shipitfish: (poker-not-crime)

I haven't played poker at all this month. Basically, I've quit. I have more to write about regarding my reasons, and I will. I've won about $20,000 already this year, and assuming that Cake Poker actually pays me (they are having huge delays in processing cashout checks; I've been waiting since mid-February), that will be a win comparable to my best years in the past. Why play anymore when I have better things to do?

That said, I'm still going to have my monthly home game, because the usual group are enjoyable people (not the annoying fish you have to put up with at casino and online tables). I've just sent an announcement for this Saturday.

I did my taxes. I read Ann-Margaret Johnston's book, How to Turn Your Poker Playing into a Business. I recommend this book if the whole Schedule A vs. Schedule C issue still confuses you or if you've never filed one or the other. For those who have studied this issue, it doesn't give any new information.

The only piece that it made clearer to me is why everyone is so touchy about this full-time vs. part-time idea. There is one single court case, once, about a professional gambler, that [livejournal.com profile] jhazen has previously quoted in my journal: if one's gambling activity is pursued full time, in good faith, and with regularity, to the production of income for a livelihood, and is not a mere hobby, it is a trade or business within the meaning of the statutes with which we are here concerned.

Added with Johnston's arguments that the IRS gets very suspicious of a Schedule C for any activity that seems fun, this probably accounts for the constant “not full-time” paranoia around the poker world. I believe that this is one court case, and therefore just one criteria among so many. Johnston herself argues that there are lots of criteria considered by the IRS. Frankly, when I'm playing more than, say, 3 hours of poker a week, I enjoy my day job more than I enjoy the poker, so if the IRS wants to see “toil” to believe it's not a hobby, I'll tell them under oath how boring the whole thing is.

Finally, I should note that I nearly had a losing year in poker in 2006. My net profit was a paltry $94.73, as my expenses were somewhat high ($2,105.73). Still, this is much less than I won in 2005. I had forgotten than in January 2006, I was still playing limit regularly at the $15/$30 level and had a bad 200 big-bet loss weekend. So, given that I had to dig out of that hole all year, I am fortunate that I had a win. It certainly didn't help that I spent most of the late summer and fall playing extremely low stakes, wasting time in tiny home games and very small stakes online, too. There's hours of my life I'll never get back.

shipitfish: (Default)

Date:
Sunday 15 October 2006
In attendance:
Contraphonic, Dawn of [livejournal.com profile] ihadouts, [livejournal.com profile] highonpoker, [livejournal.com profile] princessmaigrey (aka [livejournal.com profile] maigrey), SamTheDealer, W.D.
Mix:
Limit O/8, NL Crazy Pineapple, Razz, PLO, TD2-7 (was Limit HE first round), NL HE, Limit Stud/8, PL Draw-High

My report is below:

The mix negotiation started with some complaining that Stud and some other games suck as PL (inspiring me to later clarify this issue in the rules), and some demand that we pick more limit games. We threw in a lot of Omahas, which I really liked, and limit HE was added. At first, NL HE wasn't in the mix, but into the first round, many complained we had too much Omaha, and we replaced PLO/8 with NL HE, and then later realized that put two HEs against each other and we replaced the limit HE with TD2-7.

PL Draw-High was insisted on by HighOnPoker, since he won so much in the last game and had since become a PL Draw specialist. Since it was fast, he argued, it would be the palate cleaner — the sorbet of our mix. I'd have much rather taken NL 2-7 Single Draw for this, but maybe next time.

The games played relatively tight, most going heads up early. But, as split pot games are wont to do, O/8 induced a fair bit of action, and Stud/8 was, well, insane. Early on in Stud/8, I pushed a lot of chips in with kings up, like a fool, and HighOnPoker rivered the high by pairing his ace. I thought I was stuck in the same situation when I later made queens and treys on fourth (!) but fortunately filled, and then made quad 3s. W.D. thankfully had no low but a weaker full house instead (which he exposed on sixth thinking we were done, causing me to miss what probably would have been a three bet on the river, I think — see, the mistake saved you money, W.D.!).

Dawn showed her undying love, as always, for Stud/8 by playing almost every last pot that was dealt. Can we talk her out of it? I am not sure, but I keep trying. (Hint to Dawn: Read T. Brunson's chapter, twice, before next week!) Anyway, Stud/8 seems to be the crowd pleaser of the game because (a) Dawn loves dealing it, (b) Dawn (and sometimes HighOnPoker) seem incapable of folding in it, and, AFAICT, [livejournal.com profile] maigrey is some sort of Stud/8 specialist — or at least prefers the game.

Well, I like all the games. Of course, I'd love to get some PL stud games in, notwithstanding [livejournal.com profile] maigrey's undying hatred of the very idea (hey, the British are our allies, so why not play poker like they do sometimes? In other news, I'm calling the next straight I get a “sequence”). I am sure we could get Dawn real interested in PL Stud/8, I mean, hey, Dawn, you can go all-in and get all those cards! It's like NL HE and Stud/8 at the same time!

