You’ve heard about a great game and you are finally invited to play. It’s a nice venue, with a great atmosphere, and players seems to play poorly. But there’s a serious problem. You cannot win!
1: You underestimate your Opponents
When people think of home games, they envisage amateur players who only play once a week, and very inexperienced opposition. Theoretically, this should mean that a professional player can sit down, own the table, and win the money. Be careful though, playing against amateurs requires a significant adjustment of approach for those used to playing games with more levels than a multi storey car park. It is also possible to be caught out by a player you expect to be adopting a simple approach, when in fact they are a decent player mixing in well timed bluffs and pushing you off pots. Even good players sometimes enjoy a relaxed home game, so try not to assume every player at the table is weak.
2 : You haven't take into account the Rake and other mountings costs
If you are planning an evening where you hope to attend a home game and wake up the following day with a profit, you have to give consideration to more than just poker. You must also factor in transportation costs if the game isn't hosted at your own house, along with possibly ordering food, bringing a bottle of wine or some beer, and in game costs such as rake or tipping. The cost of your evening can quickly mount up, leading to difficulty in breaking even, regardless of your edge over the competition.
Matt Damon in Rounders
3: You are too drunk or too high
It's easy to look at a home game line up and think to yourself “I could be drunk and still beat this table comfortably.” True professionals don't think in such ways. If poker is your job, approach it like a professional. Completely maximise your profit margins by being fairly sober, and focussed. It isn't always possible to avoid alcohol completely of course, because you want to be engaging and socialising with the other players too, but find the right balance, and maintain your discipline. This next point should be very obvious but it's worth mentioning. Don't take drugs while you play. Hallucinogenics are probably the worst drug for a poker game. When you get called on the river and your opponents asks “What do you have?” You don't want to be chewing on the nine of clubs, dribbling on your chips and replying “Flowers. Countless edible flowers.”
4: You are no longer invited
This brings us neatly onto our next point. If you think there is great value to be had in a home game, it stands to reason that you want to be invited back. So check raising the river with air, giving your opponent the thousand yard stare, before slapping your cards face up and yelling “Owned!”when they eventually fold; Probably isn't advisable. Be friendly and polite, contribute to a good atmosphere, and you'll maximise your chances of getting invited back. You can't win money from people who won't sit down to play with you.
5: You are in jail
Game selection is often spoken about in online, and live poker. Despite assumptions to the contrary, it can also be important in home games, especially from a legal perspective. If a home game is hosted in a country where such games are illegal, and half the street has been invited, there could be a fair bit of risk in playing. It's no good joining an illegal, well publicised home game, playing like Phil Ivey for an hour, then ending up in jail with a huge fine hanging over you when the game gets raided. That's poor game selection.
6: You are playing vs cheaters
Home games are offering less guarantees in terms of security than games in casinos. Common forms of cheating include: splashing/shorting pots or snaring extra chips that you are not entitled to, rubbernecking to look at opponents' cards, crudely marking cards… Always be on your guard when playing a Home Game.
Article by Craig B.