Last Saturday afternoon I played sanghoki at the House of Blood and, again, had a blast. I mean, sure, I went out of his tournament on an absolutely insanely disappointing bad beat, but other than that it was good.
Badblood always hosts good games. The room is always lively and fun but the poker is serious. There are drinks but nobody gets drunk. I like seeing my old friends there and have made new ones too.
Along with Gucci Rick, Blood is the best host around.
So what do those game have in common and what makes them work?
THE STAKES DO MATTER
Sure you can, and probably have, had fun at games of all stakes. The quality of play can hinge on the relative value of the stakes to the players in the game. That isn’t to say that wealthy players can’t enjoy playing for nickles and dimes, but the stakes should involve a relatively similar risk for all players.
Clearly this is less of an issue in a casino where you would want to maximize your advantage versus your opponents. I want to play against scared money if I can, so in a casino I want to play against people who may be a little uncomfortable with the stakes.
Online there are relatively standard rules of stakes as they relate to bankroll management.
Yet for a homegame to be sustainable you need to have a group of players for whom the stakes are comfortable. Even for the people who almost always lose. You want them to come back and lose as often as possible.
HAVE DRINKS BUT DON’T BE DRUNK
Now, granted, I’ve played with been the obnoxious drunk guy at a poker game. Sometimes it’s fun to let loose. But nothing will kill a good poker game faster than someone who loses interest in poker and loses control with drink.
I rarely play a hand without a beer or two. 12 beers is too much. 12 beers and a martini means you’re not playing poker anymore. You’re at a party. At a good homegame, poker is enough of a good time in itself.
KNOW YOUR FELLOW PLAYERS
Here’s another rule that is true at both a casino and online. But, again, it means soemthing different at a homegame. I’ve made some of my closest friends at the poker table. Even people I rarely see outside the homegame are people I look forward to goofing around with.
If you can’t watch a player badly misplay a hand and then unload somewhere between 100 to 500 cruel mocking insults… you’re NOT at a good homegame.
PREPARE TO NEGOTIATE
Not long ago I posted a situation on which I wanted some clarification with regard to the “official” rules. It was something that came up, oddly enough, in a hand with both GucciRick and Badblood during a homegame.
I felt there was a ruling that may have been more strongly in my favor. But I didn’t make a big stink about it at the time. Why? Because even though there was some money at stake a good homegame is as much about friendship and fun as it is about money. I’m not going to trade injured feelings for a few extra dollars.
Not at a homegame.
Online or in a casino… I’m going to the mat.
By the way, as an update to that earlier post, Gucci Rick… felt bad about that situation earlier and, the next time he saw me at BadBlood’s house, paid me his share of the pot.
It was unprompted and unnecessary… but it’s a further gesture that sometimes he values getting along more than getting paid. That’s what makes him the kind of person I like to play homegames with.
TAKE IT SERIOUSLY
Finally, despite all the rules that would seem to contradict this, it’s still important to take the game seriously. Even for the smallest of stakes there can be a high level of competition. That’s the thing that matters.
This is true in any game.
I never liked playing pickup basketball with people who were just screwing around on the court… and playing poker with people who aren’t really interested in the game itself is… in a word… boring.