Home poker games are a fun way to get together with friends and family. As a matter of fact the more that everyone has fun, the more they want to play. Additional people get involved, the frequency of the game increases, and so do the stakes. Pretty soon, what started as a penny ante game with grandma around the kitchen table during the holidays has evolved into a once per week multi-table tournament with buy-ins. re-buys, and serious money up for grabs for the winners.
Now you have friends, and friends of friends involved and because of the amount of money being handled, certain “informalities” that were tolerated with penny ante games can potentially cause problems or create hard feelings. Some of the things that cause problems as the game grows are 1) Allowing players to choose their own seats instead of drawing for seats, 2) Players that short the pot (intentional or not) by throwing chips into the center, 3) Having to use tables and chairs not intended for card playing. These are all significant, but not nearly as bad as the #1 cause of problems in larger home games…PLAYER DEALERS.
By allowing the players to deal, larger home games are inviting problems. Most do not have a CUT CARD to cover the bottom of the deck. Savvy players will always take advantage of spotting the bottom card when the deal is in progress to know which card is out of play. Some are not proficient at shuffling the cards and experienced players will easily spot them and begin to sequence cards from the previous hand. Mucked cards will be turned up (intentionally or not) to expose whether or not a player had the goods or was bluffing.
These are just a few examples of the problems that can and do occur as the game becomes more “serious”. I have a friend that lives in The Woodlands and hosts a Texas Hold’em tournament once per month and has special ones on 3-day weekend holidays. A typical buy-in is $65 with $60 going to the prize pool and $5 for food and drinks. The last time I played, that game was supporting 8-Tables which translates to about 70 to 80 players. That’s some serious money up for grabs! Unfortunately, the tournament was structured to where all of the players became player/dealers when the button came to them, and pots were shorted, mucked cards were turned up, burn cards forgotten and mis-deals declared. It was OK for a while, but when these type of dealing mistakes start to expose a player’s strategy or even cost them critical pots, then it’s time to move on.
Needless to say, I don’t play at that game anymore and I would never say anything to my friend that would jeopardize our relationship. However the fact remains that I don’t play at his games anymore and he must wonder why. I’m not the only one. When he told me of other players that have dropped out of the game, I compared notes with them and found that they had all of the same concerns I did, and in some cases more. My friend’s game continues and he has replaced some of his old players with new ones. They run around 6-tables nowadays, but the biggest thing he has noticed is that it is mostly the friends-of-friends playing and his primary circle of fiends has dropped out of the game.
So what is this all leading up to? All of this can be avoided by bring a dedicated dealer into the game. No more alleged ‘cheating’ or ‘ooops, I made a mistake and exposed your cards’, or shorted pots…anything that would cause a player to think that he got anything other than a fair shot at the trophy.
Hey, all of you Home Game Hosts out there..ask your players if they would be willing to add another $10 to the buy-in to get professional dealers. I know from personal experience that as the buy-in goes up, the answer will increasingly be “YES”. Additionally, look out for the ones that say “NO” and these are most likely the ones that are taking advantage!