The dealing went very well on the new table. I was, if nothing else, right about round being a good choice. There were fewer dealer errors, although we all have to learn that Crazy Pineapple is crazy for a reason — you've got to wait for the discards before dealing the turn! I asked the field to try and wait for the first spill until game 0x02, but we did get a few droplets on it. I noticed that the felt depressed rather easily, as elbows on the table quickly left noticable indentations on the felt. I believe it's 2-to-1 against them coming back to normal, but even if they don't, the table is still excellent.

Despite the tough hit when I held big-full-then-quads against W.D.'s small full, I think W.D. (a NL HE specialist) adjusted to mix games well. You see, playing tight when you don't know the game is a strategy that really can't go too wrong. Sure, you might miss some positive-EV situations, but you don't get yourself into major negative-EV when you tighten up.

The big winner for the night was SamTheDealer, who seemed to be able to scoop constantly in O/8, even if he does call two bets cold on the river in a three way pot with third-nut/sixth-nut. :)

Other than that, there isn't much to report by way of big crazy hands. It's mostly the mundane pots that got heads-up or three handed by the later betting rounds and someone (usually SamTheDealer :) outdrew someone else (usually [livejournal.com profile] maigrey :) and money shipped around. It was poker; it was fun; but you probably had to be there.

As for snacks, I clearly moved from too much to too little. Late in the session, W.D. said to me, in his litigator sort of way, are these all the snacks that are available? I suppose I'll buy more next time; I'd forgotten the cookies really did go well, since I bought four whole bags, and only one and a half were left after Game 0x00. Sure, I had left overs, but nearly three out of four bags gotten eaten! And, for the record, Twix appear to be slightly more popular with mixed game poker players than Kit Kat.

We did, however, order Chinese food which worked well. I'd forgotten that my local places do lunch specials, even on weekends, and half the table enjoyed some pretty good delivery. We can hit the good pizza places too.

I don't want to jinx it, but I feel like this game is likely to go regularly. My wife and I are ready to do it weekly semi-permanently, so long as we don't go beyond the end time. Although, another idea that she and I came up with is to play a marathon game (say, 12:30PM-midnight) every other week. I don't think I'd want to make this the norm, but maybe once every few months, I'll declare a “marathon game”. My real worry here is that people would come and go too much, so I'd only want to do it if a core group wanted to seriously play for 10-12 hours straight. Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Finally, in Bill Mahr style. New Rule: People with the Caro-classic “lean back” tell are prohibited from sitting in the white kitchen chairs in my apartment. Those chairs don't lean back, so if you get the nuts, it might collapse.

shipitfish: (poker-strategy-books)

Some suggested that it isn't a good idea to play in mixed games, arguing that Mixed games are to give each player a chance to play a game (s)he is good at. I want to play a game I am good and and not games other people are good at. Thereby increasing my EV. I think this argument is ultimately flawed, and I think most of the players in the Big Game would disagree. I am not completely sure what their arguments against it would be, but I have a few arguments against it that are likely more like to be applicable to the small-time, recreational-but-profitable player.

Fundamentally, I believe this argument that you get maximum EV only by playing your best game relies on two flawed assumptions: (a) the relative popularity and competition of specific forms of poker don't change over time, and (b) that poker games are so different that EV from one doesn't transfer to the other. Were (a) and (b) both true, one would usually be correct to select only games in which one is an expert. You'd usually reach maximum EV in such a case.

In thinking about (a), I immediately remembered a two or three page section of Jesse May's book, Shut Up and Deal. I read this pre-boom book many years ago, and it frankly is a lackluster tale of high stakes limit HE. But this one section really stood out, and it has probably influenced my desire to be good at all forms of poker as much as my history of beginning my poker career in mixed games did. (I am retelling it from memory as I don't have the book handy; forgive errors, but the gist is right.)

In a brief first person description, May describes the difference between him and the local casino's high stakes limit HE “specialist”. May points out that this fellow sits in his $50/$100 limit HE game and holds court. This fellow points out the nuances of every play, and has opponents who are just a notch or two below him on the skill pecking order. That specialist wins, most of the time, but fights to eek it out while he continues to watch his competition catch up.

The hero of the story, on the other hand, isn't afraid to go sit in the $20/$40 stud game. Sure, HE is his best game, and he's only a mediocre stud player. But, the difference between his mediocre skills and the abysmal skills of the opponents in that game makes sure he can win more than the other fellow ever could against that tough lineup in the $50/$100 HE game. Sure, they are both winning players, but who is winning more? Our hero, despite the lower stakes. Who is the better poker player? It's not even close — our hero.

Poker is not just about micro-edges. It's not just about whether or not you can bet the right amount on the river to get a value bet paid off by middle pair. Sure, you have to know how to do that to win in poker. But, that's just a small part of the picture. The macro-edges are where it matters, and the biggest macro-edge is game selection. Indeed, I'd argue that the key macro-edge is long term game selection ability.

