I started playing live poker about five years ago. I play a regular $.25/$.50 home game and I would like to share some thoughts about some of my experiences over the last few years in this game.
One thing I’ve noticed is that the players who are not having a ton of fun are usually a consistent winner, though not a big winner. In a live game if you are not having a lot of fun, you are probably playing good poker.
The amount of the money on the table in my game constantly grows. Even at low-stakes like $50 no-limit you will easily see over $1,500 on the table late into the night. Interestingly, as it gets later and the money on the table gets deeper, players actually start to play worse, not better. Players will be tired, drunk, high, emotionally unbalanced or a combination of all of the above. As it gets later the potential for profit becomes considerably larger.
All of the guys at our Friday night game are there to make friends. They love the buddy-buddy horse play that goes on. The 19 year old internet math wonk poker wizard wearing super dark sunglasses isn’t exactly popular when he shows up. He is slow. He is serious. He couldn’t get action if he was a $1 prostitute. The same goes for our regular angry drunk. Similar issues. Way too serious, and not very sociable. If you look like you are having fun, smiling and being a friendly easy to get along with guy, you’re going to get action. Leave your sunglasses at home.
Every week someone goes broke and cannot afford the buy in. It isn’t uncommon for the deep stack to lend off the table. It’s allowed and encouraged to some degree. The superstition about borrowed money being lucky is just that. My observations are that loaning money in a home game is generally a profitable thing to do in the long term as long as you don’t go too deep. By loaning them money when they go broke so that they can continue to play, they are more likely to return the following week. Players who play badly will usually continue to be bad players, and every game needs these guys.
Trying to put people on a hand at a home game can be a bit of a job, especially in our game because people play such a wide range and have fun. In general, players at the game will do similar things week in and week out, and this has a range itself. For example a guy I like a lot for paying off will usually come to the game and play while really tired. He is one hard working guy, and I have a tremendous amount of respect for him, but he works from 6am to 4pm Monday to Friday and our game starts late and runs even later. He is never a good player past 10:00 pm. One week though, he showed up and just destroyed the table. In conversation we learned that he was on vacation all week and can sleep in as late as he wants. The sun will sometimes shine even on a dogs ass once in awhile. People who are terrible might bring an A-game when you least expect it.
New players are the most interesting thing week to week but not for obvious reasons. It is my observation that they consistently have no effect whatsoever on the table dynamic. The same can be said for huge pots. Drastic changes like new players or huge stacks for some reason will not change how the other regulars at the table are playing.
There is an exception to new players. One thing that will instantly effect our game is adding an attractive girl into the mix. Once in a rare blue moon a regular will bring his girlfriend. She will dress like a tramp, and we love it. And it completely throws the game out of whack. No one wants to bust her, everyone plays her soft. It was so bad one week that a player showed his set on the river before betting and said she should fold – a generous offer except for the fact that there were still two people to act after her. Attractive girls throw the profit curve down, not up.