Playing with Friends

From time to time you will end up on a table with somebody who is your friend, spouse or even your travel partner. These times are particularly tough to deal with. My advice is very straight forward and I say that you play your best game no matter who the opponent is. Specifically in tournaments, I feel to soft play a friend would be against the rules and considered cheating. I see it done all the time and it is rarely enforced to the level it should be.

In a live game you may choose to soft play somebody or give them air and that is your prerogative. As long as the hand is heads up and you do not do it too often. This is not to say that an agreement to check a hand down once it is down to just the two of you is ok. Clearly this type of arrangement is illegal and cheating and you should be barred from the card room for a substantial amount of time for such collusion. I know it sounds like I am talking out of both sides of my mouth. In a live game you should not have any pre-arranged agreement with another player. The healthiest solution is simply not to play at the same table as your friends.

I have played with my friends hundreds of times. I come from a small town and pretty soon you are friends with everyone in the poker community because the player base is so small. Often there is only a single game and you have no choice but to sit down in the game with your friends. My advice has always been play as hard as you can.

I remember a one in a million hand that came down between myself and Paul Smith. Paul is one of my truly great friends in the poker world. I had AK of hearts and Paul had 89 of hearts and the dream scenario came down. I have a royal flush and Paul has a straight flush. On the river I bet and Paul raises and I re-raise when it gets back to me. Paul clears his throat and makes a dramatic move with his chips to raise and says, “Throw that piece of cheese away”. I shake my head no and say, “I can’t Paul, I have a royal”. Paul picked up his hand and flashed it to everyone and mucked the straight flush. This was in a $3-6 game and it was a $6 call in a $100 plus pot. My friend had given me air and was trying to save me a bet. I paid back the favor and after the game we discussed for hours the appropriateness of giving air to friends. On the river heads up with just the two friends I felt the hand should never get to a fourth bet. The third bet should signify the nuts and nothing less. That becomes one of the unwritten rules of limit poker.

I still play poker with friends at the table and yet I refuse to give air or soft play them. I play hard against them and they should respect me as a poker player and afford me the same courtesy.

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