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Pwn Your Home Game
It's the true lifeblood of poker, and still probably the most common form of the game worldwide: the home game.
And whether your usual game leans toward the friendly or aggressive side, there are a few simple adjustments you can make to always get your buddies' chips by night's end.
Of course, the type of play you'll encounter in a home game can vary dramatically - from the ridiculously soft, low-stakes games of your childhood to the private, high-stakes world of the professional rounder.
In this article, we'll stick to what I would refer to as the typical home game - a gathering of friends (some of whom may have more experience than others), where most of the participants are familiar with the game and play somewhat regularly.
Let's take a closer look at some simple adjustments that will help you to more consistently wind up with your buddies' chips. Generally speaking, the typical home game falls into one of two categories: the friendly game, where the majority of pots are unraised and most players stick around to see the flop, and the wild game, where nearly every pot is raised, yet the raise does little to deter players from remaining in the hand.
In both types of games, the ideal adjustment is the same. Since the most common error of the casual poker player is to call too often, the best way to exploit this tendency is to be selectively aggressive.
Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, the key to controlling the game and winning the money is the same for both types of home game. You need to be the one who decides when the table is going to play a big pot.
I know it may seem excruciating to play tight - especially if your home game is anything like mine (where you'd be lucky to get in 20 hands per hour) - but playing somewhat tighter than your opponents and then raising most of the hands you do play is one of the easiest adjustments you can make to improve your chances of going home with the money.
In the friendly, loose game, it's also perfectly fine to limp in with significantly weaker hands than you normally would - especially when you're in position (since it's unlikely you'll be raised, you can afford to play a lot more junk hands. If you happen to hit your hand, you can probably extract value after the flop).
The key to playing with poor players is to bluff less and bet for value more. One of the easiest ways to accomplish this is to punish the players who habitually call pre-flop raises by making (slightly) larger-than-normal pre-flop raises.
Some players simply decide they want to play a hand. Once they've decided to play (and limped in), the fact the pot is subsequently raised is immaterial to them. Against these players, playing hands that figure to be the best pre-flop and making relatively large raises with them will make you a lot of money in the long run.
By the same token, in many wild games, most pots will be raised pre-flop and typically there will be more than one caller. However, what you won't see is a lot of re-raising pre-flop. As is the case in the friendly, loose game, selective aggression - in this case, making occasional, substantial re-raises (usually while in position) - will earn you a substantial profit.
This is just an application of the same philosophy you would employ in a regular cash game - big hand, big pot, small hand, small pot. The only difference is you're trying to select starting hands where you'll have an advantage over your opponent's typical range.
If you can control the size of the pot and play large pots when you have a hand that is (considerably) better than your opponent's range, you're well on your way to getting the lion's share of the money.
One final word of caution: in a home game, where the apparent "need to call" is strong, bluffing should be attempted with great caution. No matter how strong you think your bluff may look, you will still often get called by the flimsiest of hands.
To take down the money, simply bet for value more often - especially pre-flop. If your opponents are going to play too loosely, at least make them pay for their indiscretion.