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Playing like a nit is generally frowned upon in live poker. Sure, the occasional nit happens to make a solid score, but they normally don’t win big on a consistent basis.

The majority of recreational players will never be able to afford the buy-in for a “pro” caliber event and home game poker is the highest level they’ll ever achieve. When playing home games, much of what is considered standard poker theory can be taken with a grain of salt.

One such theory is that playing poker like a nit is a bad thing. In home game, playing like a nit isn’t the most exciting way to play, but it often is a profitable style. Here’s five reasons why it is OK to play like a nit in a home game.

Remember – This Isn’t The World Series of Poker

Think about your average home game. Often these games will be filled with players that are relatively new to the game or play the game recreationally at best. In many cases, the only time they play is in a random home game.

Home game players tend to overthink many situations and give their opponents much more credit than they need to. While you might have the random “good player,” most are barely playing above the ABC level.

Your Swings Will Be Less Severe

I remember one player that I will call “Billy” that frequented one of my favorite home games. He was the type of player that he either “won big” or he donated heavily to the game. His style was something akin to “any two cards” and if he got drunk, he would sometimes play every single hand.

The downside to playing a nitty style is that you often aren’t going to go on that “monster run” that some players enjoy. At the same time, you’re seldom if ever going to be “that guy” that regularly donates to the game.

Your “Style” Will Allow You to Experiment

Once a player is pegged as a nit, the reputation sticks with them and that is a good thing at the home game level. When you’re in a hand, players are going to give you credit for a hand often because that’s simply how you roll.

By using your image, this will allow you to make a few moves in spots to pick up pots. One of my favorite spots in a home game is a queen or nine-high flop. It was commonly known that I loved to play Q-9, especially Q-9 suited. I called it my favorite hand.

I can’t tell you how many times I bet into a queen or nine-high flop and my opponent would eyeball me thinking I was playing my “favorite hand.” They’d fold and make a comment about Q-9 and I would smile.

Of course, I would actually play Q-9 to show down every so often just to keep them honest. You gotta keep up that image.

You’ll Be Surprised at the Action You’re Not Supposed to Get

What is the #1 reason why you aren’t supposed to play like a nit? It is supposed to “telegraph your play” and players won’t give you action. At least that is the theory.

There’s one problem with that theory. It doesn’t take into account player ego. Some poker players have a need to try to bust the nits and will go out of their way to do so.

I remember this one 20-something kid that played for about a month in a certain home game and after about an hour he started yapping about how I played too tight and he was going to try and bust me.

Every time I was in a hand, he called along with the hopes of catching lucky. He seldom got lucky enough to do any serious damage but I do remember a couple of times where he shipped me his stack by overplaying his hand.

Once after a small pre-flop raise, he insta-shoved with pocket queens. As soon as I called, he started cussing a blue streak. I flipped over kings and he had to re-buy.
There are players out there that are going to give you action just for the possible thrill of busting you. Sometimes they will catch lucky. That’s just the game. Often they will just grow your stack.

You’ll Always Have a Seat

When I frequented local home games, I never lacked an invite to decent games. The reasons varied from host to host. Some viewed me as a solid poker player and thought I brought a lot to the game. Then there were those that simply thought that they would be the one to “teach me how to play poker.”

Unless you’re the type of person that’s going to whine when they lose, playing a nitty style is going to be neutral ground in terms of your average home game. Your play isn’t going to be controversial in any way and the fact that you’ll always have a buy-in will almost always guarantee an invite.

While playing like a nit is frowned upon in casino poker, there’s nothing wrong with playing like a nit at a home game. After all, the game is supposed to be more about the social interaction over winning money. The fact that you’ll walk away ahead more often than not is also a nice bonus.

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James Guill

James Guill began his poker career in 2006, spending two years traveling the US tournament circuit. Since 2008, he has covered the game extensively for some of the biggest names in the industry. When not writing about the latest poker news, he can be found hunting for antique treasures in Central Virginia.