Home game poker drama

Ah. A friendly game of poker at home. Such a fun relaxing way to spend an evening.

We get together with friends about once every two months for a friendly little game of poker. We meet at 6pm for a potluck dinner then by 7pm it’s game on. There are usually about 6 to 9 people playing.

The game is structured as a mini-tournament. The game is Texas Holdem no limit. Each player starts with $1,500 in chips and the blinds start at $5/$10 and escalate slowly every 15 minutes. The blinds grow slowly to $10/$20 then $15/$30, $20/40, $25/50 and so on.

The “no limit” variation was adopted at my insistence. Bluffing is almost impossible when you can only make a minimum raise and everyone would call and invariably someone would suck out. Argh. And the games could go past midnight. Argh.

With our blind structure and no limit in effect the games typically last 3 to 4 hours. That’s much more doable for us. Our routine is pretty consistent now. Break for a snack at 9pm then finish no later than 11pm.

It’s a friendly game but to keep it interesting we all chip in $20. The prize pool last night was $140. We award that to the top three finishers. Third place gets their money back, second place gets $50 and first gets $70. Personally I’d rather go $80, $40 and $20 but I got outvoted. We almost never make it to an official winner since when it gets late the people still in the game start offering deals to each other. “If we quit now I’ll split the pot with you 60/40″ and stuff like that. If the offer is accepted we can all go home. If not, we keep playing. If we keep playing, usually the final two (if they have approx. the same amount of chips) will say, “one more hand to determine the winner.” If agreed, there is no betting. All cards are dealt face up. It’s basically a coin flip to end the game so we can call it night.

The tournament structure means that anyone can be knocked out on any hand. Some people go home if they get knocked out. Some stick around and graciously assume the duties of dealer. For those that don’t go home,  however, they can get a little bored and pouty because they are out of the game.

The players include my wife and myself, another married couple, our aunt, a friend of ours and her daughter. Occasionally we’ll have random guests, like our friend’s husband, a tag-along friend or someone’s kid.

The married couple is where the action is at. I’m going to call them the Johnson’s. (Not their real name.) They both enjoy gambling a little too much. The formation of this little group was basically their idea. Mrs. Johnson can be a little bitchy. Mr. Johnson is a hardcore gambler and has been his whole life. He loves poker and considers himself quite good. He deals poker at a local club a few times a week for part-time money. He’s a great guy to have around when the chips and pots get all confusing and stuff.

He’s also pretty silly at the poker table. Flashing his cards, making comments, acting out of turn, etc. He thinks he’s the best so he gets pretty grumpy if he gets knocked out. I imagine it’s hard for him to get beat by us amateur idiots. He also doesn’t seem to do well after the dessert break. He gets all tired and cranky. Sometimes he’ll stick around and deal for us and sometimes he’ll stomp out of the room.

On top of that Mr. and Mrs. Johnson will peck at each other all night long. They’ve been married 45 years and have a rhythm to their interactions. The drama ebbs and flows between them much like the tides.

At last night’s game all was well up to the dessert break. No one had been knocked out yet – everyone was still in the game. It’s always nice when that happens. After the break, though, things usually start to happen pretty fast since the blinds are getting large.

My wife was knocked out first. Then went our friend and Mr. and Mrs. Johnson. That left me, my aunt, and our friend’s daughter (who is actually quite a good player).  Aunt was the chip leader, I was a strong second, and daughter was on the short stack.

Mr. Johnson was dealing and was grumpy as hell. He hasn’t finished in the money for quite some time. So he was speed dealing and was rather impatient. You’d have some cards flung at you and he’d bark, “bet, check or fold!”. We’d be given about two seconds to make our decisions.

Daughter started to build a come back. Aunt was losing her chips. Mrs. Johnson kept bitching at Mr. Johnson to slow the hell down. You could see it was getting to him.

Finally we arrived at an important hand. Daughter had climbed to #2 in chips and aunt had dropped to #3. She had a big decision to make. Mr. Johnson was impatient. Mrs. Johnson made one last comment. FLING! He tossed the deck of cards at her and said, “Fine! You deal!” and stormed out of the room. It was the biggest incident we’ve seen between those two so far.

After things calmed down Aunt went ahead and finished the hand. She called an all-in bet from daughter and lost the hand. She was knocked out of the tournament. We all felt a little bad since we are playing for real money and that was an unfortunate way to go.

I was now the chip leader and daughter was pretty far behind me. We played a couple hands then we made a deal to split the winnings 5o-5o. I was the winner since I had the most chips when the deal was made. $60 for each of us and $20 for the aunt.

Even with the drama I still had a good time and somehow managed to kill a bottle of Pinot Noir all by myself. Oops. But I don’t think everyone had as much fun as me. (Winning does that.)

Why does there have to be the drama?

2 responses

  1. Congrats on your win. There’s always drama at the poker table. We’ve been playing “cash” games instead of tournaments lately since some of the players are “on call” for work and may need to get out at any time. We usually buy-in for $20 and the blinds stay at .25/.50 and you can cash out at any time. It’s good for people who get knocked out early ’cause they can buy back in and it increases the amount of the pot. Plus we don’t have to worry about setting the clock and people taking cig./potty breaks. It’s all good, especially when you come out ahead.

    Shuffle up and deal …. 😉


  2. My boyfriend, his friends and I play EXACTLY the same way! I mean, the same exact build of the game! How fun :). Excepting the drama that seems to inevitably weave through your games, it sounds like a pretty awesome time. Plus, earning 40$ ain’t nothing to sneer at.

    Incidentally, I couldn’t help noticing today that in your “tag cloud” the word “poop” stands out rather alarmingly. Does that mean that there are actually more people on WordPress who talk about poop rather than, say, Obama? Yeesh.


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