On our podcast and site, most of our content is geared towards beating no limit, low stakes cash games spread in casinos and card rooms. But I'm guessing that many of you reading this also play in a home game once in a while. A few months back Jack and I started hosting a home game where our goal is to put ourselves a ton of tough spots, spots we rarely encounter at casinos. Our game plays pretty small, just 50/50 cent blinds, but no one buys in for less than 300 big blinds, and after an hour or two, there is always at least $1000 on the table. Not bad for a game that never plays bigger than six-handed. For more on our motivations for starting the game, check out my interview on The Top Pair Poker Podcast (starting at 16:12).
We at first only played no limit, but recently have started to add in PLO and SHOP to the game, generally in the last hour or two. On top of the fact that both of these games have more action than no limit hold 'em, Jack and I are both actively looking to improve our PLO games to the point where we will play a much higher percentage of our grinding hours at that game. The average live low stakes PLO game is much softer than even a good no limit game, so we're looking to be good enough at PLO so we can feel comfortable picking PLO over no limit if we think there is more of an edge to be had at that game on a given day. For those not familiar with SHOP, check out Episode 17 of the podcast. It's a split pot, pot limit game where you get dealt six cards preflop and after the preflop betting is over, you have to divide your hand into a PLO hand a hold 'em hand. Postflop, half the pot goes to the best hold 'em hand and half goes to the best PLO hand. Because of the nature of the game, there is a lot of leveling, even compared to the already high amount that goes on at a no limit home game where everyone knows each other.
The nice thing about this home game is that in almost every hand you get to the flop with, there seems to be a tough decision. Unlike the games that most of us usually play in, bluffing frequencies are often at roughly what they should be, if not higher than what is game theoretically optimal. For example, here is a hand that I played in at the last game. I limped in ATs UTG and the button called and the blinds both checked. The flop is QQT with no flush draw and the BB bets out and I raise for value and get called. The turn is a 9 and it goes check bet call. River is a low blank and the BB checks, and I of course bet again for value and get called by worse. I love playing in such an aggressive game that it's standard for me to raise second pair top kicker for value on a paired board and feel confident in getting three streets with the hand.
After just a few hours of the home game, I feel really drained because I'm put in exponentially more difficult spots that I would be in a 12 hour session at your average 2/5 game. So while it's a really tough game I don't feel like I have a huge edge in, I really look forward to the opportunity to play. I get to play against tough opponents in a short handed lineup, where my opponents are willing to honestly talk about what they were thinking in hands I just played with them. There is no better way to improve one's game and general poker intelligence than putting in the hours at a game like this.
If you're in the Cleveland area or don't mind traveling to here and want to play in the next home game, shoot me an email at Zach@JustHandsPoker.com and we'll make it happen!