Want to play live – start with a home game!

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The poker boom just seems to get bigger and bigger, and eventually, those who play solely online will probably want to try a live game in a casino at some point. And I have to say that its a completely different ball game to online poker!

Here are some common sense differences between online and live games.

  • you can’t hide behind a computer screen playing live. People will be watching you looking for tells. As a novice you will probably show every tell in the book if you are not careful.
  • no crying about there being a ‘fix’ when you get sucked-out or a bad beat as happens online. You can see the cards being shuffled in a live game so they will be totally random
  • you won’t see as many hands per hour live as you would in a live game. Online you could easily see between 60-80 hands per hour. Live, reduce this to around 20 hands per hour, or less.
  • no betting buttons / slide bars to make your bets in a live game. You have to concentrate and watch the betting. Learn how betting works in a live game before you go.

There are numerous other things I could point out but these are the main items. Every casino or cardroom will have different rules for within their premises. You won’t find out what they are until you actually visit. But the actual game of poker will be just the same as what you are used to online.

So, onto the home game. For the complete novice, wanting to play live, I would suggest getting some friends over for a friendly game of poker before even attempting a casino. It’s better to learn how to play live in a comfortable environment than in an alien environment against complete strangers.

The home game set-up

The basic items needed are obviously a deck of cards. Try and get a quality deck. Not the flimsy paper ones. Go for a high quality plastic playing card. You can buy genuine used casino cards off the internet for around £2/$4. These will have been in actual use in the casino, but will have been ‘clipped’ so that they can’t be used in the casino again (for fraudulant activities). Alternatively, you can get a half decent deck for around £5/$10. If you really want to push the boat out, invest in a set of KEM cards. These will set you back around £15/$30, but are argubly the best cards out there.

chipsetchipsNext basic item is a chipset. There’s no point in playing with matchsticks if you are wanting to proceed to playing in the casino. Buy some chips – even jusy a cheap and tacky plastic set. You can get chipsets very cheaply off the internet and at a lot of high street stores. Again, you get what you pay for. £10/$20 will get you a very cheap tacky set but will be good enough to start your home games. If you have the money, you can invest a couple of hundred pounds for casino look, weight, feel and sound, clay poker chips. You want to learn how to bet with chips so it’s not alien to you when you do eventually go to the casino. Also get a dealer button, although you can use almost anything to signify a dealer button (like a lid off a jar). Dealer buttons cost around £3 / $5.

tableIdeally, you want a good sized playing surface. The kitchen table is a good starting point. Buy some felt to put over the table so it ‘feels’ more like a poker table. If you intend to have home games on a regular basis, why not invest in a poker table. They come in all shapes and sizes and at prices to suit all budgets. Obviously, the more you pay the better quality table you will get. You can also find plans for building your own poker table on the internet. You can get these free and all you have to pay for is your materials and some time and patience!

OK, now you have the basic set up, you just need a few bits and bobs to have your home game off and running….

  • FOOD – now if you are anything like my mates, food will never be wasted. Have a selection of crisps (or chips to you US folks) and nibbles available. You don’t have to go all out for 3 course meal!
  • DRINK – If you are hosting the home game, tell your mates to bring the beer. Have a few bottles at the ready yourself, in case of emergencies. If you are invited to a game, be sure to take a few bottles over with you. (When you go to the casino, I’d advise you stick to non-alcoholic drinks.)
  • MUSIC – I normally have some music playing in the background – not blaring out, but loud enough that its not a distraction.

For the game itself there are a few things that you must make clear before the game starts. You should have some basic rules. As I’ve said, every casino has its own house rules – you should too. These should include blind levels, time between blinds, string betting, betting out of turn and who decides on disputes. You as host should have final decision on any disputes.

Don’t just play for the fun of it. Have a buy-in for your game. When there’s nothing to play for, people will tend to play stupid hands and can get easily bored. Its suprising just how much more, people try to win when there is cash on the line! Set your buy-in at a level everyone can afford. If you make it a £5 ($10) buy-in you might want to have a rebuy period of say one hour. I’ve played a few games where the buy-in was £5 for 2500 chips and rebuys were £1 for 1000 chips. Rebuys help to swell the pot. Just remember to have a decent payout structure. If you have 9 or 10 playing pay out to the top 3. If you only have 5 or 6 then payout to the top 2 and for less than 5 players payout winner takes all.

Use your home games as a learning curve for playing live. Not just for you but your mates as well. Help eachother for when you do hit the casino. Ask them if there are any tells you show, whether it be a physical tell or a betting pattern or general mistakes you make. Take all comments on board and try to eradicate them from your game. In return you have to help them too. It aslo means a tougher game when you all meet up to play again!

casinoThe natural step to take before heading for the casino is to play home games. The more you play, the more comfortable you will feel at the table, and the more confident you will get. Once you feel you are ready to take on the world, head off to your local casino / card club and play the low buy-in games. Its a whole new learning curve, but at least you will have had the basic preparations.


One Response to Want to play live – start with a home game!

  1. zitlip says:

    Nice article on getting started Gopher.
    I would like to pop up a warning flags on the subject if I may.
    Start out in a small buyin tournament—-
    The reason I state this is because it allows you to buyin for a small amount and play for an extended perion of time. (assuming you don’t play like a monkey, donk and all in with crap cards.)
    It will also give you time to adjust to the symantics of playing in a real casino.

    Unfortunately, poker around the world, has become a farce. There are still some real poker players out there, but most all of the games have been infected with players who watch too much TV poker and try to incorporate that style of play into any game they play. What they don’t realize is that TV usually shows only 6 people left at the table where the game changes dramatically from real life games which may have as many as 11 players on a table. You should play an entirely different game according to the number of players at your table.

    So here is what happens.
    You sit a small limit table, say…$3-$6
    There are 11 people at the table.
    4 of the people are half wasted, 3 others are going to start drinking, 2 are small bankroll newbies, 1 actually knows what the hell he’s doing, and you.

    The ante’s go in…cards are dealt..first drunk acts…who raises the BB…2nd player (knowledgeable player folds rags), 3rd player newbie calls with rags not knowing any better, 4th player ( another drunk re-raises )
    Now by the time the whole hand is laid out, it has been raised and re-raised to the max on every card.
    Why does this happen?
    Because of TV poker and alcohol and moron poker player wannabies with credit cards. Either way, by the time the hand is done, your sit down stake of $50 or $100 is out in the middle of the table and more than likely one of those idiots sucked out on you.
    This is why I say that it’s best to start out in a small buyin tournament.

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