It's Friday night, the pretzels are in the bowl, the beer is on the ice. You have two new decks of cards, Dave is bringing his ammunition box full of those heavy clay chips and all of the wives and girlfriends are somewhere else (except Leslie who plays golf from the Men's tees and generally goes home after from these games a tad richer). Just like in thousands of other basements, rec. rooms and garages across the country, it's time for a nice friendly game of poker.
A friendly game of poker?
I have some friendly advice based on some sound psychological research. If you are a serious or semi-serious poker player; stop playing these friendly home games immediately. Walk away and never come back.
Because the friendly home game can cost you lots of money.
See if this sounds familiar. You start the game after you have traded kid stories, work stories and talked about the Tigers or Devil Rays or Seahawks. The beers come out, except for those guys who have been on the wagon for a decade or more, and the games begin. Fifty cent/a buck stakes; maybe $1 & $2. Even though John will deal Seven Card high all night, the other games start fairly soon: Black Mariah, Follow the Queen, Spit-in-the-Ocean, Six Card Push-Pull with a Shuck at the End for a Buck (my olde favourite).
If you fall asleep and call every hand other hand at random you might lose a hundred bucks until the "burn" games start around midnight. This is a friendly home game that you have played off and on for years with guys (and Leslie) you went to high school with, you golf with, were in the Men's Group at church with. This is actually fun and relaxing and a good way to harmlessly blow off some steam and enjoy a night away from the work and family life. It's fun. It's harmless.
Unless you are a serious poker player.
The problem is that you have trained yourself to make correct odds bets in a cash game or tournament setting and now you are going to "play for fun" you are going to "make the crying call for the last buck" you are playing "friendly." I am telling you those loose-friendly calls are going to creep into your real game and cost you money.
This is an old sports psychology axiom about muscle memory. Simply stated you do not train against your best stroke. Tennis player, golfers, basketball players all get into a "groove" and know that is where they want to be. Why would you then purposely play outside your optimal game?
Fuzzy Zoeller tells the story of playing a charity event with three other pros and as part of the celebrity entertainment factor, the pros all played with no woods and opposite handed wedges. One of the other pros, whose name you will no longer remember, lost his entire short game after 18 holes with a lefty pitching wedge, and was never heard from again.
Could that be true for poker, you ask? Let's ask the professionals.
Recently I was at a Charity Poker event with some of the biggest names in tournament poker. There were several bracelets in attendance and a goodly handful of Full Tilt, Ultimate Bet and Doyle's Room professionals scattered around the room. Most of the pros were either playing their hands blind or looking at just one card or signing autographs and not playing their cards at all. Yes, they were having fun and yes every pro who made the money donated their winnings. So, they were just joking around and having fun for a good cause, right?
Well, I asked. Sure they all said it's for charity, until one of my friends took me aside and said:
"You know that's not the only reason we don't play these cards. You see we are just like everyone else, if we play we play to win but if we play and don't play to win, don't play to trap the other charity guests or don't read tells or do any of the things we do in a real game, then we can lose our edge."
When I then asked a few more professionals if that was indeed the case, they all agreed.
You don't ask a professional to play down, to do less, to ease up. Not in poker, not in flying planes or driving race cars. When you are fine tuned to high level of competition, you don't run a race in second gear.
"Why do you think we play Chinese Poker on the sidelines of all the events? You can still gamble, you can still bet, but you can turn off the reads and the moves and the strategy."
These final words from a two time WSOP bracelet winner:
"Don't ever do for fun, what you do for a living, it dulls the edge."
Pass the Pretzels. Deuces and One-Eyed Jacks are wild!
Ed Note: You can try to play One-Eyed Jacks as wild cards at Pacific Poker, but man will you lose some serious money.