Poker Home Game

The Truth About Home Poker Games vs. Illegal Underground Games

I’m going to tell you about an argument that happened at a Home Game I played in this past weekend. But I’m not going to tell you just yet. I need to keep you in suspense. That’s what writers do. However, I won’t keep you in suspense about something else. And I’m going to tell you about a few poker hands along the way.

When I was at this game, I received a question that I receive often…

Question: “What’s the difference between a Home Game and an Underground Game?”

Answer: “An Underground Game collects a rake. A Home Game doesn’t.”


This particular game took place in an office and it doesn’t take a rake for any poker tournaments. Since it doesn’t take a rake, it would technically be a Home Game, but that would sound weird since it takes place in an office. So … maybe it would be an Office Home Game.

I just pretended someone was sitting next to me and asked me about the game, and I replied out loud, “It’s an Office Home Game.”

It didn’t sound right. So, it’s a Home Game that takes place in an office. I know you have to say more words, which requires more effort, but you’re just going to have to deal with it. Sorry. I have no other solutions. Now let’s get to some poker.


Prior to getting to the poker side, I’d likely to quickly tell you how my day began. I stayed at a motel 17 minutes from the poker tournament. The poker tournament started at 2 p.m. In order to receive an extra 5k in chips so you start with 55k in chips opposed to 50k in chips, you need to be on time and bring a sharable snack. I always like living on the edge a little, and it was 1:30 when I hopped in the shower and had no sharable snack.

Everything went smoothly and I shut the door to my motel room at 1:38, but the door handle slid off. Stood there motionless while staring at a door handle clutched in my hand instead of attached to the door.

Tried to slide it back on, but it wouldn’t latch. I noticed a small piece that fell on the ground. Once I found that, I tried to figure it out and kept working on it, but it was 97 degrees out. Within five minutes, I was sweating. I had to go back inside to take another shower.

When leaving the room a second time, at 1:57, I gently balanced the handle on the door and decided I would call maintenance when I got back later.

After picking up a sharable snack, I arrived at the game late and received fewer chips than the other players because I wasn’t on time. Fortunately, I was chip leader in the middle of this tournament. I know that sounds impressive, but there were only 11 players. Still, 1st of 11 is better than anything else out of 11.

I had two situations that led to my chip lead fading away.


Here’s how the first hand played out.

Kc Kd in Hijack.

Raised to 2800 on 800 Big Blind.

Button called.

Flop: Qs 9d 4d

I bet half the pot.

Button called.

Turn: 8d

I bet half the pot.

Button’s hand started trembling, which indicates that the brain is sending a message to the body that it’s excited about something. I now knew she was going to call, and she did.

River: 2c

I checked.

She checked and tabled Qd Td for a flush.


I tried to make a move with 8d 7d on a T5T flop because I knew my opponent had AK. He hesitantly called.

Turn: K.

So much for that.


Jammed with TT when short-stacked.

Two callers.

Board runout: J482A

I figured I was toast, but they had 99 and 66.


Ac Qc in SB.

I had about 28k in chips.

UTG (Keith) limped.

UTG +1 raised to 3,600 on 1k BB.

I flatted.

BB flatted.

Keith jammed for 18.6k.

UTG +1 folded.

BB said, “I’m gonna need a count.”

He said this too early because the action wasn’t on him, but I was happy about it because it let me know I could move him off the hand.

I moved all-in.

BB folded.

Keith tabled Kd Jd.

Flop: AQ4

Keith: “TEN!”

Turn: 9


River: 8

Keith: “Ten on the river every hand today, except that one.”


AK > AQ for double-up.

Up to 82.5k.

Not chip leader, but close.

7 players remaining.

At this point in the poker tournament, I learned that Keith was the bass player for Confederate Railroad. I also learned how they got that name. They were called Confidential Radio, but George Jones announced them as Confederate Railroad by accident. They told George Jones that it was Confidential Radio and George Jones said, “That name sucks.” So, they changed their name to Confederate Railroad.


