Mixing up your Home Game
Nov 19, 2005  
2005 Jason Kirk  

There are few forms of poker more fun than a friendly home game. Having friends over to throw cards and chips around while kicking back a few beers will never replace a trip to the casino poker room, but it's not really supposed to. A home game is more about having fun than trying to score a big profit, but unfortunately many home games are imitations of what people see on television. The fun factor is too often removed in favor of playing all hold'em, all the time. If you're running one of these home games and you'd like to liven things up again, there's one sure-fire way to go: introduce some new games to the mix. And when you go for new games, don't go for anything tame that you might find at a casino - go whole-hog and introduce some of the games listed below. You'll be guaranteed a high-variance night that will keep everyone interested in the game from beginning to end - and if you introduce the games yourself, you'll have a little extra time to figure out the proper strategy for trying to protect your chip stack!


Do you enjoy a good, solid kick to the crotch now and then? How about every time you sit down to play? Razz may be the game for you. It's the ultimate masochistic poker game, teasing you with good cards before delivering three straight bricks to ship the pot your opponent's way. Mechanically, Razz is identical to limit seven-card stud - unlike seven-card stud, however, Razz is a lowball game. The hand with the lowest high card will always win, e.g. A-2-3-4-6 beats A-2-3-5-7. Introduce this game and prepare to watch the suckouts come with a vengeance. (Full rules available here.)


If you're one of those players who doesn't feel like there's enough action in Omaha, you might want to go back in time a little and visit the game known as Cincinnati. Every player is dealt five cards, and five more community cards are dealt out in the middle of the table, face down. The first community card is turned face-up, and there is a round of betting. Then each other community is turned face-up, one at a time, followed by a round of betting. At showdown, players make the best five-card hand from any combination of the ten cards available to them. As you might imagine with so many cards in play, it takes a real monster hand to win a showdown; the only royal flush I ever dealt in my own home game came in a round of Cincinnati. ( I held aces over kings!) To make things even more interesting, Cincinnati can be played as a hi-lo split game. If that's not enough, try making it a pot-limit game. You'll rarely see more action at a poker table.

Pineapple/Crazy Pineapple

Do your players like hold'em so much they don't want to stray too far from it? Maybe it's time to introduce a game of Pineapple. Mechanically it plays in identical fashion to hold'em, with one tiny exception: each player is dealt three hole cards. Each player makes one discard before the flop, and then play resumes as it would in a normal hold'em game. For even more of a twist, try a round of Crazy Pineapple. Instead of discarding before the flop, players discard on the flop. Because there's so much action in this variant, Crazy Pineapple is usually played as a hi-lo split game. Like Cincinnati, it can also be played as a pot-limit game. Action junkies rejoice!


If your home game players get bored playing the same game over and over, it might be time for a HORSE tournament. HORSE consists of five different fixed-limit games in forced rotation: Hold'em, Omaha, Razz, Stud, and Stud Eight or Better. Every time the blinds go up, play moves to the next game in the rotation. It might be a good idea before starting to make sure players know the rules of each of these games. It's also helpful to remind everyone when the games change, especially from Razz to Stud to Stud hi-lo. The best all-around poker player will usually win these tournaments, so any game with a lot of solid players can use HORSE to settle arguments over who's the best - that is, until the next game of HORSE!

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