The Home Poker Game

March 30, 2008 Posted by Tyler Cruz
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6-weeks ago I had posted how I had cashed out from the casino to move onto bigger and better things: the home poker game. The local casino here only had $1/2 tables which, while is the same the limit I play online, doesn’t yield the same amount of hourly profit since I can play 12-16 tables simultaneously online. It was also very hard getting a game going at the casino.

I’ve been playing at the private home game for a while now – I go every Saturday night and play until usually around 3-4 AM. I’ve been there for a total of 6 Saturdays so far. The game is No-Limit Texas Hold’ Em (What else?) with $2/5 blinds and a $500-max buy-in. I’m the only person who ever buys in at $500, most people usually buy-in at around $200-300.

On Wednesdays they hold little tournaments with a $220 entry fee, and 1-rebuy allowed. I was invited to this game several times, but I declined as it’s not the same as online where when you’re kicked out you can just join another one or go leave and do something else. In real life, if you’re kicked out you have to either wait a couple hours in the hopes of another game starting, or else go home. There is also a “big game” some nights with a $10/20 blinds and a $1,000 max buy-in.

The first time I went, I had to learn how to play with poker chips. Fortunately, it was a piece of cake and within 5-10 minutes I had it down as if I played with chips for years. Playing live with chips is certainly MUCH more fun than playing online. They add such a huge psychological impact on the game which I now miss in online play.

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There are a lot of home and underground games around in my city (which is surprising to me since we’re not that big a city), some bigger than others. A couple weeks ago, the police raided one of the games. They didn’t arrest anyone, but they took all the money (probably $10,000+) and some of the players, instead of being charged, were forced to do a bit of community service instead.

The place that was raided was a lot different from where I play. The other place ran like a business, charged players to play, buy food, beer, etc. and had a big sign out front. I don’t play in any of the other games. The place I play in is a much smaller home game (if you can call that other place a “home game”… it was more like a poker club). Nobody with an anger problem or drugs are allowed, and it is just a very nice place to play. Lots of business owners play… a doctor even plays at our game. It’s small and quaint, just a place to meet up and play poker with friends a couple nights a week.

Skillwise, the players are much better than those schmucks at the casino. Everybody there has a firm grasp on the game, and most them have a lot of experience playing – certainly much more experience than me when it comes to live poker.

However, I do have an edge on them. As a past serious Internet poker player (I’m defining serious here as somebody who is playing purely for profit, has read many books, studies and hones their game by participating in online poker forums, track their play with tools such as PokerTracker, etc.), I have a great advantage over them in that I know game theory much better than them. I know how to calculate odds properly, know the correct probabilities, and important strategies and techniques.

It never fails to surprise me when I hear people at the home game talk about the odds and math, saying things such as “I had to call, I was getting good odds”. Just sitting back and listening what people think to be true gives me an added edge.

If you ignore their statistical, probability, and basic math knowledge, the players are actually quite good. You can tell that most of them have never really studied the game, but just have countless hours of experience under their belt. Most people bluff well; they are certainly not afraid to bluff. The greatest asset the players have there is not playing scared. Playing with “scared money” is about the worst thing you can do as a player, which is one of the reasons why it’s so important to play within your limit and comfort level.

So how have I done? Well, the first few times I went there, I lost a bit each night. Hopefully readers will understand that poker is all about the long-term (especially when it comes to live play), and so 3-4 sessions of poker means nothing. Remember, luck is still a large part of poker! I didn’t run into many bad beats those first few sessions, but simply had absolutely no cards.

Last week, on March 22nd, I was very up and down during the night but ended walking away with $845 due to a couple of nice straights I managed to land to crack AA.

Last night was crazy. There were so many big pots, lots of action, and a lot of money on the table. I calculated there to be at least $5,000 in chips on the table. I didn’t get a single big pocket pair (No JJ, QQ, KK, or AA), and only got AK once or twice, and AQ once. That is pretty bad for 8.5 hours of poker. However, I did flop 4 sets, which is very rare… but welcome.

