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
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
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.
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
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).
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
- 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
- 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
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.
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):
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.
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
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 London Lowball
NL 2-7 single-draw Lowball
Limit 2-7 Triple Draw Lowball
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.