I am a softy at heart. At the same time I truly believe in the fact that in competition, I have no friends. I also believe that this rule is set in stone, or is it? This is a subject that is very interesting, and something not often spoken about or discussed, but I am sure it is thought about by many players at one time or another. This is the question that started this story.

I sometimes go to a $2-5 game with a friend. I have no interest in learning ways to cheat, but I would like to know if there are legit strategies to maximize our joint take on the game, i.e. if I have a hand with which I would call a raise, should I call a raise coming from a friend, re-raise or fold.

It didn’t take long for the bull to hit the fan. An immediate answer was “any type of betting that seeks to maximize the potential of someone else’s hand is collusion and is ILLEGAL. You could, and should be tossed out of the casino if you are caught doing this. Not to mention the possibility of getting shot in the parking lot. Wait, it gets better.

If you and your friend are the only ones left in the hand, you can do whatever you want. If there’s someone else in the pot, you should forget during this hand, that you do have a friend in the hand. If you and your friend do play abnormally when you’re alone in the pot, it might be polite to indicate this to the rest of the table. You will thereby allay suspicion that you are colluding against the other players.

I must admit that I myself have been guilty of what might be borderline or bending the rules of legitimate play. I usually play Hold’em with a bunch of regulars. It is one of those games that when I walk up to the table, I usually say in fun, “Gee, great to see so many new faces.” That usually means that out of ten players I know eight or nine of them. I will try my best to find another game with more strangers in it. I would rather do this than be forced to play against my pals. I know that when we are all in the game together, that I do not play my usual game.

I will on many cases raise and re-raise a hand if it is a friend and myself, along with a stranger in the  hand. I do this to get it head to head. The problem is that if the stranger drops, I just cannot bring myself to put in a check raise against my friend. So many times I might just bet once or check to the river and they will do the same. This is usually the case when we are head to head.

Of course this is not the case as I said, if there are more than two players in the hand. I will still be hesitant to check raise but will bet to try and fold someone. Playing this way is bad for the pocket book. What you usually end up doing is what I call “Playing musical chips.” No one makes a killing and the chips just seem to keep moving around the table. I have on occasion been in a hand with several players and one was a close very close friend. He bet and there were two callers, I raised, he re-raised. The other two players dropped out. I told him that I was going to have to call him to the river as I had a decent hand myself. As soon as I said that, he dropped his cards face up on the table as if it was an accident and I saw that he had four of a kind. We all laughed at him dropping his cards, but he and I know that he did it as a favor.

On the other hand there is a woman whom we play Hold’em with on a regular basis also. I know that she will show us no mercy when she is in a hand. She will bet with a vengeance when we are head to head. I know that if I am in a hand with her I better showdown the best hand or throw my cards away. The thing that really gets me is when I am in a hand against a buddy, and there are three or four strangers in the same hand and my buddy ends up winning it at the showdown, he then looks at me and says “Sorry, Arty.” I myself don’t have to wonder what it must seem like to a stranger in a game in which everyone acts like family. I am sure this has happened to all of us at one time or another. “Hey Joe, how’s the wife, she over the flu,” Etc.

In another case the dealer knows everyone at the table by their first name, but me. In this type of game I want to be darn sure that I am not the fish. I will play very cautiously until I get the lay of the land. Which brings to mind the old story of how do you know whom the fish in the game is? If you are having trouble figuring out who the fish is, excuse yourself and tell the table you have to go to the bathroom. When you get far enough from the table so no one can see you, peek around the corner and take a look back at the table. If the players and the dealer are reading the newspaper and playing solitaire, waiting for you to come back, look out.


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