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Should I Run a Home Game? Would You Come? - Ship It, Fish!

About Should I Run a Home Game? Would You Come?
Previous Entry Should I Run a Home Game? Would You Come? Monday 2 October 2006 @ 01:04 Next Entry

This past August marked the date. It had been exactly ten years since I last ran a home game; my last one was sometime in August 1996 in my apartment in Baltimore. Back when I hosted those games, we played penny-ante, no-limit mixed games, although we didn't call it that in those days. (We weren't connected to the actual poker scene and didn't know the proper terminology). It was $10 buy-in, and you could easily lose $40 in a night if you were really bad, and usually the good players would win about $10 each.

I obviously don't have much interest in running a game at those stakes anymore. We were all just out of college and poor in those days, so those amounts of money were still meaningful to us and interesting to play for.

I've spent a lot of time in the past three weeks thinking about running a home game. I've posted how I'm sick of NL HE at the moment, and the continuing dangers of playing at NYC clubs. I also realized that, for the first time since my post-college days, I actually have an apartment that is big enough to host a game. Now might be the time to think about hosting again.

The reason I haven't jumped at this idea is that I think my choice of home game rules, mix, and stakes might not be of interest to most of the NYCers I know well enough to invite over to my place. (I won't invite anyone sight-unseen; the game would only be for people whom I already know in Real Life, or are vouched for by someone I know in Real Life). Unfortunately, most of the poker folks I know either (a) don't play mixed games or (b) would only play mixed games for extremely small stakes.

So, I've put up a poll (unfortunately, you need an LJ account to take it. If you really don't want to create an LJ account, just answer the poll questions in an anonymous comment). Below I describe precisely what my home game would look like and what the rules, stakes, and mix would be, and see if there are enough takers. Most of you who know me realize that I like a smoothly oiled machine of a poker game, with clear plans and rules set forth. (Some call this “anal”, and I get why people say that, but I think it makes for a better game if everyone knows every details of the rules up front.) So, here's what my home game, should I run it, would look like. Below that, in the poll, please answer if you are interested in the game and are in the NYC area regularly.

SIF's Home Game

The game will always be mixed games. It will be loosely modeled after the famous “Bobby's Room big game” at the Bellagio, just three orders of magnitude cheaper. My dream is to build a game that is much like the “Tuesday Game” described in Anthony Holden's book, Big Deal, although it doesn't have to be on Tuesdays, of course. The idea is to get people who are serious about the game, want to learn more and enjoy themselves for stakes that are serious enough to matter but not serious enough to get people angry. Meanwhile, the goal would be to keep anyone from having a huge edge over anyone else by playing lots of different games.

The Mix

In the old days, my home game was straight-up dealer's choice (including, I admit with embarrassment, many wild-card games). I think these days, a negotiated mix up-front works better. It saves time, and often gives people the opportunity to chat about the game that is coming up to ask about good starting hands and the like to help learn the game. (Remember, part of the goal is to learn.) In addition, I believe that the list of possible games should be known up-front. That way, anyone coming to the game doesn't necessarily know what the mix will be, but will know the menu.

Each night would have at least six, and no more than eight, games in play. The first five players to arrive will decide the mix for the night (i.e., latecomers get no input). The game changes ever time the button passes the 1 seat. To add to the variety, the games must always be an even number: half must be limit games, and half must be NL/PL.

The PL/NL choices would be: PLO/8, PLO, NL HE, PL Stud/8, PL Stud, PLO, PL London Lowball, NL 2-7 Single-Draw Lowball.

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

The Stakes

I have agonized about the right stakes level for this game. My original thought was to have a $300 max/half-largest buy-in and use $1/$2 blinds for NL and $2/$4 ($4/$8 stakes) for limit. A few people that I've polled privately indicated this is a bit too big for them on the PL/NL side. But, I really hate the idea of playing NL/PL short-stacked, and I feel I'm just too grown up for having any chip in the game worth less than $1. So, my final proposal for stakes is this as follows (I'm unlikely to want to bother for smaller):

The minimum buy-in is $1. The maximum buy-in is $200, or half the largest stack if someone at the table has more than $400.
NL/PL blind games:
Blinds will be $1/$1 for the NL/PL blind-based games. This is a European style of blind structure that is a bit jarring to USA players, but it encourages limping and playing lots of a flops/draws, which is good for home games.
Limit blind games:
Blinds will be $2/$4 and games will play as $4/$8 limit.
Ante games:
Both PL and 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). The bring-in will be $1.

