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Top-10 ways to add variety to your Hold'em home game

12 August 2013

If you've read any of my previous home game columns, you know that I believe variety is the key to a good home poker game. It can be difficult, however, to get an established home game to make changes to a no-limit Hold'em game, whether you play tournaments or cash games. Many poker players are most comfortable playing Hold'em, and if you start changing the game on them, you risk losing players.

But there are tweaks you can make to your game to make it more interesting while still keeping the framework of Hold'em alive. Here are 10 great ways to add some variety to your Hold'em home game.

10. Add an ante
Most no-limit Hold'em home games, whether they’re cash games or tournaments, only utilize blinds to generate pre-flop action. Adding an ante gives players an added incentive to get involved in hands, because there's quite a bit more to play for. You may want to lower your stakes a bit if you have an ante; if you normally play $1/$2 blinds, play $.50/$1 with a $.25 ante. If you generally play $.25/$.50, play $.25/$.25 with a $.05 ante. However you structure the game, you'll find that pots will get bigger faster and you'll likely have more people seeing flops, and that's good for the game.

9. Play limit Hold'em
If no-limit Hold'em is the Cadillac of poker, I think limit Hold'em is the Chevy Volt. On the surface, it appears to be the same game, but it requires a much more scientific approach. A Cadillac and a Chevy Volt both appear to do the same thing, but they do it in vastly different ways. And while neither limit Hold'em nor a Chevy Volt is all that sexy, they do provide a nice diversion from the typical way you play (or drive).

8. Add a bad beat jackpot
Many brick-and-mortar card rooms run bad beat jackpots, and there's no reason you can't do the same in your home game. While casino bad beats tend to climb into six-figure territory with ridiculous qualifiers like quad eights or better triggering the jackpot, you can choose how to run your own any way you want. Take $.25 or $1 from every pot that reaches a certain threshold and award the jackpot to the best hand that loses that night. Or have the jackpot roll over from game to game with a qualifier like queens full or better to win. If you choose to roll it over, you might find that you don't have a problem getting people to come when the jackpot rises a bit higher than normal.

7. High hand jackpot
Another great way to add intrigue to your game is to collect for a high hand jackpot and give it to the player who makes the best hand that night. This one is a bit simpler than the bad beat jackpot but still offers your players the chance to take home a nice score just for playing (and hitting a nice hand).

6. Play a bounty tournament
If you generally play tournaments, try adding a bounty. The bounty amount should be 20-25 percent of the buy-in, and as players are eliminated, they must fork over a bounty chip to the player who knocks them out. This adds some interesting dynamics to tournament play. Instead of checking it down when two or more opponents are trying to knock out an all-in player, players with chips behind may play more aggressively in an attempt to get other players out so they can collect the bounty. It's even possible (depending on the size of your tournament) to finish with a profit thanks to the bounties a player can collect without even making it past the money bubble.

5. Play "Make it, Take it" with the button
Typically, the button travels around the table clockwise, moving one spot after each hand so the players pay blinds equally. But one variety of Hold'em that I've heard of, but never played, hands the button to the winner of the previous pot. The result is that you really don't want the two players to your right winning lots of pots, or else you'll end up paying lots of blinds. Winning a hand carries a lot more weight when your position in the following hand is also on the line.

4. Add a mandatory straddle
If you want increased action in your game, add a mandatory straddle. You don't even need to up the stakes in order to do this; you can simply have two small blinds and one big blind/straddle. If you typically play $1/$2, play $1/$1/$2 instead. Having one more person invested in the pot before the cards are even dealt will definitely increase the action. Give it a try, and encourage people to double, triple and even quadruple straddle, if they're willing.

3. Add a 7-2 rule
The 7-2 rule gives a player who wins a pot holding 7-2 in the hole an additional amount from every player at the table, typically one or two big blinds. It creates some great action and it makes you wonder if your opponents are just trying to win the 7-2 money or if they have a real hand every time you're in a pot.

Without the 7-2 rule, we'd never have had hands like this on High Stakes Poker. Give it a try in your home game.



2. Play ante only
Instead of having blinds, play your game as an ante-only game. It's a great variation for cash games, and it can also be a very successful tournament, as the World Series of Poker has shown the last two years. The game plays very differently pre-flop, and getting out of your comfort zone and trying something new is always good for your game.

1. Play pot-limit preflop, and no-limit after
One of the best things to come out of the PokerStars Big Game was the concept of playing poker pot-limit pre-flop and no-limit after the flop. By not allowing players to just jam all their chips in before the flop, players had to give pre-flop decisions much more consideration.

For instance, if the "Loose Cannon" was able, he surely would have just jammed all his chips in on this hand. But because he could only raise the pot in this hand, his decision to fold aces pre-flop (he was up about $140,000 and could keep all of his profit after being given a $100,000 buy-in) made a lot of sense.



Post-flop play is interesting and rewards good players. If you think you're a good player, or if you just want to get more practice in your post-flop game, give this variation on Hold'em a try.
Top-10 ways to add variety to your Hold'em home game is republished from Online.CasinoCity.com.
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Best of Aaron Todd
Aaron Todd

Home-game hotshot Aaron Todd was an editor/writer at Casino City for nearly eight years, and is currently the Assistant Director of Athletics for Communications and Marketing at St. Lawrence University, his alma mater. While he is happy to play Texas Hold'em, he'd rather mix it up and play Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, and Badugi.

Aaron Todd

Home-game hotshot Aaron Todd was an editor/writer at Casino City for nearly eight years, and is currently the Assistant Director of Athletics for Communications and Marketing at St. Lawrence University, his alma mater. While he is happy to play Texas Hold'em, he'd rather mix it up and play Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, and Badugi.