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Deal Me In: Rule #1: Check your firearms at the door

29 January 2016

Dear Mark: What are your thoughts on having a “generalized” house rules list for home poker play? I play with a friendly group, but at times, it can get testy over rules everyone should already know in advance. For instance, a disagreement ensued once over how many raises are allowed per betting round. We have played for years, but surprisingly, that issue had never come up. My question is, should there be established rules posted in advance to avoid arguments in the future? David W.

Anyone who has ever managed in the casino industry welcomes rules. Without them, you’re begging for the inmates to run the asylum. Yes, I have crossed into the gray area on, for instance, allowing a deck change; but, a rule like “cards speak for themselves” should always be upheld. Even in home play, I am a real stickler for “no rabbit-hunting” (seeing what the next card(s) would have been). That’s just me, David, but possibly your group agrees to it.

I view the purpose of rules and upholding them, unquestionably to be for the betterment of the game. As a group, you first want to decide before play begins the stakes and the quitting time. As for the rubrics of the game, they should be printed and posted, especially in poker. Hey, we’re talking money being wagered here.

Furthermore, I would highly recommend having a printed copy of Robert’s Rules of Poker (authored by Robert Ciaffone) to supplement the printed copy of your house rules. As for your group altering Robert’s Rules by compiling a customized rule book with insertions of your deviation from that particular rule on page such-n-such, I recommend that you don’t do it that way.

Instead, use Robert’s Rules of Poker together with a separate printed summary of your individual house rules. This way, any new player unfamiliar with your rules can easily be advised that "We use Robert's Rules except for our specific house rules posted on the wall.”

Regarding the dispute that you referenced in your question, I would recommend a cap of three raises per betting round, but will also note here that some poker rooms allow four raises instead of three. Also, when there are only two remaining players, playing heads-up, raises are unlimited.

Thus, David, let’s get the above rule in print. And you might want to include one of my favorites on your house rules list: “No fights are allowed inside the house. Fighting outdoors is allowed but only after all side-bets are made.”

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “It's hard work. Gambling. Playing poker. Don't let anyone tell you different. Think about what it's like sitting at a poker table with people whose only goal is to cut your throat, take your money and leave you out back talking to yourself about what went wrong inside.” – Stu Unger
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Best of Mark Pilarski
Mark Pilarski

As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.
Mark Pilarski
As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.