Don't Play Poker Softball: Playing Against Friends & Family

Don't Play Poker Softball: Playing Against Friends & Family

Like most, I started playing poker with friends. We gathered around the table every Monday night, broke out our cheap plastic chips, and started passing coin around the table. It was a lot of fun. Poker is a social game. If you are an internet player, you might not have a good grasp on that, but it is.

This social aspect fits well into home poker tournaments where a host invites you into their home as a guest to play their favorite game. Sure it’s for money, but it usually has less of a cutthroat feel than casinos and more shady gambling venues. You are playing with friends and with friends of friends.

This leads us to a pitfall in and of itself. Friends have a range of feelings towards each other formed from outside the game, placing everyone on a different playing field. Let me clarify. When I play with strangers, I play equally against all. When I play against friends and family, a type of caste system is put in place. I fold more often to my wife because I don’t want to take her money; after all, it’s my money too. I may not push hard against my buddy who recently lost his job. I may show aggression to the point of mania against my brother who dented my car. These are just examples, I don’t even have a brother, but you get the idea – I’m playing bad poker.

Most likely it’s a friendly, low-stakes game, so no big deal. True…unless this impaired play carries over to bigger money or it becomes unfair play. This atmosphere also breeds unintentional collusion. Collusion is when two or more players work together to profit from the others. If I play soft against my wife and she returns the favor, is that collusion? If in a conversation outside the game my friend has told me the hand he goes all-in with every time and no one else knows, is that collusion? I’m not sure, but I wouldn’t want it going on in a big money game. I may be getting carried away with my suspicions of conspiracy. I know my friends aren’t nefarious and I’m sure your friends aren’t either.

Like I said before, this is unintentional collusion if anything; however, if we are all to grow as card players, we need to work on playing good, fair poker against everyone. You can’t improve anybody’s game by playing softball.