Playing online poker at PokerStars is hugely enjoyable but sometimes it’s good to invite a few friends round, bust out that dusty pack of playing cards and have a good old fashioned poker home game. Playing poker live is a different experience to playing online. Live tells now become an important part of the game – can you look your opponent in the eye and tell if they have it or not? – and live poker is also much slower than online, meaning that you will play fewer hands per hour.
To counter this, it can be a lot of fun to add some crazy variations to your home game that aren’t available online. Whether you’re playing No Limit Hold’em, Pot Limit Omaha or another poker game these additions will help add a little bit of spice to the next home game that you play in!
Straddles and Super Straddles
If you’ve ever played live poker in a casino, poker room or even just a home game then you have probably heard the term ‘straddle’ before. A straddle is an optional extra blind that is placed by the player to the left of the big blind. So, before any cards are dealt, you now have three blinds in the pot; the small blind, big blind and the straddle. The straddle is usually twice the size of the big blind so, in a $1/$2 game the straddle would be to $4.
As this immediately costs you money why would you want to put the straddle on in the first place? The main reason is that straddles create action. Imagine that the game you are playing in is a bit flat, with most hands being won pre-flop and barely a big pot in sight. If you introduce straddles to the game then instantly there is more money in the pot to fight for, which should encourage more raises, more three-bets and more players battling for the pot. In short, the stakes get raised and so does the excitement!
Another reason to straddle is that it can help create a loose, gambling image for yourself. This can be especially effective if you are a tighter player who doesn’t bluff too much. Manage to shake off that image and you’ll have a better chance of getting paid off when you do hit a hand.
Many times when you straddle you’ll look down at a junk hand that has to be folded, just like in any random poker hand. However, straddling can pay off enormously if you are lucky enough to wake up with a monster, like pocket Aces. Nobody will ever believe you when you play aggressively; they will just assume you are ‘defending’ the straddle. Needless to say, these rare occurrences can be some of the most profitable spots you will find in any home game! One final thing to note is that you can up the action even more by adding a super straddle into the mix. This is a second straddle that gets placed to the left of the initial straddle. Using that same $1/$2 game example if the original straddle is to $4 then the super straddle will cost $8. As you can imagine, this completely changes the dynamics of the hand and almost guarantees that fireworks will ensue!
When you want to turn your home game completely upside down there is no better variant than Deuces Wild. Ordinarily in poker, you rarely want to get dealt a deuce. As the lowest card in the deck they have very little value in high-hand games like NLHE and PLO. In Deuces Wild though, a humble deuce is much more powerful even than an Ace. Get dealt a deuce and you can use it as any card in the deck that you wish. So if you get dealt A-2 suddenly you have a pair of Aces. Or let’s say you have Qd-2h and the flop is 4d-8d-Jd. Now you can turn your 2h into the Ace of diamonds to give you the nut flush!
In Deuces Wild the power of being dealt a deuce cannot be overstated. You can still lose the hand holding a deuce but when you get dealt one the vast majority of the time it will mean that you’ll be shipping the pot eventually. When Deuces Wild is being played it dramatically impacts the entire home game. Now you have to be wary of an opponent holding a deuce at all times – make sure you have a monster hand yourself before you commit all of your chips. It also opens up interesting new bluffing opportunities where you can play in a way to represent that you have a deuce when you actually don’t!
Remember these thrilling variations the next time you take a break from grinding online at PokerStars and play in a home game. They can really add a ton of excitement and, if you’re lucky, help you crush the game too!