Don’t deal in or auto fold if player not on the table
- Narrate the action with a hand gesture in front of the player that is to act
- Announce on every street how many players remain in the hand
- Have scheduled break times
- Call people by names to prompt them if action is on them (in a home game)
- Shuffle cards faster
- Have more than one deck of cards
- Pay more attention as a dealer
- Serve drinks to the table instead of letting players stand up
1. If players aren’t on the table
As a host of a poker game, you have probably noticed that players always leave the table. Whether it be to get a beverage, chat off the tables, or take a toilet break, the fact is that it slows down the game tremendously. There are a few steps you can do to play more hands. An excellent way to combat players being absent from the table is to make some rules. If a player is not behind the desk when a hand gets dealt, then one of the following can happen:
- A player will auto fold
- A player will automatically limp and check/fold on every street if he is not present and he didn’t announce that he is sitting out
- An absent player automatically sits out
As you can see, the second option is very harsh, and to be honest, it might be too severe to do at your poker game. You want to have a friendly atmosphere where everybody wants to come back another time. So first and third options make more sense. Many players are okay with this. Just make sure that if they are not back after a while, they would be removed from the table to open a free seat for someone else.
2. Narrate the action
If you are the dealer, you should narrate the action with hand gestures and show each player when it is his turn to act. If for some reason, a player is distracted, then such a simple hand gesture could easily be enough to let him know it is his turn to act. And if by any chance the distracted player doesn’t notice, someone else at the table will, and they might remind him.
3. Announce remaining players
Let’s face it. To really know how many players remain in the hand is a tedious task for a poker player that wants to have fun. You don’t want each player to start looking around the table and counting how many more players are still involved in the hand. It is much better if, at the start of every street, you announce how many players are still involved in the hand.
This ensures that one variable less is needed for a poker player to make a decision. Remember, every little bit helps to maximize your hourly as a dealer. Be friendly to players and not only more hands will be played, but also you will receive more tips.
4. Have scheduled break times
Having a scheduled break time instead of allowing players to leave the table is also a good option for your poker game.
Scheduled five-minute break every 90 minutes should be enough to go to the toilet or get a quick snack.
5. Call people by names
You might think this is only applicable in home games where you are friends with everybody. Well, believe it or not, I have seen it at the local cardroom also. The dealer can simply call the person by name and let him know an action is on him if he seems not to pay attention to the table.
This is a sort of extra info for other players, though. It means that this player is most likely a regular, how else would a dealer know his name?
6. Shuffle cards faster
If you have an automatic shuffler, you can’t shuffle the cards faster than if the machine does it for you. But if you are still doing it manually, then there is always room for improvement. As a dealer, it pays to invest in learning how to shuffle cards faster. You don’t need to be a master in shuffling cards like, but it pays off to know some tricks on how to shuffle faster.
You will leave players at the table impressed by your shuffling skills and happier when they get to play more hands. If players are happy, your wallet is happy 🙂.
7. Have more than one deck of cards
This one is more applicable to home games than casinos. I can’t tell you at how many friends’ places I played poker where we only had one deck of cards. It is very time-consuming to collect the cards first after the hand was finished and then start shuffling and then finally start dealing. A whole minute can pass just for this to be done.
It is much better to have 2 decks of playing cards instead. Many of good poker cards that you buy online come with 2 packs.
With 2 decks, the dealer of the hand that just finished can collect the cards, while the person who was just small blind (will be a dealer in the new hand) starts dealing with a new deck already. In poker rooms, they often have auto shuffling machines. The process there is also similar. While the dealer is collecting the cards, the new deck got shuffled by a device already. Then it is on the dealer to just switch the two decks after the hand finishes and repeat the process.
8. Pay more attention as a dealer
As boring as the game can sometimes be for the players, it gets boring for the dealers also. There could be a while in between big pots, and players are just folding.
Don’t allow yourself to lose focus as the dealer. If anyone, it is you who should be focused all the time.
I have seen too many dealers make up what the pot is because they weren’t paying attention to bet sizes or were distracted by chatting with a player at the table. Treat it like a job and be kind to players, and your tips will increase, and so will the number of played hands.