What game the fish want to play changes over time. Do you want to be the best HE player against eight people who are only make one mistake every hour, or do you want to be an above average Stud/8 player against eight opponents who each make two mistakes every other hand? What's your best EV? The point is that if you plan to maximize your EV for your poker lifespan, you have to be able to play every single game well. You don't know — none of us do — what form of poker will sweep the world next. We've seen, maybe not in our lifetimes, but certainly in Doyle Brunson's and T.J. Cloutier's, NL HE go from being the most popular game in the world, to only played in tournaments, to the most popular game. That 30 year cycle can happen again, easily.

Think of the history of poker. At the moment, NL HE is by far the most popular game. Just four years ago, limit HE tables filled every poker room and NL HE was basically dead, except in tournaments on occasion. Go back a decade, and, especially on the east coast, Stud and Stud/8 were the games most commonly spread. Stretch back two or three decades, it was again NL HE. Two or three decades before that, it was mixed five card stud and seven card stud. Once you stretch back back to 1880, you find prominently five card draw with only a little bit of Stud. Pick any 60 year span, and you're going to find at least four different games that you'll need to be prepared to play.

Indeed, even since I started playing for serious stakes back in 2002, the poker world has changed in this regard. The books that I had to buy back then were Lee Jones followed by HEFAP. Limit HE was where the money was then. I've watched the world shift around me. Should I have never ventured and plopped down some cash — with negative EV, mind you — in that early River Street NL HE nuttiness to earn my chops in that game? If I hadn't, I surely would be walking around like the rest of the limit HE specialists desperate for a good game, fighting tight edges, and generally not finding the games as lucrative as they once were. Instead, I can make steady money with less variance because I play the much weaker competition floating around the NL HE games.

Meanwhile, the last few weeks I've been hitting that sweet O/8 game on Monday nights here in NYC — better EV than any NL HE game I could find in the same geographical area. In other words, the poker world shifts, and the money dumps happen in different places. You get the best EV when you are poised to catch it no matter where it falls.

This leads to the next point, and the refutation of (b) above. Poker skill is transferable. Read Theory of Poker. There are general principles that can be extrapolated from one game to the next. At times, you even don't see how a concept works in one game until you switch to another and see it applied there. What you learn in one game expands your mind and teaches you how to think differently about another game.

A simple example: How many HE-only players really understand the concept of a true freeroll and how dangerous it can be? This is a simple concept for the PLO, O/8 and Stud/8 player, but many HE players can't get it. But, I have, a few times folded a second-nut straight precisely because I knew that my opponent most likely held the same straight, but could very well have a freeroll against me. Sure enough, when I've seen the hands shown down due to other player's all-ins, I've seen people holding the same straight plus a gutshot or the same straight with a flush draw. This situation happens extremely rarely in HE, but if you have some PLO, O/8 or Stud/8 experience, you can learn how to detect it and avoid it.

A more complex example: I spent years playing limit HE, and got very used to the difficulty of the turn and the rising pot odds. Many people take flops and turns in limit HE, and they often hit strange two pair holdings and even sets. You often have to be prepared to fold top pair or an overpair when you've taken a turn in a big multiway pot and someone (min)-raises you and just can't be bluffing. Experienced limit HE players will recognize this situation immediately, but it's not a common one in NL/PL forms of poker.

However, I sat in NL HE games that play much like limit. Not at first, of course, because you're making a pot-sized bet. But, against extremely loose players, it doesn't matter that you are making pot-sized bets, or even larger. You get call, call, call all the way down the line. Now, when someone min-raises, you are getting these amazing pot odds, and the player who grew up on NL HE only is going to sit and think: How in the world does someone fold being offered 5-to-1?. But, the truth is, you're drawing dead or near dead (3 outs or less). So, you let it go. It is only because of my limit HE experience that I can recognize these situations and let go of hands in these spots.

Poker is about adapting to changing conditions, not only on the micro-level that we all think about daily, but also on the macro-level over a period of years. If you don't expand your poker mind, and become a bit of a Renaissance player, that EV in your “best game” can easily disappear.

The best players in the world are mixed games players. I meet a lot of poker players who are much worse than me and a lot who are much better than me. Generally, the ones who are much better play more than just one game, even if it's just two. Almost every very strong player out there has spent some time playing lots of different games. Even the amazing limit HE specialists I know like [livejournal.com profile] roryk who have resisted going to NL HE are usually branching out into other forms of limit poker at the very least.

