I had my friends over to play some hold’em a couple weeks ago. It was extremely low stakes and there’s not a shark in the bunch. After being asked for the seventh time whether [insert hand] beats [insert hand], I decided to write out the hand rankings on a white board and display it prominently.
Like tennis, recreational poker is most enjoyable when people are around the same skill and knowledge level. I can’t really be mad at my friends. After all, I invited them over and they were the majority. But if you find yourself heading into a lion’s den without any sacrificial meat, here are some tips on how to not ruin it for everyone else.
1. Know the damn hands
The problem alluded to in the intro was the most frustrating of the night. If you’re going to a home game with people who know how to play, take the time to learn the hands before you get there. A clarifying question or two isn’t a problem (e.g. how do you determine the winner when two people have a full house?), but knowing that a flush beats a straight is essential.
2. Keep your butt in the chair
The number of bathroom/phone/snack breaks was intolerable. If you gotta pee, you gotta pee. But don’t be getting up between every hand. Unless your friends are jerks, they’ll wait for you. (At the casino, they’ll just take the blinds from your stack while you’re gone.) And this waiting can get mighty frustrating.
3. Learn how to shuffle/deal
Unless you’re going to a balling home game complete with an auto-shuffler, you’re going to have to deal. Knowing how to shuffle the deck with reasonable celerity would be nice. Knowing how to dole out the cards (start with the person to your left and proceed clockwise until everyone has two freaking cards) is a must. It doesn’t stop after the hole cards, though. You’ll have to deal out the board, as well. Don’t forget to burn before you lay out the flop, turn, and river.
4. Don’t destroy the cards
Decks of cards are pretty cheap, or at least they can be. But your hosts might not have an unlimited supply. They almost certainly won’t unless you’re playing with the Bicycle family. Don’t be constantly checking and bending your hole cards when they’re in front of you. Take a look at what they are and then use your startlingly efficient memory to remember, not just one, but both of them. Related: don’t check them when your hands are messy. Napkins, people, napkins. If your hosts served chicken wings, though, this is as much their fault as yours.
5. Don’t be a know-it-all
This one is actually for the me in the group. Don’t forget that home poker games are (usually) supposed to be fun and relaxed. Yes, if your guests don’t adhere to the above, it can get mighty frustrating. But treating your home game like it’s Binions is arguably even worse. There’s no better way to ensure your first poker night never becomes a repeat performance than by treating newbies with disdain. Have patience and explain everything at least once. If people don’t pay attention, then you can get your bad-cop on.
(Photo credit: Tom Godber (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode].)
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