9. Have waitress bring drinks to the table instead of allowing players to leave the table
This one is kind of controversial. While you do want the players to get off the table to get drinks and not distract the action at the table, at the same time, you want them to play as much as possible. All in all, I think it is better if the waitress brings the drinks to the table, instead of players getting up. Just make sure that there are cup holders on the table or that players can put their drinks somewhere off the table.
How to speed up your poker game as a player
- Learn the preflop opening ranges well (as a player): A straightforward thing like learning the proper preflop opening hands can really add up to you playing faster. If everyone folds to you, then your decision can become almost automatic preflop.
Experienced players like myself know exactly which hands to open and which to fold from every position. Small adaptations are necessary when you play against very specific opponents, though. If opponents play very tight after me, then I simply open more hands. Contrary, if they are very loose, then I open less than I would otherwise. But for the most part, the memorized preflop ranges are essential.
Playing according to preflop charts is not just a matter of increasing the number of hands you will play. It also increases your hourly. Having a proper preflop selection makes playing postflop easier, and it gets you into less tough spots.
- Don’t use mobile phones: Using mobile phones is usually allowed at the poker table. But the question of how much it stalls the game remains, though. You can easily get distracted while browsing social media on your phone. And few seconds here and a few seconds there do add up when it comes to playing more hands per hour.
One thing where I might let you slip and use the mobile phone is if you are about to make a note on a player. Yes, that is right, you are allowed to take notes at live poker games, and you should do so. Many poker apps will enable you to make efficient live poker notes.
- Don’t distract other players: just like you don’t want to get distracted, so don’t the others. Who knows, it might be you in the end who distracts a player and is during a chat battle when it is his turn to act. He could quickly get distracted and not notice it is on him to make a decision. Okay, it might not be so drastic, but it will take the opponent longer to act.
- Trivial decisions should be made fast: If someone makes preflop raise in front of you and your cards aren’t that good, then just make the fold fast—no need to waste time and pretend like you are facing a hard decision.
- Don’t stall when nearing the bubble in the tournament: Many players stall when it gets near to being in the money of a tournament. The idea behind this is that if someone else busts before you, then you will be guaranteed to reach the rewards. Unless you are very short, it doesn’t make sense—quite the contrary. If you are a big stack, you should play as fast as possible, as others will be afraid to play against you, and you can accumulate quite a large amount of chips around the bubble.
- Have chips in a nice order: if you ever played poker, then you know there is always someone who has chips in front of him in no order, like a pile of trash. Don’t do that yourself. Having chips lay all over in front of you makes it tough to tell how big your stack is. It will slow down the game when you are involved in a hand, and other players will want to know your stack size.
Always have your chips nicely visible to other players, so they get an idea of your stack just by glancing over. Have them mostly in the same stack sizes either of 10 or 20 together. I have my chips in stacks of 20. This is also the most popular among other poker players.
- Avoid throwing the chips on the table: Chips flying around the table are a distraction. First, the chips that roll will need to get caught, then passed back to the dealer, and then finally, the dealer can continue with the action. Don’t toss them. Put whatever the amount you want to bet or call nicely together and even better announce with the word what your play is (call, raise to 80, and so on).
When you don’t want to speed up the game
There is one particular reason why you wouldn’t want to speed up the game as a poker player. When you are in a tournament, and it is getting close to the bubble or on the bubble itself. Then many shorter stacked players will be stalling in hopes of someone else busting first. This is actually quite a common problem in live tournaments nowadays.
In online games, the bubble gets played a hand for hand. Meaning every table will be dealt with the new hand once all of the tables have finished with a hand. This is however, harder to do in live poker tournaments. Especially if the tournament is big, there will be many active tables left on the bubble.
If you stall too much, then it could quickly happen that the clock will be called, and not just by players who won’t be too happy about you playing so slow.
Now should you be timing out every hand until you get in the money? Well, that is up to you, but know that other players won’t take it too lightly and you can even get penalized.
There you go. I am sure you were able to find many useful tips on how to speed up your poker. Remember that making players happy should be your priority. A satisfied customer will always be more likely to return.
If you were just looking at how to speed up your own game while you sit down and play poker, then apply the tips I gave you. If they look straightforward, it is because they are. But they do work and will increase your hourly income with minimal effort added from you.