I have many times offered up my home game as a learning game. I want to keep that feel to it. Everyone there is in constant search of good EV, they wouldn't be good poker players otherwise. Yes, it's probably not the best game to maximize your EV over the six hour period in question. However, I assure you that playing mixed games at reasonable but not high stakes against reasonably good players will be a windfall for your long term EV. And, that's what poker is about, isn't it, focusing on long term EV rather than short term results?

shipitfish: (poker-not-crime)

Date:
Saturday 7 October 2006
In attendence:
Dawn of [livejournal.com profile] ihadouts (Dawn's post about this game), [livejournal.com profile] highonpoker (HighOnPoker's post about this game), [livejournal.com profile] mary423, [livejournal.com profile] princessmaigrey (aka [livejournal.com profile] maigrey), SoxLover, SethTheOtherLawyer, [livejournal.com profile] tmttr.
Mix:
NL HE, TD2-7, PLO, Stud/8, PL 5-Card-Draw, and O/8

My report is below:

I believe the first instance of SIF@HOME was successful, especially given that I had to practically throw five poker players out of my apartment, whom I believe would have actually stayed until midnight and finally ordered food as I kept suggesting we might want to do.

The game started seven handed, went to eight handed, then nine handed (requiring people to sit out for TD2-7), then fell again to eight and then seven, and for the last two hour or so, six.

I think the stakes level worked out ok for some. Dawn Summers, who insisted that she was attending only the inaugural game, is likely to come back as she seemed to amass chips unbelievably well as people seemed to go all the way to the river with her over and over again in Stud/8 while they missed draws, and she somehow kept scooping with one pair. She also did well in the PLO rounds.

I pushed her out of one of the PLO pots with an all-in coup holding merely a semi-wrap (10 out or so) straight draw and weak flush against HighOnPoker, who was $11 short of an all-in in a large pot and held a better flush draw. I was glad to be holding blockers, but the flush got there. (Dawn folded two pair, quite correctly, because against our likely holdings and combined outs, she was a bit of a underdog.)

Much of the day was rather straightforward poker, but enjoyable because it was a good group enjoying the game. I think PL Draw High isn't that good of a game, because it doesn't generate much action and fails to generate much interest unless huge hands are against each other. Some argued that made the game more about reads, which perhaps it is, but who is really going to practice enough PL Draw to get good reads on opponents?

Regarding organizational issues, it's clearer now than ever that the round table (should be here this week!) was a good choice. Dawn's table is very nice, but being oval, it still makes it difficult for people on the far ends to deal. The only true misdeals we had were dealt by people on the ends. Plus, it's really hard to see everyone clearly.

I know some who were here yesterday felt the stakes were a bit high, so I hope that everyone ended up comfortable with what we had. I scared the heck out of myself when I thought I'd mis-cashed out an earlier departure, and was so worried I threw extra money of my own in the kitty just to make sure, and it turns out when we got to the end, everything was just fine. I suppose that was the only part about the stakes that bothered me a little bit — I've never been the “cage” for more than $40 before. :)

I cannot finish a post about yesterday without pointing out that Greg was ultimately right in the results of his failed experiement: you just can't pull off the powers of two chip denomination thing unless the entire game is made up of computer scientists. I finally realized toward the end of day that it was about biology more than anything else: people are born with five fingers, and I'm not going change a couple of million years of evolution simply by explaining how binary is really cool. Frankly, as W.K.'s new ThinkGeek t-shirt says: There are 10 types of people in the world, those who understand binary and those who don't. How many of you get that joke? Yeah, that's what I figured. :-/

Anyway, as [livejournal.com profile] maigrey said, Whatever justification it is you need to have standard chip values, you go ahead and believe it. So, after just one game, I'll abandon the great CS geekiness of my game. I was unable to convince anyone in the game to do away with opposable thumbs, nor chop off a pinky, and besides, they'd have to go back in time and grow up in a non-decimal culture for it to work. Freaking decimal-oriented, five-fingered freaks!

I'm going to keep the $2 chip, because it's a tribute to my years at Foxwoods in the 2/4 and 4/8 games, and that chip value does make playing 4/8 limit easier. However, I'll go for $1, $2, $5, $25 now. Does that make you all happy — killing my inner nerd? :)

I will probably mix up what days the home game occurs for the next few weeks, and see how the attendance pans out. The level of effort for the game is a bit higher than I thought, so I may need to move to a twice a month frequency after an initial flurry of test days.

Those of you on the list, watch for an invite soon to next week's game.

Oh, BTW, my wife says I need to serve better food than just junk food. My argument is that the donations received didn't cover the food I bought, which is no big deal — it wasn't mandatory — but I'm unlikely to up the expense of running the game further. I did suggest a few times that we could order food, and no one was too interested. I am going to leave the menus out for my local places for people to look at to perhaps inspire people to order next time.

shipitfish: (poker-not-crime)

I am having trouble containing my excitement. As I mentioned in previous posts, tomorrow I will host my first home game since about ten years and two months ago. I have very fond memories of my wonderful college games, and then my post-college games when I lived for two years afterwards nearby all my old college poker regulars. I never got a game going in Cincinnati, and in Boston I played River Street, which was a Greg's home-game-turned-club, but because of that never saw the need to start my own game when just about everyone in the local Boston poker scene played at Greg's game.

