Dangers in Home Poker Games
There have been multiple accusations of cheating in high stakes home poker games in recent weeks. Bill Perkins and Dan Bilzerian accused Jean Robert Bellande of cheating at poker and other cheating accusations have been floating around for a while now.
Home poker games are the most common non-casino or non-online poker games in the world. Whether its a group of buddies playing for quarters or an organized home tournament, these games can be a lot of fun. However, there are always dangers associated with home games, and today we will cover some of them.
Cheating and Collusion
The most common problem with home games is cheating and collusion among players. The most common form of cheating that you will run across is “lax rule enforcement.” What I mean by that is that certain rules are not regularly enforced or they just so happen not to be enforced for certain players. You will likely see this type of loose rule enforcement occur when the host of the game is in the hand, or maybe one of his good buddies.
Then, of course, there are instances of blatant cheating that you will see in home games. This can range from stacking the deck, dealing off the bottom, hiding cards under items on the table, palming of chips, sending signals, marking cards, and more. If you pay close attention, you will notice certain patterns in a cheater’s winning or losing that will be indicative of their cheating. For example, a player that always seems to win a pot when he or a certain buddy of his deals may be indicative of some shenanigans going on.
Collusion is a regular problem in home games. Commonly, you will have two or more players that will work together at the table to drive the action into their favor. Every time one of the colluding players raises the other player reraises. Then suddenly, when it is heads-up they check it down unless one or the other makes a nut or nearly a nut hand. Other collusion is as blatant as someone telling their partner what they are holding or sending some type of signal to their player about their hand.
Excessive Rake, High Fees, or Other Monetary Benefits to the Host
Some home games, especially those that run on a regular basis and accept outside players, may charge a rake or a fee for their tournament. Sometimes this rake can be as much as 30% of a pot or 25% of a poker tournament entry.
The rake in the game is simply to make the host money. If a host happens to play in the game, you will seldom see him risk a significant portion of his money. In fact, many times a host that charges rake will not play but help “run the game” or deal.
Games that charge a rake or tournament fees are actually illegal in most states, so if you are in a game that charges a rake, you risk arrest if the game is raided.
Home games are potential robbery targets, especially those games that are regularly held and have a reasonable amount of money in play. If a game is regularly advertised by the host or others in the game, you need to take precautions in the event someone decides to rob your game. Don’t be a hero if your game gets robbed. You can make more money. Let them take the money and run. The cops can handle the rest.
Keep in mind that while home games are a lot of fun, they can also bring risks. All poker games carry some type of risk, but organized games in casinos and online are at a much-reduced risk than home games. Personally, I gave up playing home games long ago unless it is with buddies or very low stakes. If I want to play serious poker, there are much safer bets than home games.