It was the best of times; it was the worst of times…..

Friday, I was invited to a home game tournament with a whole bunch of folks I have never played cards with. I am far from a tourney specialist and when I saw these guys had real poker tables, a computer program for blinds/levels, four or five sets of chips, and expected 24 people, I began to wonder if this was +EV for me or not. However, the buy in was low enough that I was fine with losing that so long as I met one or more new people to bring in to our home game. I was pleasantly surprised to discover the overall skill level was rather low. In fact, I felt somewhat “Seinfeldian” as I was reminded of the episode where Kramer (an adult) is practicing martial arts in class with adolescents (i.e. a man among boys). Several of the player’s wives played and were all dead money. Only the hosts seemed to be even close to competent players. Calling bets to the river with 2nd pair and not being able to fold a single pair when it was obviously no good were typical of the play. Folks routinely allowed their stack to dwindle to an M of 1 or 2 before deciding to shove it all in. Of course, there was one guy that had to cheat. I saw him place less than the proper amount for his big blind (using big stacks of small denomination chips) in a couple of times but did not comment since I was the new guy and he seemed to be a regular and a friend of the host.

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times…..

However, when he got moved to my table, he was the big blind and, after eyeing what he put out for his blind and estimating it was considerably short, I asked him if he had put in the right amount. He ignored me so I asked the host (who was now dealing since he was out) to count the chips he had put out for his big blind. It was about half of what it was supposed to be. After he was made to put in the right amount, it was clear he had no more than one more big blind left. I was the chip leader and on the button so I shoved pre with J-4o just to steal his blind. He hemmed and hawed before calling with 6-4s. Neither of us improved and I knocked him out. I had also knocked out about 6 other players so when it got to be heads up and I had the other guy well covered, he gladly accepted the 2nd place money + the additional $40 I offered him to end the tourney right away. I promptly thanked the hosts and gave the host’s wife $20 as a show of gratitude for the food and good times. As I was pocketing my winnings (12 x buy in), my primary goal (at this point) was to make sure to be invited back. 

Something I never really wish for, but that I am always glad to see because it only occurs occasionally, happened at both home game gatherings this week. The guys that rarely ever win won this week. I lost a little at one and won a little at the other but for the most part, the usual winners lost and the usual contributors, won. This is a healthy thing for all games but particularly home games where there isn’t a line of people waiting to be seated at the poker table. Barry Greenstein talks about this sort of thing in his book, Ace on the River. When you have a good game going, nurture it to help it keep going. It’s good when the live ones have a good day. They are the ones that often contribute the most to making a game, a good (i.e. profitable) one. So, although it was a break even week for me, it was a great week for our game and that is definitely, +EV.