I love hosting. I like making the onion dip, which I hope will be the same hit it was with my old Baltimore crowd. More than that, I love the idea of playing the game with people in a social setting where it's a little bit about competition, but also about being friendly and enjoying our beloved game together.

I am even more excited now that, even though I need to borrow a table as a backup plan, that my table's delivery is scheduled for the day of the game. [Update: they just called to reschedule delivery because it didn't arrive at the depot on time. Oh well, we'll have it next week.] Logistically, it's not totally optimal, but it will be somewhat cool to have the delivery men arrive and set up a brand spanking new table for us to switch to. Of course, if I get really lucky, the table will arrive at the beginning of the delivery window, before the players arrive. If that happens, I won't even mind that tonight I will have had to lug the loaner table (graciously provided by the wonderful Dawn Summers of [livejournal.com profile] ihadouts) across NYC in a cab.

For those who want a sneak peak at the new table, you can find it here, although I ordered green, not the burgundy shown.

I have to admit, if my home game excitement wasn't so strong, I'd be pretty downtrodden about the state of poker. I've gotten email after email from the affiliate managers or from the sites saying that they plan to stop accepting players in the USA. It seems that of the large sites, PokerStars and Full Tilt are holding on tight to staying open. But, although perhaps it's a bit alarmist, I am worried that the games may never be the same.

I logged onto Full Tilt for a couple of hours last night, and was very concerned by what I saw. More games than usual for a Thursday night (Eastern US time) were going, and a few seemed like good tables. But, when I got seats in some $1/$2 and $2/$4 NL HE games, I saw something that really concerned me. Namely, the shark-to-fish ratio is way off balance.

Usually, when you come on a site, if you see a username you've never seen before (which, as recently as a few weeks ago, was more the norm than the exception), the player is typically not that good. This time, I saw a whole host of new usernames, but the players were strong. I'm not saying they were particularly good, but they were solid. They were playing reasonable starting hands, and they weren't getting trapped paying off with one pair after the flop when beat. Sure, these players had some weaknesses, but I could see clearly that they wouldn't be easy to exploit.

I'm hoping it was a bad night. I'm hoping it was a fluke. But, it could very well be that the confusion of which poker rooms are still open, and the general media coverage that isn't being too clear about what the bill actually says may easily be scaring away the casual player already, even on sites that continue to accept US action.

When I mix this with the dangers of robberies around the NYC clubs, I am beginning to return to first principles. I used to be only a home game player; maybe I should be again. As far as playing with any regularity, that may be the only option for the car-less New Yorker who doesn't like Greyhound.

Anyway, I'll put all these thoughts aside and focus on the excitement of SIF@HOME!

shipitfish: (Default)

SIF@HOME: Bradley's Home Game Rules

[Changes to this document are tracked by a single comment thread below.]

I have written up these rather extensive rules and procedures for my home game. Even early in the draft, they reached a rather pedantic level of detail that probably makes me look about as neurotic as I am. But, I've thought it through and I have good reasons to be so detailed.

I run a tight ship of a home game. The goal is to make sure that the rules are very clear, with no confusions, so that if something goes wrong when there is some cash on the line, everyone knows what to expect. Also, understanding the type of games that will get played, who gets invited, and how they will be selected helps the game get started smoothly, and helps keep from feelings being hurt if someone isn't invited.

In Baltimore, I ran home games regularly all through college and two years post-college. When I lived in Boston, I was a regular at many home games, one of which is the (in)famous River Street, which (albeit temporarily) grew from a home game into a small for-profit poker club. I've seen friendships destroyed and angry fights at many a home game that made me quite sad. I'm sure we'll have our share of drama at SIF@HOME, but by making the rules and procedures clear, I hope to keep it to a minimum. I guess I ask everyone to bear with me and trust a little bit that having well-defined structure is good for the game.

That said, I am very open to the idea of changing the rules and procedures based on input from everyone. I'd like this to be a community, and, as such, it should have input from all its members. So, if you are a member of the game (or, even if you are just an avid reader of my blog) please use comments on this blog page as a way to submit ideas and changes.

Table Of Contents


Mixed Games - Selection

SIF@HOME is always mixed games. Each game will consist of either six or eight total games. Half of the games are always limit poker and half are always NL/PL. The mix will be decided by negotiation of the first arriving players who are present at the game start time; so, be prompt if you want to give input on the mix. If full and complete consensus cannot be reached on at least three limit varieties and three NL/PL varieties, majority vote will be used to fill out the games to make a full six games. If players arrive while negotiation is still ongoing, the newcomer will get a full say in the mix selection; those arriving after the mix consensus has been reached and written down have no input for that session.

