A Look at House Rules: Poker Room Game Management
If you are new to the game of poker, you might find some of the game management in your favorite poker room to be a bit confusing. Hell, if you’re a seasoned pro you might find the game management confusing. As always, stick with our escape clause of “the house rules apply” and we’ll share here a few thoughts on the “hows” and “whys” of management’s decisions to start or end a game. Once you receive a little background information about poker room game management, it might make more sense.
Keep in mind that all of our “A Look at House Rules” articles have been geared to the good of the game and protecting a game in progress — one in particular, “A Look at House Rules: Must Move Games.” Management obviously has the right to start or stop any game in progress, or even ask players to rack up their chips and move to another table.
Closing one game to start another
You may have been playing in a low-limit game at some point in your poker career and every time a seat opened, the dealer simply put a “reserved button” in the empty seat and no one was brought to fill the seat even if there were names on the list. In that event, management is going to freeze out your table to put a high-limit game where your little berry patch of fun was in progress.
Before the giant alligator tears start running down your face, just remember that such is the nature of the card rooms that offer high-limit action. Read “A Look at House Rules: High-Limit vs. Low-Limit” and you’ll discover there is more than one difference between how high-limit and low-limit games are managed. But if your game is going to be frozen out, you’ll also be on the list for the next game of your chosen limit — and you’ll have preference over new players coming in.
Interest lists and game lists
If you check with the list person for a particular game — say, a $20/$40 mixed game — and there isn’t one, you can always request to start an interest list. You can even discreetly move around other games in progress and tell the players who you know would be interested that an interest list has been started.
The advice to do this discreetly was given for a reason. If management feels you are trying to break one game to start another, it may not be looked upon favorably. Management’s position is to keep players happy and games running. If starting a $20/$40 mixed game meant pulling six players from two active $10/$20 fixed-limit hold’em games, the norm would be never even to attempt to start the mixed game unless there is a long list of players waiting for the hold’em game — and those players are in the room waiting to play.
Breaking two good games to start a new one simply isn’t going to happen. And since the majority of poker players are not interested in mixed games, the chances of that game filling up and having a strong backup list is very unlikely.
Players must be in the room to put their names on the list
Most poker rooms will not allow a “phone-in” to put your name on the list. You must be in the room to add your name to any list, including an interest list. Some rooms will allow phone-ins and also allow one player signing up for a list to put another player on the list at the same time. But when it comes to head counts to start a game, the players must be in the room.
If you’re on a list, be sure to let management know if you have to leave for a moment, otherwise if you miss being called for your seat, you’re going to the bottom of the list. In “A Look at House Rules: Lockups,” we discussed how you can leave a cash lockup with the brush person to keep from being passed up on the list. If you’re leaving the room for a few minutes, be sure to leave a lock up.
Rolled on a list
If you’re playing in a game and have your name on other lists for a table transfer or different game formats and limits, when your name is called, you may decide that you’d like to continue in the game you’re in with the option of staying on those lists. The terminology used here is to say “roll me over” — that simply means you’re passing the option to take an open seat but you want to stay on the list. In that situation your name would go to the bottom of the list.
If there is no list after your name is called and there are seats open, you cannot be “rolled” and your name is removed.
Balancing established games
You may have your name on a transfer list (the same game format and limit) and not be allowed to move even if a seat opens in the one of your choice. If that happens, take a look at your table and you probably will have seats open (unless management is freezing your game out as stated above). Until there are players to fill the seat you are leaving to keep the games balanced, you won’t be allowed to move.
Home game management
Home games may or may not ever run into any of the issues involving balancing games, starting games, and lists. If your favorite home game has more than one table at each gathering, the host has probably already designed a system to handle any issues that might arise.
In all of our entries in the “A Look at House Rules” series, you’ll see when we discuss home games that they are always referred to as operating in a relaxed format. Most home games are usually played with friends and relatives and your host knows who is coming and when they will arrive. Plans for the good of the game are made accordingly because everyone just wants to play poker and have fun. If you can’t have fun at your local home game, start your own and make these the rules of the house:
Rule #1: Fun is mandatory.
Rule #2: See Rule #1.
Game management online
Much of what happens in your favorite poker room simply can’t happen online. There you can leave any game at any time, and take a seat in the same game format and limit without any penalty or time delay except in situations where you may have to wait before returning to the same game you just left as discussed in “A Look at House Rules: Ratholing (Chips and Cash in Play).”
One of the best parts of playing online poker is that many online poker sites will give you a bonus (usually VIP player points) if you help start a new table, and the poker sites offer the option of empty tables where you simply “take a seat” to get the game started.
Note: One of the key ingredients in your adventure into poker — whether it is in a casino poker room, a home game, an online poker game, or all three — is fun. Open the door and enjoy the game, learn all you can, play it, and, most importantly, have fun.