Walking into a card room for the first time can be intimidating. There's a lot of noise and activity and no one will come forward to help you if you don't ask. But armed with a few pieces of knowledge, you'll be able to navigate quickly to a table of your choosing and start playing poker.
The first thing to look for when you enter or approach the cardroom is the board. These days it is usually electronic, but the name goes back to when games were still written in chalk on a blackboard. In smaller card rooms in out of the way places you may still run into a whiteboard with the names of the games on it. The board will be arranged in columns, with the name and limits of the game at the top, followed by some numbers or the word "Interest" and then either blank space or a list of names:
24, 12, 14
Common abbreviations are often used in the top segment: NL for No Limit, PLO for Pot Limit Omaha, O8 for Omaha 8 or better. The numbers below that are the table numbers where the game is being spread, or "interest" if it's just a list of people who are interested in playing the game. Under that is the list of people waiting for a seat. If there's no names on the list, there may already be a seat open or you'll be first up. Getting into a game is simple. Look at the board and find a game you're interested in. If you're having trouble interpreting it, simply ask the person working it if the have the game you're interested in. If they don't, they will usually suggest a game that is similar. If you see the game you want, tell the board person, "Put me on the list for one-two No Limit," or whatever you're interested in. If there's a seat open they'll tell you where to go, or they will call your name when a seat comes open.
Most cardrooms have chip runners who will exchange your cash for chips right at the table, but some don't. Make sure to ask the board person, "Can I get chips at the table?" and they will most likely answer yes, or tell you to get them from themselves or the cage, which is the casino cashier. Load up with at least the table minimum -- which will be posted on a plaque on the table you're playing at -- and get in the game.
Though it is becoming less common, new players at a table are often required to either post a blind when they sit down or wait until it is their big blind to begin playing. I will often wait, as it gives me time to observe my opponents for free, but it is largely personal preference. The dealer will ask you, "Do you want to post?" and you can either post and play immediately, or tell him, "I'll wait" and then post your big blind in turn.
Cell Phones and Tablets
These days it is very important to know the cardroom's cell phone policy. Some rooms you can sit with a phone or tablet in front of you playing Angry Birds with headphones on the entire time, in others if you so much as touch an electronic device during play, they'll kill your hand. The most common policy is, "Move away from the table to talk and don't slow down the game." Always ask what the cell phone policy is when you sit down to avoid getting a big hand mucked because you answered a text.
Floor is the magic word. If there is a dispute at the table, or you're confused about a ruling, don't be afraid to ask the dealer to call for the floor. One of the floor people will come over, listen to what happened and make a ruling. Once they do, it's over. Whether it went your way or not, be sure to be polite and move on.
The cardroom staff are there to ensure the games are safe, fast, and fun. Ask them for help any time you're confused and they will assist you. Have fun and play well and likely you'll be well-paid for your entertainment.