The PL/NL choices are: PLO/8, PLO, NL HE, PL Stud/8, PL Stud, PL London Lowball, NL 2-7 Single-Draw Lowball, PL 5-Card-Draw-High, PL Double-Board HE, PL 5 Card Stud, NL Crazy Pineapple.

The limit choices are: Razz, Stud, O/8, HE, Stud/8, 2-7 Triple Draw Lowball, Badugi, Stud High/Low (Chip Declare), Crazy-Pineapple/8.

The list of game choices is subject to change, by notice will be on this page when the game is announced.

The game changes ever round. Some have asked for it to change less frequently, but mixed games are all about handling the changes, so it will continue to change every round.

Some have asked for limit-only mixed games, or for there to be more limit variations than NL/PL in the mix. The goal of this home game is to mix up PL/NL and limit into a great, exciting mix. If that's not something that interests you, then this isn't your home game. The Brits play and enjoy PL Stud and other variations; we can too. I've decreased the ante levels for PL ante games to make sure they don't play too big.


Players, Invitations, RSVP, and Critical Mass

This section covers issues of getting enough players to make a game happen, and the procedures I'll use to try to make a game happen.

Required Number and Short-Handed Rules

Since we are playing mixed games, the game will be considered to have enough players if at least six players are in attendance. The goal is to have eight players attend, but the game will go with a minimum of six and maximum of nine.

I will take great effort to make sure that arriving players don't show up only to find that a game will be short-handed (i.e., five or less). However, I of course cannot guarantee that unforeseen events cause otherwise “Definite” players to become no-shows. I am always happy to run a game short-handed, but by the same token, no one who does show should feel obligated to play with less than six players. The same rule applies if there are unexpected early departures, but I will try to schedule as best I can to avoid those as well.

Announcement, RSVP, and Critical Mass

Usually, this game run once each month. A poll is usually sent to regular players for date selection. After a date is selected, a “save the date” message is sent a few weeks before the game.

At least five days before each game, I will send out an announcement to the entire invite list of a proposed date and time for the next game. People have until noon two days before the game date to reply if they would like to join the critical mass for the game; each responder should declare herself a Definite or a Maybe for that game. Please only declare yourself a Definite if you can be present for four hours of the game, and indicate in your reply what time you expect to arrive and need to leave.

I will not run the game unless I feel assured that six people have identified as Definite for the entire game time. I will not book more than nine Definites for any four hour period.

Around 6PM, two days before the game, I will send an email either confirming the game, or announcing that the game has not reached critical mass, and will not occur. Therefore, if you wish the game to go, please be sure to reply as a Definite by noon two days before the game date. If the game has critical mass, all Definites will receive an email confirming their status as Definites, and all Maybes will receive an email asking if they want to stay on the Maybe list, or perhaps convert to a Definite. If you are in receipt of a message that names you a “Definite”, I expect you'll arrive and you don't have to reply unless you need to cancel.

I will generally take two Maybes for every seat not claimed by a Definite. Maybes can convert to Definites on a first-come-first-serve basis up until 10PM on the day before the game. After that, seats are given in a first-come-first-serve basis to the Maybes if they show for the game, but a Maybe must give up his seat if a Definite arrives, even if the Definite arrives late. If you are in receipt of a message that names you as a “Maybe”, it is really better if you get in touch and confirm as a Definite to lock up your seat.

In general, the goal here is to give a strong incentive for people to commit as a Definite.

I have not yet established a rule for what to do when Definites become no-shows. I hope it won't happen. If you need to cancel, please try to do so before I've declared critical mass, or, if something else comes up, try to give me 24 hours notice so I can call off the game before people are committed to arriving.

New Players

This game is for people that I know in Real Life, those who already know my close friends in Real Life, or for friends of people I know in Real Life. However, if you'd like to bring a friend, you must arrange with me ahead of time.

I have purposefully made the stakes reasonable but still non-trivial, so there has to be some consideration that we make sure people who come are comfortable with the stakes and are a good fit for the group. Poker can be an emotional game, and it sometimes takes a while to be sure that everyone's temperament is a match. This is a big concern in home games, because we don't have the infrastructure of a casino to make it possible for strangers to play against strangers.

Generally, I use a “vouch” system for deciding who to invite. If a friend that I know really well can indicate to me that they feel comfortable bringing in a particular new person, that's fine with me. But, if you're a new player who has just been brought in, please understand that you may not be able to bring friends right away. Just talk to me about it, and I'll be frank about whether I think it's time to expand the circle. Generally, I want to do so, but like all things in life, it takes time for everyone to get to know each other and get comfortable. It's real money on the table, and we all have to have some sense that no one is going to be dishonorable with anyone else. It takes time to build that trust.