I’m going to give you the simple version on this one.

Ac Qc

Up against a moderate-sized stack.

I put in a standard raise.

Villain called.

I jammed on this flop: Tc Kc 9s

Villain called with Kd Jd

Turn: Qd

River: 4h

That was a huge hit. It’s also one of those situations you can’t avoid. I certainly wasn’t going anywhere on that flop.


After running bad and my stack dwindled to 7 BBs, I open-jammed from the Cutoff with 64o.

BB called.

BB turned a straight.


21 Runners.

I lost (8th or something). But that’s not what is interesting about this day.

What’s interesting is what happened during the cash game. And this is where the high drama comes in.

I wasn’t involved in the following hand. I was just a spectator. The characters are the following:

Billy Wonka—His name is Billy and he works at Toyota but has aspirations of creating his own chocolate brand.

The Groove—He told me that up until today, he had been DJing in his boxer shorts at home during quarantine.

Blue Gloves—He was wearing blue surgical gloves while playing.

This was a 1/2 No Limit game. For those of you who aren’t familiar with that, it means the Small Blind is $1 and the Big Blind is $2. A normal pre-flop raise in a game like this can be anywhere from $5 to $12. Once in a while, you will see a raise to $25 or something like that, but those situations are rare. Keep that in mind.


Billy Wonka raised to $100 from UTG +1. He had $300 total at the time.

The Groove called from Cutoff. He had about $1k in chips. 

Blue Gloves looked around the table and called from Button. He had about $400 in chips.

Flop: TT4

Billy Wonka put his remaining $200 into the pot.

The Groove Called.

Blue Gloves jammed.

Billy Wonka was already all-in.

Action was on The Groove, who called.

Billy Wonka tabled AA.

The Groove tabled QQ.

Blue Gloves tabled QTo.

Turn: dud

River: dud

Billy Wonka said to Blue Gloves, “You call a one-hundred-dollar pre-flop raise with Queen-Ten?”

Blue Gloves: “Yeah, there was a lot of money out there.”

Billy Wonka: “You’re an idiot.”

Blue Gloves: “How can I be an idiot if I’m the one with the chips?”

Billy Wonka: “If you want to gamble, I’ll go get $2,300 and we’ll gamble.”

Blue Gloves: “Okay. I ain’t goin’ anywhere. Go get your $2,300 and we’ll play. I got the money.”

Billy Wonka: “I don’t know how you got the money when you play like that. You wanna just flip for $2,300? Is that what you want?”

Blue Gloves: “I told you I wasn’t goin’ nowhere. You wanna flip for it. I wanna play for it.”

Billy Wonka: “You wanna play for it after calling a $100 pre-flop raise with QT?”

Blue Gloves: “Yeah!”

Billy Wonka stood up to leave.

Blue Gloves: “You leavin’?”

Billy Wonka: “Yeah, I’m leaving!”

Blue Gloves: “You comin’ back with $2,300?”

Billy Wonka: “No. You’re a lucky idiot.”

The flop action I reported here is a little off, but that’s irrelevant. 

That was the end of the drama. Evaluate this situation however you please. The most amazing part of this entire situation for me was the $2,300.

How the hell did they come up with that specific number? Don’t people usually say, “I’ll gamble for $100, $1,000, or $10,000?”

This is the first time I ever heard someone say that they would gamble against someone for $2,300. Maybe they’ve been watching The Last Dance and the number 23 stuck in their head. That’s the most likely scenario. Another possibility is that one of them has $2,300 in their checking account. I really don’t know.

You can also look at the hand above and leave any comments you have on my Facebook page because I’m going to share this article. Comments are always good because they drive more traffic. If I get more traffic, my popularity increases, I will get more invitations, and I will eventually ship a decent-sized tournament, which will allow me to feel at ease with life as I sit in a lawn chair by a river somewhere.

So, if you are following my journey and truly rooting for me, please leave a comment so I can sit in a lawn chair. Thank you!


Runners: 12

I finished 6th.


