While I doubt it will be the instantaneous success of Rush Poker or Double or Nothings, I believe the new Pokerstars Home Games functionality represent a big breakthrough for online poker and can become a real USP. If Pokerstars realise why it is so potentially valuable.

One thing can be said about the market share war between Full Tilt and Pokerstars. They sure stick to their respective guns. With the launch of multi-entry tournaments, Full Tilt has taken one of the more far out ideas that have existed for a couple of years and dared to execute it. And have executed it beautifully. True game innovation that warms my heart and makes my poker nerve itch. Imagine sucking four times simultaneously instead of one!!
Pokerstars on the other hand, takes an age-old idea that nobody has developed beyond the early attempts at Private tournaments and evolves it along the most logical route. Properly. A word that defines Pokerstars to me. Their stuff is rarely mind-blowing, extravagant or particularly innovative. But it is always properly done.

I advise that anyone reading this piece on Home Games who have not yet read the excellent piece on the same topic written by Bill Rini do so. Now (well after you read mine obv). As usual, I and Bill don’t agree on everything but I sure respect his opinion and will refer to it.

One thing I agree with Bill is that “Home Games” is an unfortunate choice of name. It is confusing. And it might also indicate a bit of confusion in the mind of the people behind it. Because who are the target of this new thing? This to me is the key question. If the intent is to attempt to lure people who arrange social games in their basements, in their apartments and at their local pub to move those games online, I see limited potential and limited chance of success.

Bill writes “a home game is a home game. It’s greasy pizza, cold beer, a rickety old table, cheap chips, cigars, and a lot of trash talking.”

– Hey Stars, leave those offline games alone! (Music reference, first and last ever).

The target audience ought to be the obvious crowd of people who want to play in such a Home Game with friends and family but who can’t due to being separated or not having the time to meet up IRL. But it also ought to be a much bigger crowd than that once those games are real money games.
Namely every single player who already plays on Stars.

Here’s my grand statement:

Every dollar raked in a Home Game is a much better dollar than any comparative dollar raked in any other type of game.

This raked dollar is not so closely tied to the win/loss dilemma of the industry. This dollar comes from a player less disappointed if he ends up losing. This dollar comes from a player whose definition of whether he had fun playing or not is most likely not tied simply to ROI or win rate.
This raked dollar has a better chance of being followed up by another raked dollar.

Ideally, Pokerstars should try to shift as much comparable traffic as possible into this format where social interaction by default takes place somewhere, somehow. Where the reward of playing goes beyond winning someone’s money.

When online poker games become truly social, like we experienced at PokerRoom.com when we prototyped a Team Game format back in 2006, magic happens. Real staying power magic.

The problem Pokerstars ought to face with reaching this goal is that they have no community tradition. Sheer mass makes that difficult to start with and I’d guess very few players play at Pokerstars because it enables them to play in that regular game they like with all the other people they recognize.

It will be interesting to follow and I will definitely be looking to join clubs once I’ve busted my seventeen dudes out of that 19 player multi-entry tournament on Full Tilt and the Home Game format is real moneyalized.

Since one can only be a member of three clubs simultaneously, I will be taking offers. Currently the highest bid from someone to have me in their club is minus nineteen dollars. Surely I shouldn’t ever have to pay more than a tenner to join.