Unfortunately, I lost a $450-500 pot when I had 55 and the flop was 59Q rainbow. One woman was all-in (she was short stacked), and the other guy left was a huge bluffer, and always overbet his hands, so I was happy to call his all-in. Unfortunately, he actually had a hand that time and turned over his cards to reveal his 99.

One time my set of TTT turned into quads on the turn… although we were already all-in on the flop so it didn’t matter.

There was another incident where I had called down this woman with K4, as I had put her on a draw and she was a bit on tilt it seemed. When she turned over her cards to reveal a K7, I said “Nice hand”, and thought she won with the higher kicker. After she took the pot, it was realized by everyone that the hand actually should have been split. I said don’t worry about it and just to keep the money. That was no small pot… it was about $250 or so. The reason I let her have it was twofold. For one, it would haven difficult to determine the exact amount since she already took the pot. And secondly, I wanted to punish myself for not noticing the split pot. Call it stupid, if you must, but I like to punish myself when I make a mistake… it will only help me remember to avoid doing that in the future.

Overall, I had a good night and walked away with $1,213 – a profit of $700 since I always buy-in at $500.

I love playing with real chips, and always look forward to playing every Saturday night. It’s also a much better pace for to play one night a week than when I was going 3-4 nights a week at the casino.

The question now is, when will I make my glorious return to online poker? I haven’t been playing much online poker since the US legislation bill making online poker for Americans illegal, since most of the fish left. Most of who remains are dedicated, skilled, experienced online players.

I’ll have to ponder how I make my return to online poker. Until then, I’ll enjoy my Saturday night games.

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Posted: March 30th, 2008 under Personal  

12 Responses to “The Home Poker Game”

  1. There hasn’t been any US legislation to make online poker illegal. UIGEA is an enforcement bill aimed at banks and hasn’t even generated regulations for banks yet which is the only thing the bill does. The legality of online poker hasn’t changed at all. It is a bit more difficult to put money on online sites but recently that’s changed and it’s probably easier than ever. There are fewer American fish in the pond but I think that’s made up for with the increase in European and Asian fish.

    • Tyler Cruz says:

      Yup – I still refer to it as being illegal though since it’s simpler :P

      You’re certainly correct, but my point is that only the dedicated players remain, since it is a much bigger hassle getting money into the cardrooms that still accept US players, which is limited to about 3-4 large sites (PokerStars, FTP, etc.)

  2. Nicholas says:

    We’re all pretty curious still about your education. You claim to know more Maths and Statistics than a doctor…?

    • Tyler Cruz says:

      I never said that.

      In general, my math is horrible, but most people don’t take the time to learn the proper odds and probabilities of the game. So even though my math is not very great, since I know the general mathematical theory of the game, I have a huge advantage over those who may have better math skills than me but haven’t applied it to poker.

  3. Tyler, I am amazed to see your skills in poker. I have been reading in your past posts as well, how you picked up lot of cash from the counter. How easy it would be for newbies to learn poker. Right now that’s what I would focus on than dreaming about becoming a master soon.

    • Tyler Cruz says:

      Well, I’m a ‘decent’ player. If I were _really_ good, I’d probably be playing full-time :-) My biggest problem is patience in moving up limits to what my bankroll will allow, as poker takes an awful amount of time to grind out. And bankroll management is one of the most important aspects of poker.

      To answer your question, it’s very easy to learn poker. You learn the mechanics and rules of the game in about 10-15 minutes.

  4. Finally another poker post! I’ve missed these! Very exciting Tyler.

  5. Blog says:

    Nice article, I love home poker too – thats online poker games and very addicted to them.

    $700 profit is great – buy some beers now. :D

  6. Ive played poker like once. wasnt too good. Not my game.

  7. Crystal says:

    I’ll make sure my dad never sees this article – he’s addicted to online poker (points only, I wouldn’t allow him to use real money) as it is.

    o_O Hope you don’t get raided!

  8. [...] or two about flopping top set and chasing down a straight. He’s recently been playing at a home poker game, rather than honing his skills online or at the casino. Is he a fish or a [...]

  9. I love online poker… it is legal here in canada, i know that in the states they have made it is a lot harder to find places to play online because partypoker, etc. wont allow US players..

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