Game Duration and Time

Too often, games have no clear end and someone inevitably seems to leave way up, and everyone else is annoyed. The plan to solve that is to just have the game end in five hours. At the end of five hours, 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 no stigma attached with leaving after the set five hours. As an offset to this rule, everyone is asked to arrive on time.

I have thought a lot what day and time to host the game, and think that there are basically two choices: weeknights and weekend afternoons. Most don't want to give up their Friday or Saturday night for poker. I really like the idea of a game that starts at 1PM on a Saturday and goes to about 6PM or 7PM. Those who want to keep hanging out can go out and grab some dinner and those who have actual plans can head out to have their evening. But, I'm open-minded, and having a game on, say, a Wednesday or Thursday night from 7PM to midnight works well too.


Robert's rules, straight up. This includes last aggressor shows first only if the final betting round has action, otherwise it's action-order-showdown. As host, I'll act as floor person on disputes if I've already folded in a hand that needs a ruling. Otherwise, all players who have already folded when the decision is needed will decide by consensus.

Chip Denominations

I'm a computer geek. There's no getting around it. Early in the River Street days, Greg used powers of two for chip denominations. This was the coolest chip setup ever, and I still think so. So, we'll have chips of these values: $1, $2, $4, $8, and (if we have a fifth color) $16. I know this drives the non-CS-geek types nuts, but it's my home game, and if you really aren't going to come because of this, well, it's apparent I'm too white and nerdy.


Truth is, I still only have the lame equipment from my college day home games. I haven't hosted since then. I am willing to invest serious money to get good equipment if the game becomes regular, and I'll happily eat the cost. I love hosting a lot, and always did, but I don't want to waste money before knowing if the game's a go regularly.

My hope is that I can borrow equipment for the first one. If not, we may have some hokey stuff for the first few games, but if it goes, I'll buy some nice stuff.


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 game.

So, Still Interested?

If, after reading my rantings, you are still interested in this game, please take this poll (you need an LJ account to take it):

Poll #834844 SIF's NYC Home Game

What is your play eligibility? (aka Do I know you?) [Check all that apply]

I have met Bradley in person before.
I know someone well who has met Bradley in person before.
I have played at Dawn Summers' home game more than once, and she can vouch for me.
I haven't met Bradley, but can meet up at a NYC club (and I know where those clubs are already by name).

Location Knowledge and Tendency:

I know where Bradley lives and am fine with the location.
I don't know where Bradley lives, but I'm excited enough that it is unlikely to be a factor in whether I come.
I'd need to get a general idea of where the place is before knowing if I would come.

Day Preference:

Saturday afternoon from 1PM-6PM
Sunday afternoon from 1PM-6PM
Wednesday night from 7PM-midnight
Thursday night from 7PM-midnight
Tuesday night from 7PM-midnight

Stakes Concerns:

I'm totally fine with these stakes.
The proposed stakes seem a bit big for me, but I'll come at least once to see if I'm comfortable.
These are baby stakes and not worth my time.

If the game runs weekly, I would probably:

attend every week without no fail; like Bradley, I have no life.
attend every week, baring other commitments.
attend twice a month.
attend once per month.
attend only occasionally, but would want to stay on the mailing list for invites indefinitely.

My email address or other information to help Bradley identify me if I've taken this poll anonymously:

I realize this home game will be mixed games no matter what, but I would totally object to playing the following games that Bradley has proposed:

PL Stud/8
PL Stud
PL London Lowball
NL 2-7 single-draw Lowball
Limit Razz
Limit Stud
Limit O/8
Limit HE
Limit Stud/8
Limit 2-7 Triple Draw Lowball
Limit Badugi
Limit Stud High/Low (Chip Declare)

I have additional comments about these game plans (include suggested games here):

If you don't have an LJ account, you can answer the poll in a comment.

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