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Wednesday, May 19, 2004

A Low-Rollin' Saturday Home Game
Well, I'm a few days late in posting about the home game I hosted this past Saturday. I had only played with this group of guys once before, about 3 months ago. The previous session had been one big NL Hold'Em tourney, 15 guys with a $20 buy-in, and I had taken second for $100. That evening stands out as by my biggest single-session win (by far) in a live game. Since my usual poker group often does $2 and $3 buy-in tourneys, these other guys (mostly board gamers up around Boston) struck me as significantly more high-rollin'.

To my surprise (and slight disappointment), this past Saturday's home game was a much more low-rollin', "social poker" affair. First off, there were only 6 of us, and 3 of the guys had not been at the previous, more serious tournament. Everyone bought in for $25, but somehow the agreed-upon limits ended up being .25/.50 rather than .50/$1. Once that decision was made I knew the games were going to be very loose, and I grabbed a beer :)

We played dealer's choice for the first 2.5 hours. All manner of crazy wild games were called, making it mostly a gambling type of evening. On the upside, I finally learned 3-5-7, a wild-card game I've heard mentioned frequently in conjunction with home games, but never played myself. (We played the home wild-card version, not the casino game.) It reminded me of Guts but with more information. I called a lot of Anaconda/Pass the Trash and 7-Stud Hi/Lo Roll Your Own. I finished up $3. Woo-hoo!

Then we switched to a NL Hold'Em tournament, $10 buy-in. We paid the first 3 places, which I thought was pretty silly with 6 players, but we were all having fun so I didn't want to make it an issue. We also went with 30 minute blinds, which was great. Previously I'd used 20 minute blinds, since that is what they use at Foxwoods for the multis I have played there, but without a dedicated dealer, 20 minutes is barely enough for an orbit if there are 7 or more people. With 6 people and 30 minutes blinds, the pace was a lot less hectic.

Now, these guys are all very smart guys. I've played board games with a couple of them at different events and gotten stomped. I'm sure that any of them could become very good at poker. But for now, none of them has much experience actually playing poker. A couple of them had read Super/System and were discussing strategy. But none of them play online, and they just haven't had the practice of seeing flops. More importantly, I think they've only ever played in a few home-game tournaments and don't have any feel at all for when or how much to raise. And we were short-handed, but I think they were looking for the kinds of starting hands you'd want in a full game.

Without wanting to sound cocky, I have to say that playing with guys that inexperienced will make you feel like Johnny Moss. None of them wanted to call a big preflop raise, and it was painfully obvious when the flop missed them. I busted out one the guys when he let me limp in with 62o from the BB, and see the turn, and then he called my raise when I made a cheesy straight. After a while I started worrying that I was being too aggressive--but I reminded myself that these guys are all smart and experienced gamers, if not experienced poker players. If this home game becomes a regular thing they're certain to catch on to my tricks before too long.

I ended up finishing 2nd. The downside of the 30 minutes blinds is that when it got down to 2 players we had lots of money in proportion to the blinds. But it was 2 in the morning, and the busted out players were dealing and shuffling for us, so we hurried the ending along. I went all in with QTo and lost to JKo. (I had fun saying, "Oh no, he's Jack-King-off again!" all evening -- which I stole directly from Burt Fu.) That made me the shorter stack. Remarkably, I got KK on the very next hand, pushed in, and lost when he paired his ace.

All in all it was a very fun evening, even if the poker itself was nothing special. And lucky for me I had the WPBT III Sunday night to dispel any notions that I can dominate a real poker tournament :)

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