How to Host the Perfect Poker Home Game is a 13-part series on how to run the superlative poker night for all your friends and coworkers.
We’ll cover everything from what game of poker is easiest to play, what hand beats what and even what drinks and food to serve. Follow this guide and people will be reserving their seat at your table weeks in advance.
In our ninth article we’re looking at how to actually beat your friends, and how to do it diplomatically enough so that they don’t boycott your game for good.
We’ll look at a number of typical home-game player types and the best strategies to use to separate them from their stack.
We’ll include a ton of links to the essential strategy content and tell you where and when it’s appropriate to use it.
And above all we’ll teach you the subtle art of getting someone to hand over their money, and do it with a smile on their face.
First-Timers, Noobs, Fish
There’s an old saying that applies particularly well to poker: You can shear a sheep many times but you can skin it only once.
When you identify a player as a complete newcomer, do your best to give them some play for their money.
It’s almost guaranteed they’re going to go broke so try put a few good memories in their head to replace the cash that won’t be in their pocket.
Playing fish is easy. Simply value-bet anything resembling a good hand. Second pair is a good hand against a complete newcomer.
They will call down with complete garbage, and raising will only become an option for them when they have a big hand.
Most importantly, be sure to console them with a few sage words when they lose their money.
“We all lose when we were learning,” is a good option. Or the always popular, “You got very unlucky there.”
The Tight Rock
If you can’t remember seeing a player put money in the pot when they weren’t in the blind, chances are you’re dealing with a tight, rocky player.
This player is 100% focused on their own two cards and chances are their sense of hand-value is completely out of whack.
If they have top pair second kicker they’re afraid of top-top. If they have a straight and there’s a possible flush they’ll shy away from raising.
Don’t give these players an inch. Simply bet and raise them aggressively, until they play back at you.
If they’re calling chances are you’re going to need a top-pair or better hand to win the pot.
The Overly-Aggressive Maniac
While less common than the tight rock, the overly-aggressive maniac is someone you need to be on the lookout for because he’s going to provide a lot of the value in your home game.
These players always seem to be in the hand. When you’re checking they’re betting, and when you’re betting they’re raising.
Aggressive players can be frustrating because they're always betting and they tend to never let you see any cards for free. It can also be difficult to put them on a hand.
In reality playing against the aggressive maniac is easy.
Just make a hand and let them do the betting for you. Relative hand value goes out the window when you’re dealing with a maniac. In the right spot, bottom pair can be enough to win you a big pot.
The Experienced Regular
In this day and age everyone’s got a few friends who take poker seriously.
These are the guys who tell you about “The golden days of Party Poker” and sported Full Tilt baseball caps before Black Friday ruined their lives.
Unless you’re up to the challenge of out-maneuvering these talented grinders, there’s only one technique you need to know: Stay away.
Just don’t play against them unless you clearly have the best hand.
Tighten up, especially when you’re out of position, and wait for spots to play pots against the less experienced players at the table.
Practice Online at Micro Stakes
Generally speaking you’re going to see a lot of similarities between micro-stakes online players and home game players, which makes it the perfect place to get some experience.
It’s also the perfect environment to focus in on whatever style of poker you’ll be playing in your home game.
If you’ve got a one-table tournament style night planned, play a few dozen $1 single-table Sit and Gos.
If it’s going to be a mixed cash game, cycle through the different poker variants now offered by sites like PokerStars.
Another benefit of playing online is that it will force you to classify opponents based on their actions, not their appearance.
Oftentimes players will put on a big show of being a maniac but actually play like Allen Kessler. Or they might try their hardest to appear as cold, calculating rounders when in fact they’re spewy, bad LAG-tards.
Sometimes they’ll even believe their fabricated personas themselves, which makes them even easier to beat.
You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover and you shouldn’t judge a poker player by his bravado, or lack thereof.
Don’t make assumptions. Classify your opponents only according to what you’ve seen them do firsthand.
More articles on How to Host the Perfect Poker Home Game:
- Part 1: Equipment
- Part 2: Hand Rankings
- Part 3: How to Play
- Part 4: How to Set Up
- Part 5: What to Drink
- Part 6: What to Eat
- Part 7: Who to Invite
- Part 8: Etiquette
- Part 9: How to Beat your Friends
- Part 10: Cheaters
- Part 11: More Games, More Gamble
- Part 12: Odds and Exceptions
- Part 13: Which Hand Wins Calculator