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Your mom is a game of skill

21 Jan 2011

By Aaron Todd
Earlier this week, the regulars in my home poker game had planned on getting together to play some cards. We get together two or three times a month to play a couple hours of dealer call games, followed by a $20 sit-and-go.

Unfortunately, this week Mother Nature intervened. About six inches of snow hit the Boston area the day we had planned on playing, and as the day turned to night, freezing rain was expected.

We love our home game, but we're also not stupid. Several of the players in the game face a 30-minute drive both ways when there are no weather problems, so it hardly seemed worth the risk to have so many people take to the streets for a poker game.

But the weather didn't change our desire to play. So instead of everyone getting together under one roof, we decided to take our game online with the new Home Game feature on PokerStars. We set up a group and a table, and we all sat down together to play some pot-limit Hold'em and pot-limit Omaha.

I love our home game because while the players generally take poker pretty seriously, they don't take themselves too seriously. We always give each other a hard time while we play, and we didn't want to miss out on that part of the game, even though we weren't all going to be in the same place. So those of us who had web cams also got together in a group video chat at, which allowed us to talk smack.

There were some noticeable differences between how the game went online, versus how it normally plays out live. Not surprisingly, we played more hands than we normally do. Over the course of two hours of ring-game play, we played 86 hands, most of them nine-handed. We probably average about half as many hands over the same period of time in our usual home game.

Interestingly, I think that some people's style of play also varied a bit playing online. Some players tightened up a bit, while others seemed a little more likely to mix it up than they normally do when we play in my basement.

But one thing that didn't seem to change – and in fact, may have been improved – was the banter at the table. We were provided some new ammunition, as we all saw each other's PokerStars screen names for the first time. Casino City Managing Editor Vin Narayanan, known as "vinism" on PokerStars, was one target.

"Vin, are you your own religion?" asked Shobu. He later accused Vin of being distracted because he had money on a WNBA game. When Vin pointed out that it isn't even WNBA season, Shobu said he was betting on the reruns.

Nick, who joined the game late, was immediately lampooned, once again by Shobu, when his "Laser117" moniker appeared.

"I think Nick's been watching too many American Gladiator reruns," said Shobu. "How's your buddy Turbo? Was Nitro able to make it to your wedding?"

And the banter wasn't limited to just the video chat. When Jas, who needs a gentle reminder that it's his turn at least a dozen times a night, was told by the PokerStars software that he had 15 seconds to act, it didn't take long for someone to jump at the opportunity to get in a shot.

"Even PokerStars has to tell Jas when it's his turn!" wrote Todd in the chat box.

But my favorite line of the night came when a couple players got in a debate about whether playing our game online is even legal in the U.S. (In case you're wondering, according to every lawyer I've talked to about it, the answer is yes, so long as we're not in the state of Washington.)

"We're not gambling," wrote Glyn. "We're playing a game of skill."

Todd was once again quick to reply: "Your mom is a game of skill."

I'm not even sure I know what that means, but it made me laugh out loud. In fact, I laughed out loud a lot over the course of the night.

The only glitch we faced occurred when we switched to a tournament. We picked pot-limit Omaha hi-low as our tournament of choice, as all nine of us would start at the same table. But the tournament accepted late registrations (there is no way to change the setting), so we were split into two tables for the first level of play so there would be a seat available in case someone else wanted to play. We did our best to circumvent that by asking everyone to sit out for the first 10 minutes until the late registration period was over, but the message got out a little too late (no one was really expecting a nine-handed tournament with nine players to be split into two tables) and some players ended up with a small chip advantage when we finally started single-table play.

The PokerStars Home Game isn't likely to replace our regular gatherings, but I can say I had a lot more fun playing against my friends online than I had expected, and am sure that at some point we'll do it again.
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