Sign-Up Procedures for a Game of Poker
Some where in the room will be a floor manager or host, usually called the "brush" in a poker room. Before you can take a seat at a table, you'll have to find him. He maintains a sign-up sheet for the waiting list in each game.
You'll need to be prepared to tell the floorman or brush what game (Hold'Em) and what limit you want to play. Ask him what limits are available. Put yourself on the list for any limits you will be comfortable playing. A beginner should probably start in a 2/4, 3/6, or 1-4-8-8 game.
I sometimes put myself on the waiting list for every game and limit that the room has available. If I decide I don't want to play a certain game, I can always turn the seat down when my name comes up, but getting on all the lists leaves my options open.
You can't just sit at an empty seat; just because a seat is empty doesn't mean it's available. It may be that a new player is on his way to take the seat, or there may be that a new player is on his way to take the seat, or there may be some other reason the brush will want you to take a seat at a different table. Generally you will not be allowed to take a seat without referral by the brush, so don't try.
The form of the sign-up sheet varies from cardroom to cardroom. Some use a large blackboard or acrylic writing surface, and players can add themselves to the list. More commonly someone is standing near the board, and they will add your initials or name. Sometimes the floor manager keeps a clipboard that contains the waiting lists.
If you see a large board that looks as if it might be a sigh-up board, go to it. You should find a floor manager nearby. If you don't see such a board, look for a podium either near the front or middle of the room. If all else fails, just ask someone where to sign up for a game.
Whenever you're in doubt about something, don't be hesitant to just ask whoever is available. Because every cardroom has a slightly different sign-up procedure, you won't be identifying yourself as a novice by asking. Even the most experienced player may have to ask if it's his first visit to that particular cardroom. You'll usually get a receptive reaction to questions from players and employees alike.
Once you've signed up for a game, don't leave the cardroom area without first telling the brush. Some cardrooms will give you a beeper to carry if you intend to wander to other areas of the casino. Sometimes they'll page you over the casino loudspeaker. Some of them are even starting to keep computerized lists shown on monitors scattered around the room. If you don't tell them you will be out of the area, many cardrooms will simply cross your name off the list if you don't quickly respond when your name is called. It all depends on the procedures in use at the particular cardroom. Ask.