February 13, 2022
With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, you’re in a good spot if you’ve got a partner who shares your love of cards. We know there are plenty of fun things you can do together, but why not embrace your mutual passion and play poker this Valentine’s Day?
There are card-playing couples aplenty in poker. Kristen Bicknell and Alex Foxen, Liv Boeree and Igor Kurganov, Ashley Sleeth and Jesse Sylvia, just to name a few. With more women learning how to play, it’s inevitable that poker partnerships will become more and more common. Heck, I even met my husband at a poker table!
With that being the case, Valentine’s Day is a chance to do something other than gaze longingly at your loved one over a candlelit dinner. Indeed, why stare them down with nothing on the line when you could be playing poker? If that’s sounds like the ideal date, here are some things to think about if you play poker with your significant other on Valentine’s Day.
1. Drop down in stakes
If you and your partner (or potential partner?) are planning date night at the casino, consider playing for the smallest stakes possible. Remember that profit is not the priority. You are looking to have fun, and big financial swings will add undue stress to what’s supposed to be an enjoyable eventing. Low stakes tables are usually a lot more relaxed as well, so go for friendly games rather than a nosebleed showdown.
2. Let people know you’re a couple
Tell people that you’re a couple if you sit at the same table. It’s Valentine’s Day, but you don’t want people to feel like you’ve deceived them because, at worst, you might get accused of collusion.
3. Want to be ruthless? Try tournaments
Just as it can be hard to not soft-play a friend or family member, complications can arise when you sit at the same table as your partner. A great way not to feel guilty for defending your big blind with a wide range is to play tournaments. There is an explicit understanding in tournaments that everyone is playing to win. Therefore, if you bust your partner with a junk hand, it probably won’t ruin the night.
4. Side bets are fun
Loosen-up with some side action (no, not that kind of side action). Last longer bets are a great idea because, even if neither of you profit, one is sure to be a winner. Plus, it gets a little friendly competition going!
5. Watching is more fun than you think
Sitting behind your partner and observing their hands is usually something the clueless girls do. However, you’d be surprised how engaging it actually is. In fact, you might enjoy sitting behind your date sweating their hands.
Sounds too lame? Maybe you can gamble for control! Play a quick heads-up tourney (there are plenty of apps that let you do this on your phone) or run a PLO flip and the loser has to sit at the back and watch.
Don’t let Valentine’s Day poker break your heart
Couples can sometimes get a bad rap for soft-playing, so bear that in mind if you’re going to grind on Valentine’s Day. The truth, however, is that collusion isn’t uncommon in poker, especially at the higher stakes. When Kristen Bicknell and Alex Foxen both final-tabled an event in 2018, Doug Polk made a video saying that such scenarios can cause problems.
His point wasn’t that couples who openly announce their relationship and chop the prizepool are causing a problem. What he did say, however, was that couples who sell or swap action without telling anyone can upset the dynamics of a game. The game goes for couples who don’t disclose financial ties with regards to backers.
The point here is that you shouldn’t assume that a poker-playing couple is working in unison because other people could just as easily have a stake in someone else at the table. In other words, before you roll your eyes at the husband and wife playing poker, don’t assume they’re cheating because two pros at the table may have a mutual backer and, therefore, a reason to collude.
Of course, if you want to completely avoid the politics of live poker (and, uhm, the cheesy card room ambience), you can play at home. That’s a much more relaxed environment. Just make sure you raise the stakes and play for something worth winning!
Mid-stakes grinder, author of “A Girl’s Guide to Poker” (D&B Publishing, 2020), and instructor at Poker Power.
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