If you are like me, and live in a state where there are no casinos or cardrooms, then probably the majority of your live poker is played in a home game. In my case, we play almost every Friday night. We will occasionally play a little cash, but in general we play small tournaments with buy-ins ranging from $20-$40, with a higher buy-in tournament every so often.
Home games can be a great bankroll builder. Over the course of a year, you can win enough in your home games to pay for a trip to Atlantic City, Vegas or some other destination to play in a live tournament. Of course, that is assuming that you WIN in your home game. With that in mind, here are some tips for doing just that.
We all know that guy who’s favorite hand is J8 suited and will see a flop with it regardless of preflop action. Don’t be that guy. And if you are going to be that guy, make your favorite hand AA. For what it’s worth, my “favorite” hand is 24 suited.
Watch for Tells.
People do not do as good a job hiding their live tells in a home game as they do in “real” poker tournaments. Simply, their guard is generally down, and that means your attention should be up.
In your next home game, make a point to pay attention to one player very closely the entire night; even if you have already busted and are just hanging out waiting for the next game to start. I can almost guarantee that you will pick up at least ONE tell on that person. Try this for the next couple of months and you will have tells on everyone in your home game.
Adjust Your Game.
If the guys in your game all play super loose, then tighten up a little. If everyone in your game is really tight, then loosen up and try to run them over. And don’t fall into patterns that will make you a predictable player. One thing I like to do is play somewhat aggressive in the early stages—when my chip stack can afford it—and then tighten up later as the blinds get bigger.
I advertise my loose, crazy image and then get paid off with my big hands later when it really counts. Don’t be afraid to advertise your bluffs, or show some monsters once in a while if it helps you accomplish this. Remember, you are going to be playing with these guys on a regular basis.
Note The Structure.
It’s important that you know the inflection points in your home game. How much play is there in the early stages where you can splash around with suited connectors and small pairs? When do the blinds get such that people are going to have to start looking to double up?
Understand Your Opponents.
It’s important that you know your opponents. Are they good? Do they tilt easily? Do they care about the money? Can they afford to lose the money? Do they tighten up on the bubble just trying to get their money back or book a small win? Do they drink too much at the game? Understanding these kinds of factors will help you play against them more effectively.
Also, it’s important that you have some idea about what your opponents think of YOU. Put yourself in their shoes and consider what they might think about your poker game or your poker tendencies.
Don’t Tap The Glass.
Whatever you do, don’t berate people for playing poorly (other than in the friendly spirit that is commonplace in home games). First of all, it’s just not nice. And secondly, you don’t want them to start playing better!! And you definitely don’t want them to just stop showing up at the game altogether.
This is the most important rule of them all. If the home game you play in is strictly to make money, that’s totally fine. But if you are like me, your home game is not just a money making opportunity. It’s also a chance to hang out with good friends, enjoy a couple of cocktails, and just generally have a good time. If that is the case for you, don’t be afraid to occasionally throw some of these tips out the window and play that 24 suited.