I couldn’t really get much going here. I had to make a move, so I used my tight image to my advantage and 3-bet with 6h 5h from Middle Position.

Three-player pot.

Flop: 6s 4h 8h

I bet the pot.

One caller.

Turn: 4d

I bet the pot.

She called.

River: 6c

Now I had a full house, and nobody would see it coming because of my tight image.

I bet the pot in case my read was off and she had a made hand.

She folded.


I was able to steal some blinds and antes to give myself a chance, but other than the full house above, I don’t even think I had a hand better than top pair. When I got below 10 BBs and saw 99, I jammed.

BB called with KK.

How does that always happen?

Flop: 678

Turn: 3

River: Q

That sucked.

I was on my way home. I was invited to another game nearby, but I always stick to my departure plan. If I say I’m leaving Friday, I’m leaving Friday. If I say I’m leaving Monday, I’m leaving Monday. I’m never being a dick when someone invites me to another game and I decline. I just like sticking to my plan with departure dates.


I usually talk about on-the-felt poker strategy, but success in poker goes well beyond that. I’m going to tell you a poker tip here that I highly recommend you heed. It will keep you in business.

About 17 months ago, I played at Horseshoe Tunica and fired at the Main Event four times. I didn’t cash once. I was able to fire that many times because I brought a lot of money and I had my ATM card on me.

After losing almost $7k in one week at the poker table, I knew I needed to turn a negative into a positive. It’s always my first thought. My new plan was to limit how much money I would bring on a trip and to always leave my ATM card at home.

The most I will ever bring on a poker trip now is $1,500, but I will usually bring less. This has many advantages.

1. I will never lose anywhere near $7k.

2. I will focus more because I know I have a limited amount of ammo.

3. I will play in smaller events with weaker competition in an effort to generate buy-in money for the bigger events during that same trip.

This plan has worked, simply because it led to me playing in more $135 Nightly events than $400 ring events and doing very well. I was much more at ease.

The only thing that irked me is that Coconut Creek told me that my three wins (in one week) would be added to HendonMob. When I called them to inquire, they said I was told wrong and that they don’t report Nightly poker tournaments to HendonMob.

That’s fine, but they shouldn’t have told me otherwise when I played there. Then again, Coconut Creek doesn’t have the greatest reputation for poker, and I now at least know one reason why. 


Many people don’t know the difference between a Home Game and an Underground Game. In a Home Game, there is no rake. This means the person running the game doesn’t profit. In an Underground Game, the house collects a rake, which means they collect a percentage of chips from each pot so they turn a profit.

Home Games are legal. Underground Games are illegal. If it’s a small ‘Underground Game’ and you know the people, you should be fine. However, if it’s a lot of people, you put yourself at much greater risk of being robbed or arrested. Choose wisely.

Your entire body might tremble if you’re in a situation with thieves or cops. If you’re playing in a safe and secure poker game, you can use trembling to your advantage. For example, if you see someone’s hands trembling when they’re about to place a bet, it almost always means they have a monster.

This is usually an amateur player, and it’s a great read because it’s not something the body can control. That person’s brain is sending a message to the body that its feeling excited about near-future events.

Jumping to cash games, if you ever see someone raise to $100 pre-flop in a 1/2 NL game, I highly recommend folding unless you have AA or KK. Even KK is questionable. This is almost always a player who has been running bad and doesn’t want to get unlucky again so they’re betting $100 to avoid disaster.

In most cases, they will only win $2, but if they get called, they’re way ahead. I definitely recommend folding. Even if you’re wrong, it’s better to outplay your opponents street by street. 

There is another way to save money in poker. Whether its cash games or poker tournaments, if you take a poker trip, only bring a set amount of money you can afford to lose, and never bring your ATM card.

By following these rules, you’re going to keep yourself in the game. You’re also going to play smaller poker games, which is going to mean softer competition and a much higher likelihood of you feeling more at ease, which will allow you to play your A game.

♠ pokerjournal.org | Tyler Nals