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Necrohavoc’s Definitive Guide to Home Games

Posted by : ikelos on Friday, June 04, 2010 permalink
Tired of playing at home games where the host has no clue? Wondering why no one wants to come to your games anymore? Not sure of what constitutes good and bad etiquette at the poker table? Kaki Necrohavoc has the answers for you. Pokerkaki is thrilled to present:

Necrohavoc’s Definitive Guide to Home Games

The latest ‘in’ thing in Singapore and Malaysia now is poker. Texas Hold’em has infiltrated as deep as the secondary school level and is a fast growing fad among all demographics of our society.

We want to experience it first hand, live in the flesh. So we either host a game ourselves or go to one. Through my years of playing poker, I’ve gone to my fair share of home games and I noticed a lack of knowledge from many players and hosts on the dynamics of playing/hosting at a home game with strangers or acquaintances.

This guide to home games hopes to educate both hosts and players what can be expected from a home game on a basic setup level to the ethics of game-play.

Basic Setup

Poker games can get rather loud, especially when played between friends or during major suck-outs. Ideally the venue should be reasonably far from neighbors to avoid disturbing their quietude, and more importantly avoiding a call from them to the authorities for rowdiness,.

This means hosting in landed property is pretty ideal. However, most of us do not have the luxury of staying in one, so many of us make do in our condominiums or HDB apartments. So unless you have tolerant relatives as neighbors (below included), prepare for the added risk.

Accoutrement support like thick carpeting and rolling chairs help reduce impact noise and closed windows muffle chip shuffling. And ensure the room has ample space for moving around.

Table – Dining tables are what many start off playing on, but they are not usually the appropriate size, dimension. The slightly more discerning hosts would drape a bale of felt, purchasing a ‘professional’ poker table-top or, - yes I know someone who did this, - customize a felt-laden poker table-top for his dining table.

Ideally, one would have a full-sized professionally made poker table. This ensures spacing comfort, smooth material and sufficient legroom.

Chips – Anything’s fair game for ‘chips’. Peanuts, mahjong tiles; I’ve done ‘em all. But poker chips are fairly common nowadays and are easily purchased from good retail outlets. Having a more uncommon or customized design decreases the risk of cheating.

These are luxuries that help make the game more conducive and inevitably more enjoyable.

Air-conditioning – is a big plus for many players given our warm humid tropical weather.

Smoking – is generally frowned upon at the table (especially in an air-conditioned room), not to mention the hazard of ashes burning a hole in the table or upholstery.

Refreshments – are very welcomed as throats get dry from all the yakking and overnight sessions easily do away with dinner you just had.

Designated dealers – generally speed up the game if they are any good and allow for better security controls.

Hosting for Dummies

Other than the basic logistic arrangements, there are unwritten rules or expectations to ensure the game is run smoothly and fairly. Most games are ‘friendly’ but many ethical transgressions still occur on a regular basis. In my opinion, the friendliest game is the one that ensures a fair playing field to all players.

There is a multitude of Do’s and Don’ts but here are some nuances that are lacking in locally hosted games from my observation:

1. Maintain control of the game – when arguments break out with regard to the hand/pot/action, step in quickly and manage the situation before things go south.

2. Discussion of hands – players who are not in the hand should not be discussing the hand and affecting decisions. Stop any discussion immediately and allow the hand to be played out fairly.

3. One to a hand – do not allow players to discuss their hand with another player or spectator. The decision is to be made by the player in question alone.

4. Softplaying – do not allow players to blatantly softplay one another. Though in friendly games checking to the river between friends, partners or spouses are usually overlooked if not done frequently, but blatant ‘collusive’ actions like splitting the pot especially after a raise and re-raise or giving back friend’s bet after a multi-way pot is won are a big no-no.

5. Players leaving – allow players to leave at any time regardless if he/she is a big winner. Do not condone any attitude or grief expressed from losing players.

6. Hand time – allow sufficient time for players to make decisions even if the pot is not relatively significant. Do not rush players just because of pot size.

7. Appropriate change – standby necessary change before the game as most likely chips will be cashed out in uneven denominations.

8. Credit – this is subjective but I’m not a big fan of giving credit to players. This invariably means you also need to standby cash to keep the books balanced at the end of the session.

Rich Player, Poor Player

So you’re ready to play with others in the flesh after all the books, videos and practice on the Internet. Maybe you’ve developed the good analytical skills and mathematical prowess needed to excel in the game but you’re probably lacking in the observation department without much or any live experience.

And I’m not talking about picking up on how Ah Seng stiffens up when bluffing or how Uncle Lim reaches for his chips immediately after flopping an Ace. That’s Mike Caro’s area.

I’m talking about the street smarts you need to protect yourself, whether or not the perpetrators meant to do it on purpose. Other than looking out for the same points mentioned in the previous section, here are a few more handy ones:

1. Marked cards – inspect the deck of cards used, if there are markings that look suspicious or perhaps as a result of wear and tear, politely point them out and request for a new deck.

2. Chips – count your chips when given so that you are not short-changed, and of course return any extra that you do get.

3. Rake – if you are going to a raked game, always inquire about the raking system and ensure yourself that your pots are correctly raked. Over-raking is not too uncommon for comfort, and probably holds more truth at low stakes games. Voice out if necessary.

4. Dealing – the dealer at home games are probably not formally trained, so if you’re unsatisfied with the shuffling or riffling perhaps suggest the well-known way of ‘washing’ the cards on the table.

5. Dealer – the dealer may not be playing but ensure that he/she does not peek at your mucked cards at the end of the hand when resetting the game. The dealer may be your opponent in the future or can give the information to a friend playing. Remember, information is power.

6. Slow-rolling – slowing rolling is only for Chow Yun Fatt, Andy Lau and Stephen Chow. It is bad form and delays the game unnecessarily, though you have the right to show your hand following the correct order of exposure. (e.g. aggressor shows first or following the order from the button)

7. Players leaving – this is repeated here again and it shows one’s level of professionalism and character. Do not show grief when a player leaves with chips won from you, even if he sucked-out on you big time.

Remember, you do not have to stand for any transgression that’s unfair to you. You can always walk away and leave.

I would like to see this as a guide in progress and anyone who has an experience/tip/comment to add to this article, feel free to send it to me. Ultimately, I hope this can help to increase the level of professionalism in poker, especially at the lower stakes, where new players customarily begin their poker journeys.

Editor’s Note: This article was submitted by long-time kaki Necrohavoc, a member of excellent standing in the community, and a player who’s been check raising-flops and barreling turns since 2005.

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