When I think back to those days of battling for play chips, a couple of things spring to mind. One is how useful it was to practice that way. Even though the play was at times crazily erratic, with the absence of real money encouraging a lot of loose, undisciplined play, I know I learned a lot both in the ring games and tournaments that proved helpful for me over on the cash side.
There was one other aspect of the play money games I remember -- a lot of socializing in the chat box. In fact, I recall getting to know quite a number of folks, players whom I eventually found myself searching for whenever I signed on. If they happened to be online too, I would usually join their tables and engage in what was often a lot of fun, entertaining banter while playing.
Whereas I took a lot of the strategy I’d learned over to the cash games once I made that move, the socializing/chatting I quickly left behind. I encountered a few players here and there who would try to open up genuinely friendly conversations -- that is, players who wanted to talk about something other than an opponent’s resemblance to barnyard animals or invite others to have relations with themselves -- but for the most part it was all business, even when playing for pennies.
It’s pretty much been that way ever since for me online. I’ll occasionally find myself in special tournaments or situations where I’m playing against friends (or friendly types) and some socializing will happen, but for the most part I’m completely on my own, each session another silent, solo flight.
For a couple of reasons, then, the announcement this week of these new PokerStars Home Games made me think again about those early play money days. One was the fact that the Home Games are being rolled out initially on the dot-net (i.e., play money) side only, although word is they’ll become available on the cash side in the very near future. The other reason, though, was how the idea of setting up these private “clubs” reminded me of those early chat-filled games.
I’ve been reading around about the new Home Games, exploring the FAQs to find out more about how they’ll work. It looks like each player is only allowed to set up a single “club” (for which he or she will act as “Club Manager”), but everyone is able to participate in as many as three different clubs. Also, each club is limited to 50 participants.
When setting up a club, the Club Manager chooses a name and also creates a special invitation code that he or she then gives to invited players. From what I can tell, there isn’t a way to send that invite/code through the PokerStars client, but it has to be done separately (e.g., via email). Once a player gets an invite, he or she will click on a “Join a Poker Club” button and enter the code. Sounds a little like those ESPN “clubs” for fantasy leagues or pick’em pools, actually.
The Club Manager also acts as a Club Administrator, and can additionally grant administrative privileges to other invited players, including scheduling tournaments and setting up customized ring games. Most of the games are available (hold’em, Omaha, stud, H.O.R.S.E.), and via the game management tools one can customize a number of details like the way the club lobby looks and so on. Sounds like there are ways to set up leaderboards, player stats, and other fun stuff, too.
Interestingly, the Chat Moderators who are available to arbitrate all of the other cash games and poker tournaments on the site will not be around to help out for the Home Games, the idea being you’re playing with people you know (and trust) and thus there won’t be a need for the Mods to come settle disputes. Could end up creating some issues, I suppose, including problems with collusion (Home Games players are able to play from the same IP address, says the FAQ), but this kind of makes sense.
Once this opens up on the dot-com side, I’m thinking it might be cool to set up a “Hard-Boiled Poker Club,” although I kind of wish I could invite more than 50 friends to play. I imagine PokerStars will probably keep tweaking things and perhaps will lift that restriction down the road if some ask them to do so.
Could be strange, actually, to “host” games like this online. Probably would feel some responsibility to ensure all were enjoying themselves whenever they came to my little “club” to play. In any event, I think for those who do end up taking part in this Home Games idea, the main purpose for participating would have to be to increase one’s enjoyment of the game -- to socialize and have fun -- and not (necessarily) to profit.
I know that’s an idea that is foreign to some poker players, namely, that one can play poker for reasons other than to make money. But for a lot of us “recreational” players (as I’ve here confessed myself to be), there really are other reasons why we like to play.
Something I learned -- along with basic strategy, hand rankings, and the like -- way back during those days of playing for play chips.