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The House

House - Casino - Paying the House

by Jesse Knight
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Poker House
House - The establishment running a poker game or other gambling game.


“The house” is a term that is frequently used when referring to a casino or other gambling establishment. Since management is expected to be acting in the best interest of the house, management is also sometimes referred to as “the house.” The term “house” is frequently used all across the casino, and in many different contexts.

You may hear the term “house rules” used to describe the poker rule book. Many of the rules and procedures you will encounter in a poker room are standardized, and are the same no matter where you play. For example, you can walk into any Texas Hold’em game and expect to be dealt a two card starting hand before the deal. While the game itself is essentially the same no matter where you play, there are several lesser rules which are not standardized across the industry. These rules, which can vary greatly from casino to casino, are known as the house rules.

The house rules are often numerous enough that the casino will have printed up a pocket sized booklet or brochure listing them in an organized fashion. This rule book should be made available to you upon request, and you should request one and review it if you are unfamiliar with the house rules in a given establishment. If everybody would take the time to familiarize themselves with the house rules before sitting down in a game, there would be far fewer procedural misunderstandings, and the game would run more smoothly.

House rules can cover procedure, etiquette, and any area where rules have not been standardized industry wide. An example of a procedural house rule would be the number of bets and raises allowed in a limit game. Some poker clubs allow a bet and three raises on a particular betting round before the action is capped. Other clubs will allow a bet and four raises. This is the type of thing that will be specified in the poker rule book.

An example of a house rule covering etiquette would be the “third man walking” rule. You may or may not find this rule in the rule book, as some casinos have instituted it and some have not. This rule states that no more than two players may be absent from the game at any given time. If you are the third player to walk away or be dealt out, you are in violation of the third man walking rule, and are subject to having your chips picked up immediately and to being replaced in the game with a player from the board. This rule is designed to keep the game from stalling, which frequently occurs when too many player walk away from the table at the same time. Of course, you would have had to familiarize yourself with the house rules to know that the third man walking rule is in effect. Without this knowledge, you could very easily be picked up if you step away from the table at the wrong moment.

The most important rule in virtually every poker rule book is that “the house may make a ruling to protect the best interest of the game, and that decision of the house is final.” This gives the floor person the flexibility to rule in the best interest of the game even if it technically goes against the letter of the law. Of course, anytime a ruling is issued in contravention of the house rules, it may result in a conflict, and so the floor man needs to be able to justify taking this step. This clause is reserved for use only in extreme situations, and it is rarely enacted, but its existence prevents players from getting to far out of line. If they do, it is within the rights of the floor staff to take action up to and including killing a hand or removing a player from the game or the casino.

The term “house” is also frequently used in other contexts. For example, and unflattering nickname for a proposition player or a shill is “house plant.” Players may make and receive phone calls on the “house phone.” And a five card poker hand which contains three of a kind plus a pair of different ranking is called a “full house.” These are just a few examples of the many way in which the term “house” is used inside the casino.

Usage: Flopped a Full House, House Rule, The House

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