As for rail-birds, I'm generally against it. My apartment is large enough to host the game itself, but I don't want to have a full-blown cocktail party atmosphere. Eight people traipsing through your place one a month is often enough to bring you to the point of frustration, so I don't want to start turning my apartment into a casino once a month. I'm willing to make exceptions to this if there's a friend of a friend who would really like to learn the games with the long term goal of becoming a regular player in the game. Certainly talk to me about that possibility, but I'll need some tough convincing. Generally, the people who come should be players, not watchers (except for my wife, who lives here but doesn't play poker, so you darn well better make her feel welcome. :)


The Stakes

Minimum Buy-in:
The minimum buy-in is $1. This is so small so that people can goof off on short stacks on occasion when they have lost a buy-in and want to limit their losses for the day. While it won't be illegal, it will be considered bad etiquette to repeatedly rebuy for amounts less than $20. Exercise the short-rebuy prerogative sparingly, and ask the other players if they mind if you are unsure if you are being rude.
Maximum Buy-in:
The maximum buy-in is $200, or half the largest stack if someone at the table has more than $400. The goal of this rule is to keep the game from getting too deep-stacked, but to also keep a very large stack from dominating the table during PL/NL rounds. The idea is that at any time, even the biggest stack could lose that honor to someone else in one pot, and leave the victor with the same sized big-stack that loser once had.
NL/PL blind games:
Blinds will be $1/$1 for the NL/PL blind-based games. Note that the small blind and big blind are the same amount, as in European card rooms. Both blinds have options to raise before the next betting round. The goal here is to keep the game a bit smaller than a $1/$2 game, and encourage more play beyond the first betting round.
PL Ante games:
PL ante games will play with an “effective” $0.10 ante. The button will ante for everyone, rounding to the nearest dollar (to keep away chips worth less than a $1). With 3-4 players, there is no ante; with 5-9, the ante is $1. The bring-in will be $1.
Limit blind games:
Blinds will be $2/$4 and games will play as $4/$8 limit, using standard rules for when the bet goes from small to big.
Limit Ante games:
Limit ante games will play with an “effective” $0.25 ante. The button will ante for everyone, rounding to the nearest dollar (to keep away chips worth less than a $1). With 3-5 players, the ante is $1; with 6-9, the ante is $2. The bring-in will be $2. Any player may double-bet on fourth street in Stud-high (but not Stud high/low) when a pair shows.
Straddling in Blind Games:
In both NL/PL and limit blind games, straddling will be permitted. A player in the position to the immediate left of all blind bets may straddle for double the previous blind bet. That straddle will become a blind bet. Players may thus restraddle an existing straddle bet, which doubles the previous straddle to its right. This can continue all around the table, such that the small blind becomes the first to act on the first round. (Note: this differs from Robert's rules, which allows for only one straddle. This rule allows for N-2 straddles, where N is the number of players dealt into the hand.)
Capped Betting in Limit Games:
The third raise makes a cap (meaning there can be more than four bets in a straddled pot). Heads-up unlimited raising is permitted, if the pot is heads-up when the second raise for that betting round goes into the pot.

Rules and Rulings

Unless they are trumped by rules stated in this document, the game will follow Robert's Rules of Poker. I have made efforts to check and see where these rules differ, and have noted such here.

Rulings (i.e., interpretation of the rules) are a difficult matter in a home game, since there is no management who is reasonably disinterested in the outcome of a particular situation. Barring a better solution, I will act as “floorperson” on all disputes (except when I have an active hand at the moment the dispute begins). In the former cases, my decisions will be final. I will strive to decide each case in a way that is equitable to the game as a whole. For example, in a serious misdeal situation that cannot be rectified, I might decide to pay out based on mathematical equity to each active hand at the given moment. This is unorthodox, but if it seems to serve the friendliness of the game, I'll go that way.

If I am an active player, I will remain neutral. In those cases, decisions are made by consensus of all inactive players. Consensus must be reached, and the decision is final. It's in the best interest of the game for everyone to try to come to a consensus. If it becomes clear that consensus can't be found, then I will muck my hand, make a ruling and give up my interest in the a pot. I'd rather not do this, of course, so I ask that people make reasonable efforts to reach consensus when a ruling is needed and I'm in the hand.

Hand Sharing

It's a home game, so we deviate from Robert's Rules' one player to a hand rule slightly. Namely, it is permissible to show your hand to inactive players, but you cannot receive advice on how to play it. However, all players in the game have the right to see the hand that has been shown, when the hand is complete. Players who wish to share the contents of their hands with others are required to hold out the hand from the muck so they can show it at the end. This rule exists to keep the home game spirit of “playing along” but also make sure everyone has equal information in the game.

Dealing and Card Shortages

We typically play “risky” with the number of cards in the deck. We play 2-7 TD up to seven handed (people to the left of the big blind sit out until seven-handed is reached). Still, seven-handed 2-7 TD often requires reshuffles. We play other draw games a full nine-handed, and reshuffle the predraw muck. In Stud games, we go for the full nine-handed as well, since, due to folds, it really is unlikely that we will run out of cards. However, we never use burn cards in Stud games to minimize the likelihood.

