With the world continuing to open back up, people are beginning to embrace public recreation once again. That means going to the movies, attending sporting events, meeting friends at restaurants and coffee shops, and so on. And for many in Pittsburgh and around the state, it will also mean heading out to one of the area casinos.

Pennsylvania simply has a little more to offer on the casino entertainment front than most other states, and it’s likely that these venues will hold a particular appeal in light of the pandemic. They don’t represent individual events or activities, but rather full packages of fun and recreation — which makes them almost like one-stop shops for everything we’ve been missing. A trip to a casino can mean hanging out with friends, meeting strangers, having a cocktail and a nice meal, and playing games (as well as in some cases enjoying a spa treatment!).

The real attraction for those of us who have simply missed human contact and social activity, however, is going to be the poker tables. These are the highlights in most casinos, and the idea of sitting around a table playing cards with friends and strangers alike — after more than a year spent largely in isolation — sounds refreshingly real.

That said, poker can also be intimidating in the most normal of time! The social appeal is clear, but once you’re at the table there’s always a little bit of pressure also. You’ll tend to overcome that pressure and enjoy yourself more, however, if you fully understand what you’re getting into and how things go at real casino poker tables. So, to that end, we have some nice and easy tips on how to fit right in.

Know the game varieties

Most people understand the general concept of poker well enough: You’re dealt cards, you draw new ones if you want, and in some cases you make use of community cards, all to form the best combination. But the different popular varieties of poker can all show up in a casino, and it’s best to know them apart heading in. It’s not a huge deal, but sitting down at a five card stud table expecting to play Texas Hold’Em (for example) can definitely be awkward, and throw you off. If you understand the varieties, you can head for the table you’re most interested and start right in.

Know the general rules

We just alluded to the basics of how poker is played. But it’s a good idea to know a few more details quite well also. That doesn’t mean you have to understand some of the complex probabilities advanced players often have committed to memory. But knowing how different hands rank against one another, how betting takes place, what some of the common terms are, and so on will help to make the experience smooth and enjoyable. Again, tripping up with these things isn’t a huge deal, but it can throw you off and make the experience a bit less fun (not to mention it might hurt your outcomes!).

Know the etiquette

It’s a given that when you go to a real casino you should never try to cheat at poker. However, there are also other breaches of etiquette that, while not technically cheating, are viewed as frowned-upon ways to seek an advantage. These maneuvers are known as angle shoots, and consist of things like hiding your chips, or “pump faking” a bet (pushing chips forward but withdrawing them before the bet is official). Again, they’re not technically cheating, but they may cause others at the table to view you negatively, which kind of kills the vibe.

Dress sensibly

Casino fashion is actually a complicated topic. A lot of people have an image in mind of high-rolling gamblers showing up in tailored suits looking like a million bucks; others envision millennial poker pros slouching over tables in baggy jeans and hoodies. The truth is most casino style is somewhere in the middle, neither fancy nor too casual. That said, how you dress for poker can also communicate a little bit about you to other players, so you should try not to give off any particularly clear, prevailing impression — unless you want to play mind games, of course!

These are all worthwhile tips for anyone heading to the poker tables. That said, above all else you should remember to enjoy yourself. Getting out into the world again is meant to be a joyous occasion, and poker is a ton of fun once you get into it. All of the above may sound a little rigid or formal, but if you keep it all in mind you’ll be in good shape to simply enjoy your time at the tables.