The home game:
It’s Friday night! Time to scurry; fill the ice chests in the garage for the overflow of sodas, beer, wine, and any other potent potables required by the group. Cold cuts in the refrigerator are ready to be placed with the chips and dips already on the counter. The felt topper on the kitchen table is covered with cards, chips, an assortment of crumpled $1, $5, and $10 bills, and other nonsense…it’s POKER TIME!
Everyone likes your house for the game (no kids racing around to interrupt, the wife/girlfriend is used to the noise and hubbub of the game and even sits in occasionally and plays a hand or two for you if she’s still awake and in the mood) they can spend the night slamming chips and chasing cards. The normal routine, play until dawn, lick your wounds or gloat over your win, talk about the game all week at work, and impatiently wait for the next tenuous date with the deck of cards.
The game started as Dealer’s Choice but with the new rage for No Limit Holdem , every one deals it - except for your dad - he always wants to play 7 Card Stud . The blinds are $.50 and $1.00 and a ‘cap’ is placed on how much each player can bet during a hand in No Limit. Hey…poker is great but you want your friends – and yourself - to come back again with money in their pockets. And losing the rent money isn’t any fun. Better to put a limit on losses than to have to exercise self control and judgment when you just got A-A snapped off by Runner-Runner.
The game rules are pretty loose. Rule Number 1: There are no rules. Rule Number 2: When in doubt, revert to Rule Number 1.
There’s a lot of table talk and occasional card flashing and everyone acts out of turn. Chips and cash are passed back and forth between players that go broke and get a loan from the winners. Check and raise is unheard of and slow rolling is part of the fun of the game. Slow Rolling? Show your buddy the card that has no bearing on the hand first and then roll the card that beats him. Get ready to help him keep his left eye from twitching out of his head. Woo Hoo! No one’s packing a six-gun and insults and ego RULE!
The casino poker room:
You can’t wait to jump into a poker game with your buddies…the same ones you play against at home. But wait…why try and take each other’s money? Your reply might be, “Because they are going to give it to someone, they might as well give it to me!” Keep in mind that mixing it up with strangers will give you the ‘unknown’ advantage. You’re there to play poker and hopefully win a few dollars - plus have the luxury of telling winning stories when you return to the home game. You aren’t limited to playing one night or for a few hours - you can play 24 hours a day.
You may end up in the same game as your buddies because if you choose one of the smaller poker rooms, the room may have only one game of a particular limit running, but one of the big advantages of casino poker is having multiple game/limit choices.
The first thing you’ll have to change is your attitude about the rules. There are lots of them, tried and true, established for the right reasons and written fairly for everyone that takes a seat.
- Check and raise is part of the game and a valuable tool – it slows down a speeder, allows you to ‘test the water’, and gives you the opportunity to maximize a win with the best hand.
- Talking about a hand while it’s in progress isn’t allowed. You might remind someone to look for a card needed to make a straight or a flush. Let them figure it out – zip the lip.
- Passing chips back and forth between players is a big taboo. Fresh money coming into a game is what keeps the game strong. And it’s not fair for Player A to gamble like crazy, win all of your chips, and then pass them off to Player B that plays one hand every week and a half…you’ll never have a shot at getting them back.
- Flashing or exposing a card, on purpose, is almost sacrilegious – that card may affect the outcome of the hand.
- Dealer’s choice is not an option. Each table spreads only one game, unless you are playing extremely high limit.
- You receive all of your refreshments from servers and n-e-v-e-r have to help with any of the clean up. Woo Hoo!
If a friend or family goes ‘bust’ in a game and wants to borrow money, you might be doing them a favor by not loaning it and the easy out would be, “I can’t pass any of the chips I have on the table and I don’t have any cash on me.” There are times you live to regret loaning to someone in the game with you. Especially when they go on a rush and steam roll all of your chips into their stack.
You don’t have to be heartless or spiteful in any game, against any opponent. But if you give a player a break by not betting the best hand, don’t expect any return on that favor. Remember – everyone’s trying to win.
Whether you are playing with strangers, friends, or relatives in a home game or in a casino poker room, poker is a game that has its own unique rules. It’s the only place in the world that you can take your best friend’s last dollar, lie to him, steal from him, and it’s not only considered ‘cool’ – it’s expected!