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In my column (GamingToday, Sept. 13, 2011), Marv Allen, a senior citizen like me who also enjoys low-limit hold’em, was discussing his weekly home game. He prefers home games because of the cost of the rake in Brick-and-Mortar (B&M) casinos.

I cannot deny that fact. Casinos need to have a source of revenue to cover expenses and show a return-on-investment for the owners. That led me to ponder why I and many others prefer to play poker in a casino rather than a home game.

What are the advantages?

For one thing, casino poker games are regulated and professionally managed. Cheating is less likely. The dealer rarely makes mistakes and a floorman is available to resolve any problems.

Security staff serve to ensure everyone’s safety. I have read of robberies in high-stakes home games and seen unruly players escorted out of the casino by armed security personnel. Most casinos have ceiling cameras to monitor games in case of a controversy.

Perhaps the biggest difference is the flow of players – those leaving and others joining the table in the casino. Our challenge is to quickly evaluate each new player so we can adjust our strategies accordingly. I love the challenge.

In a home game, it’s the same players all evening. You know their playing traits, perhaps even a few tells. No challenge there.

Furthermore, your opponents in the home game know how you play so it’s more difficult to build a big pot when flopping the nuts. Likewise, you are less likely to enjoy success when bluffing – even using the Esther Bluff.

Both offer the opportunity for social interaction – important for us seniors who play for recreation. But the greater variety of players in the casino makes it possible to interact with a wider range of personalities.

Variety is the spice of life!

In casino games, drinking at the table is common. And there’s the football game broadcast on the big-screen TV on the wall. To the extent that your opponents indulge in liquor and turn their eyes to watch the TV, they are less focused on the game. They are bound to miss opportunities to gain information and will make poorer decisions.

That gives you a definite edge while playing in the casino.

More Options

Once you are seated at the table in the home game, it is difficult to change your seat. Whereas, in the casino, if a “maniac” comes to your table, you can move to his left as players come and go. That in itself is a good reason to prefer casino games.

Likewise, in the casino, there may be several tables at your desired stakes. If yon’t like the first table, request a change.

In the casino you can leave whenever. It’s your decision. Want to take a break or go outside for some fresh air? Your option.

Getting tired? Quit and go home. In a home game, winning or losing, usually you are committed to play until the designated quitting time.

When I queried Jan Fisher, a member of the Women in Poker Hall of Fame with many accomplishments in our poker world, she suggested yet another option for players in casino games:

“You can reinvent yourself every time you play, whereas in a home game you pretty much can never do that,” Fisher said.

Interesting. So there are pros and cons for both: Home and casino games. It’s your choice.

(George “The Engineer” Epstein, a noted author and teacher at West Los Angeles College and the Claude Pepper Sr. Citizen Center, is a member of the Seniors Poker Hall of fame. You can e-mail him at [email protected])


About the Author

George Epstein

A retired engineer, George Epstein is the author of “The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners!” and “Hold’em or Fold’em? – An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision.” He teaches poker courses and conducts a unique Poker Lab at the Claude Pepper Senior Center under the auspices of the City of Los Angeles Dept. of Recreation and Parks and at West Los Angeles College.

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