Friends on the Table Part 1


It doesn't matter if you carpool, meet up or just randomly show up at the same time; you're going to find yourself sitting at the table with your friends from time to time.

When I say friends, I'm not talking about the other degen poker players you meet and become friendly with. I'm talking about the good friends outside of poker - your crew, lovers, wings and family.

These are players that you won't play against at the table. You're not interested in taking each other's money, and will try to avoid doing so at all costs.

For most of us, at least one of these persons will be as addicted to poker as we are, making it very likely that our circles will intersect.

For all you visual learners, there's a Venn diagram above to explain (I knew grade 5 math class would come in handy). It proves that unless you're a misanthropic loner, unable or unwilling to make any sort of connection with another human being, you're going to find yourself playing with a friend or two.

(You'll notice from they painstakingly crafted diagram that you play with one friend more often than with two friends. And if it's in a Venn diagram, that obviously constitutes scientific proof for it.)

The Social Effect: +EV

Sreten Svetkovski
Being card dead = exciting times.

Playing poker can be tremendously boring at times. You can go on a run of cards so cold that you literally don't play a hand for hours. To keep yourself from getting creative with J-2 off, you're going to have to find some activity to fill the time, and keep your mind occupied.

Talking with a friend is always the best option. It's easy to spend hours yammering with a friend like gossiping schoolgirls, completely content and entertained without playing a single hand. Not only can a friend keep you entertained; just having them there can help bring out your best game.

As I mentioned in a previous article, your current mood and emotion will affect your results at the table. Typically a good friend at your side aids in keeping you in a happy, cogent, positive frame of mind - the ideal place to be when playing poker.

Another great aspect of having a friend with you is that more than one person is getting firsthand information on the hands you play. When looking for post-session advice, a good player who was at the table is always more valuable than a player with limited information.

Instead of having to try and explain every detail involved with the hand, you have a player who knows all the details as well as or better than you. All you have to ask is "How else could I have played my queens there?" to start up a healthy discussion.

Perhaps the best part of having a friend on the table is having a second set of eyes on your game to help stop you if you're going to crash.

We've all had sessions where we should have gone home after the first or second rebuy, but we stay to donate far more money than ever should have been possible. It's harder to make these mistakes if you have a friend on the table to keep you in line.

The Friend Variable: -EV

Once you get your game to a place where you're not making many mistakes, and have no problem riding out a dry spell of cards, having a friend on the table can end up hurting you. If your goal is to make money - as much money as you can - a friend at the table can be more trouble than they're worth.

First, all the chips in front of your friend are dead money to you. Since you won't play against your friend, you're only going to make money from them by winning it in multiway pots. Since you're trying not to take their money, you can no longer play the hand like you normally would.

Cory Carroll
The Groucho Marx disguise keeps your friends from finding you.

If you're in a pot with two other players, one of whom is your friend, trying to trap only the opponent without catching your friend up in the net is next to impossible to do without signaling.

If you get dealt the boss end of a cooler, with your buddy on the suck, you're going to win a bet or two rather than an entire stack.

Not only is your friend's stack dead money to you, it's dead money with its own gravitational pull. Assuming your buddy is making money, every hand they win effectively takes more chips out of play.

You want your buddy to win, and will encourage them to do so, yet every time they do your possible profit margin shrinks.

Most friends playing together on the level will try to play it so that they lose and win the least with their friends, while still having the best hand win the pots. It's not cool to bluff your friend, but it's also not cool to lay down the best hand, effectively chip-dumping.

Walking this line can be a hard thing to do.

In part two of this series, I'll give you an example of why playing with a friend can cause difficulties, and I'll explore the idea of two hands versus one.

More beginner strategy articles:

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