Home Game

Playing in a home game is by definition different than playing in a card room. The primary differences are that you are playing at somebody’s house and there is not a professional dealer. I played in a home game the other night hosted by my good friend Double G. During the course of the game a player asked about a semi-regular player in our home games. I mentioned that he was banned from home games for a year. I went on to explain that it is not an official ban just something I thought was appropriate.

The story goes a little but like this. There are many home games that happen every night all over the world and each group of players has their regular game with the same group of guys. The reason the group plays together is they enjoy spending time with one another. Quite simply poker is just a reason for the group to get together. The reason they get together regularly and keep coming back week after week is they enjoy getting together. I am stressing this point as strongly as I can because people fail to listen to my advice and destroy their home games all the time. Group psychology and group dynamics are very key to having a weekly home game. I will share what I know about the home game and these are just guidelines based upon my experiences.

First you must have a core group of guys that all get along very well and these six or seven guys make up the core of every home game. They are committed to the group and set aside time to play every week with few exceptions. Obviously, the family vacation will bump the poker game and few other important dates. But by and large they are at the game 45 weeks of the year. A successful group usually has a few places where the game is hosted so that one person is not always burdened with being the host. I have never been in a group where every player hosted simply because we would not want to play in some of those bachelor pads.

The primary rule of any home game is the host makes up the invitation list. Yes the host has the say on who is or is not invited to play. Quite simply it is his home and he decides who is welcome. Obviously, that means you do not get to bring somebody with you to the game unless you clear it with the host first. That is a simple rule but is violated by players quite often and is just rude and out of line.

The second rule of the home game is to respect the wishes of the host. If the host asks everyone to take their shoes off then you must comply. If the host says the game starts at six then you should arrive on time or let him know when you can make it and do not be offended if he revokes your invitation if you are not available at the set time. The host should establish and ending time and hold firm to the closing time. All players should be respectful of the ending time. If you are unable to play the entire time you should let the host know and once again be prepared to lose your seat if you are not able to stay the entire evening. The host also establishes the stakes and players should be respectful of that. If you are on limited bankroll you should let the host know up front that you have only $100 to play and he may choose to invite another player with a more substantial bankroll. The game belongs to the host and all other players are simply invited guests.

The third rule is to be courteous and respectful of the home you have been invited into. If the host asks the group to quiet down the group needs to follow through on the request. Do not make a mess while you are there. This seems quite common sense but I see it violated almost every time I play in a home game. Drinking is an issue at many games and I use a simple guideline that players should follow the lead of the host. If the host is going to drink while he plays the players can drink. I will qualify this with everyone should maintain an appropriate mind frame and should become intoxicated during the home game. Smoking is also an area where the host should dictate the rules and all should follow the rules that are established.

I will give you a few quick tips about playing in a home game. If you are invited to a game at a persons house you do not know be overly polite. Be sure to introduce yourself and learn the name of the host and or hosts. Tell them which car is yours and where you have parked. You want to make sure that is an acceptable place to park. Try to arrive five or ten minutes early and try to be with the person that invited you. Try to learn as much as you can about the lay of the land. If you have brought something to drink or eat check to make sure the host is fine with that and offer to share. Bring an entire case of soda if you bring some for yourself.

There are many other things about home games that I could go on about but I will leave you with the truth. No matter how well you try to behave and how warm your personality it is very rare when a new player is welcomed into an established group. So no matter how well you do on your first visit you are just as likely to never be invited back. If you give them a reason not to invite you back you have all but sealed your fate. Let me be the first to tell you that if you are an asshole at a home game and I hear about it I will make sure you never get invited to another home game. Playing poker in a home game is privilege and not a right. Learn to treat it as such.

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