The dealer is reminded to be careful about running out of cards. Triple Draw is dealt such that no one can receive the same card they discarded on that particular round. Mucks are merged after each draw; however, so it is possible to receive the same card you discarded on an earlier round of drawing.

The button moves even with Stud games, both to keep count of when the game should change, and to indicate the actual dealer. Each person takes a turn dealing when on the button, but the dealer should never be the one to shuffle a deck. If you are handed a deck for your deal, do not shuffle it; merely cut it immediately before your deal. You will shuffle when your deal is complete, and hand the cleaned deck to the person two to your left. If a dealer reshuffles his own deck, the deck must be then given to someone else to shuffle. It is unlikely that someone would try to stack the deck in this game, but we might as well make it difficult if someone were to try.

Some of the games are difficult to deal; be sure to ask someone if you are unsure when to burn, how to handle the muck, etc.

“Coffee-housing” and Inducing Action

In most clubs and poker rooms, speculating about someone's holding, talking to players to induce action, or disclosing information about your own hand is prohibited, except when heads-up in a cash game. That rule does not apply here. All such speculating and speaking will be permitted by any player with a live hand. Basically, any sort of talking during a hand more or less goes, no matter how many players are in the hand. It's a home game; goof off. However, please don't use aggressive table-talk designed to confuse and disorient opponents.

Players who have folded or otherwise have no active hand of their own may not speculate, induce action, or otherwise coffee-house. The only exception to this rule is the dealer in a stud game may speculate about boards in-between betting rounds while dealing up cards.


Game Duration

Too often, games have no clear end and someone inevitably seems to leave way up, and everyone else is annoyed. All SIF@HOME games will have a defined end time (typically about eight hours after the start time). At that time, there is automatically a discussion about who wants to continue the game and who wants to go home. Since everyone knows this beforehand, there is less stigma attached with leaving.

Players may leave early or arrive late, but are asked to say so explicitly when responding during the critical mass period. Also, players at the game who must leave early should announce it and give the exact leaving time when they arrive. That way, everyone knows before the money's in play what will happen if you double up ten minutes before you go.

An exception is made for this rule if someone has busted out and lost all their chips. The goal of these game duration policies is to: (a) make sure the game doesn't get broken up early, (b) make sure enough players stay for long enough, and (c) to avoid hit-and-run play. However, regardless of this, someone who has lost a full buy-in should never under any circumstances feel obligated to rebuy.

In the interest of making the game continue for its full duration, those who are playing on short money (in other words, those who have only one, or less than one, buy-in to play with for the entire duration) are encouraged to buy-in short-stacked. The buy-in rules permit short-stacked buy-in, and players are encouraged to make use of that to limit the amount that they have at risk in the game. The goal here is not to fleece anyone for more than they can afford; therefore, players should feel comfortable buying in for amounts around $40-$60 if they aren't yet comfortable with the games or the stakes.

[ I realize this is a major trade-off for people who, as I do, like to play deep-stacked PL/NL games. However, one of the original goals of this game is to cross-pollinate the limit and NL/PL poker worlds. As such, everyone in the game should be understanding that some players — particularly those coming from the limit world — have, well, limits to what they are willing to put at risk in a single hand, and we should be respectful of that. Also, even those who do usually play NL HE may be familiar with only that game, and are concerned about losing a lot in a PLO or PLO/8 game. ]


Non-Smoking

My apartment is 100% non-smoking. Getting in and out of my place to the street requires someone to go with you to let you in and out. So, don't expect to be able to smoke easily during the game. If you absolutely cannot go five hours without a cigarette, this may not be the home game for you. I guess I'd entertain the idea of walking everyone out for one smoke break during the duration of the game.


Food and Drinks

I will pick up beverages and ask for donations at each game. I think this is an easier way than everyone trying to bring their own. I will of course take requests. I don't mind picking things up, and then it is all centralized and there isn't too much of one thing. Feel free to bring something special if you want it and think I'm unlikely to get it.

I usually buy an array of carbonated soft drinks and maybe a few other types of sugary beverages, as well as waters. I get some potato chips, usually onion dip (which I've made for poker games since I first hosted them), and maybe some cookies.

I generally don't drink alcohol, but I'm not opposed to it. So, the one thing you should bring if you really want it is alcoholic beverages. I don't know enough about them to buy good beers, or whatever, so bring what you want in this regard.


Equipment and Chips

Chips

If this game gets going regularly, I am planning on purchasing a serious chip set from PokerChips.com. Greg's River Street chips were from here and they were excellent.

Currently, since the idea of binary chip values was so antithetical, we will have $1, $2, $5, and $25 chips. I will use my old Wood Expressions set until such time I place a PokerChips.com order.

Table

Here is the table that will be used at all games: the table has arrived and is in use.. I prefer round tables, as it is better for conversation. Don't worry, I have the traditional green, not burgundy.

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November 2016

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