Poker Addict #1

What do you do when you love live poker but can’t be bothered to leave the house?

Either everyone drinks or no one drinks. And the right answer is: everyone drinks

Years ago when the internet revolution had just been invented there was a spate of stories about young people in Japan who didn’t leave their flats and lived bizarre second lives through their PC screens. They would order in for food and barely see sunlight as their social lives slowly deteriorated. Can anyone guess where this is going?

Yep, that’s right, slowly but surely I’m becoming a creature of the night, shunning all social contact, emerging only to secure essential supplies that can’t be delivered via an online order. The only problem with this idyllic lifestyle is I don’t play live poker much these days – it’s just so much effort to actually have to travel somewhere when there’s so much action online. But, I do still love live poker.

Of course, the answer to this dilemma is simple – if the mountain won’t come to Mohammad… I’ll have a bloody home game. Home games are great, wondrous things and you should have one immediately.

After a long break I’ve started hosting them again, and already ‘Nick’s brilliant home game’ is becoming legendary. Obviously I can’t name names but the latest gathering featured a man who has won the world championship in his chosen sport at least six times (quick clue, it’s not Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor – though I secretly wish it was), a large amiable man who presents TV shows (not Eammon Holmes, though I secretly wish it was) and several people who write and talk about poker on TV (which by definition means they can’t play a lick) and me.

Masala zone

It was a wild night with all the bad beats and coolers you could stomach. As well as all the curry you couldn’t. By the small hours we were playing games no one even understood and ‘check – bet – check-raising’ in the dark.

The game also saw an ontable rivalry between the two loosest players at the table (not me, bizarrely) who would raise every time the other was in the pot on principle. This was dickswinging of the highest order.

When one cracked the other’s hand some truly hopeless middle class trash-talking ensued with such vicious slap-downs as, ‘You’re a nice guy and I like you but you really shouldn’t have called there.’

By now I bet you’re just itching to have your own useless bitch-fight across the green baize. But if you’re going to host your own home game, don’t fall into the trap so many do by focusing on the wrong things, like what game to play, or what the blinds should be. Instead, just observe the following tips, numbered for ease of reference, to enjoy the dream home game experience.

1) Stakes: You need to play for money that isn’t going to bankrupt anyone but that has some significance. Remember, poker isn’t poker unless losing hurts just a little. 2) Food: This should be plentiful and – I can’t stress this enough – must have no nutritional value whatsoever. I recommend a break midsession for a curry or Chinese; again, try not to order anything that involves vegetables.

3) Booze: Two possible alternatives – either everyone drinks or no one drinks. And the right answer is: everyone drinks. The last thing you want at 2am is calm, rational decision-making.

4) A dealer: Hire yourself a professional dealer. It’ll cost you, but think of it as everyone’s rake on the game. It means everyone can get a bit blotto and not have to sort out a side pot when you can barely tell what suit your cards are.

5) Fit people: For heaven’s sake get some hotties in the line-up. Nothing’s worse than sitting in a home game late at night losing and being surrounded by ugly blokes. Just to be clear, this isn’t a sexist idea – I reciprocate by also attending the game and thus providing eye candy for my female guests. (You see how staying indoors for long periods can affect the mind.)

6) Rules only you understand: If you’re going to invite people into your dwelling it’s only right and proper that you take advantage of them. Remember, poker has no official rules so house rules stand. Obviously these shouldn’t be announced beforehand and should include things like newcomers pay for the curry, no raising the host’s blind, newcomers pay for the dealer, deuces are wild (only when you have one…), newcomers pay for my loft extension.

So there you are – you have all the tools you need to host a perfect home game. My game broke up at about 3am. After my guests had gone I poured myself another jack and coke and logged on for some heads-up limit online. Inside good… outside baaaaadddddd.

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