Sunday, June 20, 2010

Poker Leagues

Poker is a game of risk and reward. Using this definition I could argue that free poker isn't really poker at all. In fact, I do argue "play money" internet poker isn't. Freerolls are a step away in that they offer some small monetary reward and you risk wasting your time completely rather than slightly. Playing in a "poker league" hosted by your local bar is yet closer to real gambling in that you now risk your time, gas for travel, and some sliver of dignity.

Locally, I have a few options for poker leagues: Full House Poker, Any Two Cards, the Georgia Poker Club, and the Atlanta Poker Club. If you would like a formal review post of each, let me know. As I am unsure of the international popularity of these leagues, I am holding off.

Leagues are usually well organized and have a weekly following of regulars. They are free to play and charge the venue for bringing in customers. My issue with using leagues as an avenue to improve your game comes from their alternate revenue streams.

  • Players can buy more chips by purchasing food or drink from the bar. For example, a league may offer an additional 500 chip for every $10 spent.

  • Players may have the option of buying premium league memberships for $100 or $200 for the year which ensures a certain chip up nightly.

  • Players who volunteer to deal the table can receive a chip payment.

  • Players who refer newcomers to the game can be rewarded with a chip up.

In short, if you show up to play in one of these leagues and don't expect to spend anything, expect to be at a major chip disadvantage.

At first this bothered my sense of fair play, but it only brings the game closer to real poker. More at risk and, assuming the league uses some money to offer better prizes, more reward. I don't blame anyone for a fair business model. However, it is important to know what you are getting into. Once you start playing "free" poker every night you may find yourself out of a lot of money. That is money you could have used playing real poker, and even if you lose, it is a better gauge of your skill level. Have fun at the bars, but when you start to get serious about your game, risk for the real rewards.


  1. I am so glad I read this post a few weeks back. I've only been playing poker since late November, and my game has improved greatly during that span. You and I live fairly close to each other, so the leagues you mention are the only ones I know about.

    Tonight I won the Any Two Cards tourney at Montana's in Alpharetta (word to the wise, they let players smoke "near" the tables after 10PM). I had already eaten dinner before going, so the only "bonus" chips I received were for being a first time player.

    I started at a $3k chip disadvantage to some of the players. My strategy was to bet big at the large stack players when I had position on them and a good hand to boot. I found that they would call just about any bet down to the river. I didn't bluff the big stacks, and once I had amassed a very health stack, I abused the short stackers.

    It was a good time playing some "live" poker as it was only my 2nd time ever. I was pissing myself off by catching my own tells, but that's how you improve your live game I guess. On the button with three limpers ahead of me with blinds at $500/$1k, I sighed and raised to $10k with AA. I wonder why nobody called my raise. Who the hell sighs with AA on the button?

  2. the way Australians enjoy their legal and licensed poker games.