Top 5 Tips for Winning More When Playing in a Home Game
No matter where you are in your poker journey right now, home games were probably your first encounter with the game of poker.
Even seasoned pros enjoy an occasional home game, as coming together with your friends and acquaintances to play cards can be a great way to bond and make some great stories.
That said, you should still be looking to win in your home game simply because poker is a game that isn't very fun unless you are playing it with a competitive approach.
Since home games differ greatly from games you could find online or in the casinos, and there are some tips and tricks you should learn that will help you win more the next time you are invited to a home game.
These tips are all relevant in nearly every home game out there, regardless of the stakes or the setting.
The only time they may not be relevant is if your home game is attended by some serious poker players who enjoy playing in the home setting.
These days, your home games aren’t confined to a land-based setting, either. Many online operators, including top Australian poker sites, offer the option of creating private cash tables and tournaments where only the players you invite can join.
5. Figure Out Who You’re Up Against
The first thing you should do when you come into a home game is figuring out your opponents. These will usually not be high-level players with balanced ranges but rather poor players who will have very imbalanced strategies.
For that reason, your main objective should be to figure out who the “action players” are and who the nits in the mix are.
This will help you greatly in making the right decisions later on.
In truth, you can probably get a good idea of how everyone plays after spending a couple of hours at the table.
These players won’t be trying to hide their strategy, and some of them will insist on showing bluffs and berating other players. All you need to do is pay some attention.
Since home games tend to have the same cast of characters coming in every week, you should have a pretty good idea of who the fish are and who you should stay clear of after attending a few games.
4. Don’t Get Fancy
One mistake I see experienced poker players repeat in home games is trying to pull off fancy plays against very bad poker players.
Triple barrel bluffs may seem great in theory, as they force thinking players to make difficult calls or fold reasonable poker hands.
However, the fish are not going to fold top pair, so you should not be betting too much if you think they have a made hand.
In most cases, a fish who calls the flop and the turn will also call the river unless they were drawing. On draw-heavy boards, firing that third bullet might work sometimes, but the truth is that they might even call you with the third pair for no good reason.
Home games are more about value-betting than bluffing, and you should remember that most players are there to have a good time and not to fold their cards.
Bet heavily when you have it, fold when you don’t, and try to make your hands as cheaply as possible.
3. Don’t Get Drunk
Home games are all about fun and companionship, but there is also real money on the line. Gambling and alcohol generally don’t mix too well, and while poker is not gambling, it can easily turn into it if you have a few too many.
While playing, you should consider your alcohol tolerance and be very honest with yourself.
Having a couple of beers through the night usually won’t hurt too bad, and it will make everyone else look at you as part of the group, not someone who is there simply to take their money.
Anything more than that can quickly get out of hand and make you forget about all the strategy and preparation you have done, resulting in bad judgment calls and ultimately a huge loss of value.
2. Switch Your Sizing Based on Hand Strength
One of the first things you may have learned in poker is that you should keep your bet sizes balanced so as to make it difficult for your opponents to know what you have.
This is very important in serious poker games but is actually terrible advice in home games. Home game players don't care what you have, and they certainly won't make their decisions based on your bet sizing, or at least that won't be the determining factor.
This is why you should definitely make big bets with your strong hands, especially if you can deduct that your opponents also have the goods.
Likewise, you should make small bets for thin value against bottom pairs or ace-highs when you want to get a crying call.
You should not worry too much about people turning their made hands into bluffs or folding their two pair or better against your big bets.
If the players in your home game are good enough to make such plays, you would be better off playing in a casino.
1. Remember to Give Action
The one thing that might end up getting you excluded from a home game lineup is never giving action. If you are the one guy who always folds his flush draw, you may not get an invite to the game next week.
Everyone comes to home games to have fun, so you should join the fun and make it seem like you are giving as much action as the next guy.
If you do need to fold a drawing hand, do it quietly, and lie about what you had.
Don’t tell people you folded the nut flush draw to an all-in; simply say you had bottom pair. They will show their pocket aces and tap you on the shoulder with a good old “good fold” comment.
Once in a while, when the pot is not too big, you can also decide to gamble it up with them. Give them the action they so desperately crave and lose a pot or two doing it. In the long run, it will all come back with plenty of gravy on top!