Crush your home game

Now you’ve set your game up learn how to dominate it and keep the lion’s share of the cash

1. Invite fish to your home

In every game of poker you play you should be looking at where the money is coming from. It could be your best mate who’s never played before, a colleague who wants to know what all this poker malarkey is about or the drunk from your local pub. Just make sure that it’s not you that everyone is looking at while licking their lips and rubbing their hands.

Not only is it a good move to make sure that there’s some dead money at the table, it will also act as bait for the other sharks in the game, giving you more room to manoeuvre in and around them. There’s a reason this tip is number one – it’s an integral part of raking it in at your home game. Sure, it can be frustrating when novices hit big hands and/or suck out on you, but over time, playing against weaker players than you will be a highly profitable move.

2. Play the player

It’s essential to get a lock on the players around the table. Who’s tight? Who’s loose? Who’s aggressive? Who will call a small bet for value but will drop their cards to a re-raise? Paint yourself a mental profile of each player and keep updating throughout the night and beyond. Play ABC poker against the dunces and only get tricky against players that you need to, otherwise you’ll bluff your chips away to fish who’ll call you down with bottom pair.

Going into a game with the feeling that you ‘deserve’ to beat worse players is not enough – you still need to beat them.

3. Get everyone drunk

Booze, as everyone knows, reduces inhibitions. At the poker table that means lots of cash- making opportunities. Looser calls, bigger bluffs and more mistakes will be made by all and sundry. We’re not saying don’t drink at your home game, we’re just saying don’t drink quite as much as everyone else.

Play the congenial host, topping up glasses and handing out cans and no one will notice you’re not chugging down the fizzy stuff at quite your usual pace. Is this cynical? No, you’re just helping everyone else have a good time. If your reward is being able to milk a few quid out of the braying donkeys sat around the table then so be it.

4. Dealer’s choice

If you set the blinds, structures, buy-ins and type of games you’ve given yourself an edge before the first hand has even been shuffled up and dealt. Make sure you play to your strengths and others’ weaknesses. Arrange to play tournament poker when your game swells with cash game specialists and lay ring games when sit-and-go merchants turn up for the home game action.

Make sure that you play at a cash level that you’re comfortable with, otherwise you’ll start bottling decisions. That way if, heaven forbid, you do end up down at the end of the night, it won’t have hurt your pocket too badly. At other people’s home games you won’t necessarily get to enjoy this luxury, so make the most of it when you can.

5. Minimise your risks

There’s nothing wrong with big- pot poker when you have big hands, but unless you feel that you’re going in with easily the best of it then keeping the pot small and controlling it is often the way forward when playing against a complete noob. Players new to the game won’t know if they’re paying over the odds for a draw, which can leave you crippled if they then hit. Make them pay by all means but try not to risk all your chips.

However, if you’re going to commit your whole stack but suspect you’re facing a draw, it’s much smarter to get your chips in on the turn (as long as the card doesn’t scare you ) so at least the fish only has one card to hit.

6. Shaking hands

Some of the players at your game may not have much live experience under their belts, in which case there are a few major tells to pick up on and none more so than the infamous ‘shaking hands’. When new players pick up monster hole cards you’ll often be able to spot their hands visibly shaking, which can result in chip spillages. Another giveaway for a huge hand is sudden erratic behaviour.

A novice often can’t cope with the adrenaline coursing through their body, so if you spot an opponent maniacally swigging from their can it might be time to put the brakes on.

7. Who’s got the biggest?

Fan any competitive fires between your friends and set yourself up to reap the spoils. It’s always worth getting a friendly bit of needle going and then sitting back while everyone starts re-raising each other purely for the sake of misplaced bravado. Then, when you wake up to a big pair, you can take them to the cleaners when their arrogance spirals out of control.

If there’s a particularly volatile player, some verbal sparring can set them on monkey tilt too, and they’ll fritter their chips away in anger. One situation where you should definitely get the jibes flowing is if you find yourself on the bubble of a single-table tournament. Hopefully you’ll create a Reservoir Dogs-style finale with everyone gunning for everyone else and next thing you know you’ll have cruised into the money.

8. Fake smiles

A genuine smile generally means someone’s got a genuine hand. On the other hand it’s incredibly hard to fake a real smile. So if you’re heads-up in a hand probing for information and you get met with what can only be described as an uncontrollable Cheshire cat grin then it could be time to lay down your marginal hand. The giveaway tell is the eyes – if they’re not looking happy then the smile is being put on and you should call, or, if you’ve got enough chips to make them drop their hand, raise.

9. ‘Doesn’t give a toss’

Every player at your home game will have a different salary and each person will treat money in different ways. That’s not to say the richest person is going to be the most flippant. Try to establish who is the natural gambler and push back at them with big hands. You’re liable to get a call on a big re-raise and although you might get unlucky getting your chips in ahead is a positive move over time.

If you do lose, don’t have a pop at them; instead congratulate them for their bravado, reload and get set to take it all back in a later hand. Raising machines often build up a big stack and blow it all by the end of the evening, so think of them as a chip vault just waiting to be bust open.

10. Don’t cheat. Ever.

The second you get caught cheating your home game will fall dead on its knees and with it a fun and relatively easy way to make some money. We could have made the moral argument that you shouldn’t be cheating anyway, but if you’re still reading this then you’re obviously a bit of a dodgy tyke that was considering it. Don’t. You’ll spoil it for everyone and you’ll never get invited to anyone else’s home games ever again. And if there’s any justice in the world you’ll get a bit of a kicking for your underhand tactics.

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