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Home Poker Games
By John Reger
Recently I was talking with a woman online about poker, and she was telling me about a home game she had started.
She had been playing for years online and at poker clubs, but liked having a friendly game at her house in a more social atmosphere.
Home games are fun, but they are definitely a different animal than online or playing at a club.
A home poker game is more social, usually played with friends and family. There is usually liquor and food and your attention is not on the cards a lot of the time.
There is nothing wrong with that, but realize a home game is not as competitive and your strategy will definitely be different, intentional or not.
When you are playing with someone you know, the tendency is to play looser. First, the stakes are usually a lot lower, and second, you aren’t going to have the same killer instinct you would if you were playing with a stranger.
That doesn’t mean a home game can’t be fun. If you set it up correctly, it can be more enjoyable as online or a club and just as competitive.
The woman I was talking to hosts a regular Thursday evening game, and it begins sharply at 6:30. There are six to eight players, and the game ends at midnight or when the table gets below four players. If someone has to leave, they must announce their departure time at least an hour before. She called it “table etiquette.”
Setting a routine is important. Her game is at an established time with a consistent core group of people and has a definitive end time.
There are a couple of people that float in and out of the game, but for the most part the same people show up every week. There is nothing worse than a home game that has four people ready to play and four flakes whom you can’t count on to be there.
Personalities are another consideration. The personality of a game is crucial. Most of the people that play in her game are friends, but there have been some people she has met online that have played. She hasn’t had to ban anyone, but she did say there are certain people she will avoid when they call, because they didn’t work out when they played.
As the host you have to decide whether the game is going to be a fun, loose affair, or you are going to treat it like the final table of the World Series of Poker. Either way is fine, but establish it early and stick with your decision.
Related to that is money. She had a $20 buy in and 50 cent blinds. No one got hurt too bad and the most she ever won was $100. Setting a limit everyone is comfortable with is important.
I played in a home game at a country club that was $300 no limit Hold ’em, but everyone there was at ease with the stakes.
Then again, I have played in home games where beginners played with advanced players and it was just as enjoyable.
It really is about expectations. If you are expecting heavy action and big pots on a quarter, dime, nickel game with a bunch of beginners, you are going to be totally disappointed.
This woman has been playing in casinos for years and has been playing online for four years, but looks forward to her weekly game.
“We have a lot of fun,” she said.
And sometimes that is what poker is all about.