We're excited to introduce TableTalk VoIP, a feature that enables players at a table to talk to each other live over the Internet. No special downloads or set up is required—all you need is a microphone! All platforms that support Adobe Flash (e.g. Windows, Mac, Linux) can use TableTalk.
For groups of friends who use Bluff Avneue to host their online home games, TableTalk adds a fun new dimension to the online game. No more typing into a cramped chat box or setting up complicated third party VoIP software.
What do I need?
If you can play games on Bluff Avenue (i.e. you have a Flash-enabled browser), all you need beyond what you already have is a microphone for talking to the other players, and headphones to hear what they say. We recommend headphones over speakers as echo can become a problem if the microphone is too sensitive or is set up too close to the speakers.
Streaming live audio from up to 8 other players at the table also requires a fair amount of bandwidth (for the technically inclined, it maxes out at about 100 kbps). We also recommend that anybody playing at a TableTalk-enhanced table have a broadband Internet connection (e.g. DSL, cable modem).
What could be a more quintessential feature of a home poker game than dealer's choice? In dealer's choice, the dealer gets the pick the game to play.
In keeping with our goal to bring the home poker game experience online, we've now added dealer's choice games to the mix! Simply pick Dealer's Choice as the format for your private game. When you start your game, a player will be asked to pick the game to play. You'll play one full orbit (i.e. round) of that game, then the next player gets to choose the game. It's a great way to add some variety to your online home poker games.
Bluff Avenue takes Texas Hold'em beyond the plain-vanilla game played at most online sites. Spice up your own Bluff Avenue games by choosing to use any of these optional rules:
Seven Deuce Game
You might have guessed that here at Bluff Avenue we have a special fondness for the starting hand 7-2. Why? We love to bluff, and there's no better hand to bluff with than what is known as the worst possible starting hand in Texas Hold'em.
If you've ever watched high stakes cash game TV shows like High Stakes Poker, you may have seen them play the Seven Deuce Game. When the Seven Deuce Game is on, any player that wins with a starting hand of 7-2 (suited or offsuit) gets paid a designated amount by every other player at the table. It doesn't matter how a player wins the hand, but naturally it's usually by bluffing. On Bluff Avenue, when a player wins the Seven Deuce Game, each player must pay the winner one big blind.
Why do they play this game? Well, for one thing, it's a heckuva lot of fun to bluff someone off pocket Kings with the worst possible hand. But the main reason is that it really loosens up a game. You raise preflop with pocket Tens, and Bob in the big blind reraises you. Now Bob's a very tight, straightforward player; he usually has pocket Queens or better when he reraises, and you'd have to fold in this spot...but he could have 72, and you'd sure hate to be bluffed off a nice hand like this by 72. So you call. And thus begins a big pot that might not have happened without the 72 game!
Straddles are similar to the Seven Deuce Game in that they're used to loosen up a game, or "juice the action," as it's known. A live straddle is basically a voluntary third blind placed by the player who is to the left of the big blind. You can think of it like a "bigger blind", as it's twice the size of the big blind.
The straddler places this bet before any cards are dealt to the players. Action then starts with the player to the left of the straddler. When it's the straddler's turn to act, if no player has raised, the straddler now has the option to check or raise, similar to how the big blind would have had the option had there been no straddle. In essence, a straddle has the effect of doubling the stakes of the game for that one hand.
Straddles are commonly allowed in casino cash games, but never to our knowledge in tournaments.
Showing a Card
Most poker sites let you show both of your hole cards at the end of a hand. You can do this to show you had the goods the whole time, or to show your bluff to a folded opponent.
But what about showing one of your cards while you're still in the hand? That's something you may have seen done a few times on televised poker shows such as High Stakes Poker (in case you haven't guessed, we love that show ;).
Why would someone want to do something silly like show a card to an opponent while still in the hand? As much as it is math-based, poker is a psychological game. There's three clubs on the board, and you've just raised John's river bet—with nothing but Ace-high! John's a tight player and he prides himself on being able to make big laydowns. Flip over that Ace of clubs (but ahem, let's keep that 8 of hearts face down, shall we?) and help John do what he does best—fold. Or fool a skeptic into calling your bet with the nuts with a little reverse psychology. Showing a hole card adds a whole new dimension to the game.
Exposing a hole card is usually allowed in casino cash games when there are only two players left in the hand. As with most of these rules, it's typically not allowed in tournaments (gosh those tournament directors are a bunch of fuddy duddies, aren't they?).
Checking in the Dark
Checking in the dark is a little maneuver that can be made by the first player to act in a betting round. Before the next community card is dealt, the first player to act declares that he's checking in the dark. The card(s) is then dealt, and action starts with the next player after the player who checked in the dark.
This can be a handy move in a situation where you plan to check regardless of the next community card that's dealt. By checking in the dark, you don't reveal any information to the players that act after you. Again, it's more of a psychological tool—use it when you've flopped a monster and want to lull your opponents into a false sense of security on the turn, or when you have a weakish hand that you want to see as cheap a showdown as possible with. It all depends how you think your opponents will interpret the action.
Checking in the dark is typically allowed in both casino cash games and tournaments.
Scorned by casinos and more "serious" players, rabbit hunting is a time honored tradition in home poker games. You've got a flush draw on the flop, but Tom makes a bet large enough that you can't justify calling. You fold, but ask the dealer to rabbit hunt. The dealer then deals the rest of the community cards. You see your flush wouldn't have gotten there, and you pat yourself on the back for making a good fold.
Casinos frown on rabbit hunting because it wastes time that could be used for playing poker and, of course, building up pots for them to rake. Hardcore players do too because they scoff at the notion that a decision can be any more or less correct based on cards that haven't been dealt yet. Technically, they're right, but who cares? All you want to know is if you would've made your straight on the river!
Calling the Clock
Most online poker sites have an automatic timer that goes into effect after a certain number of seconds. This keeps the action moving. But in live games, you usually have as long as you need to make a decision. To keep people from stalling an excessive amount, you can call the clock on the player whose turn it is to act. From the moment you called the clock, the player is on a timer and must make a decision before a period of time is up.
For your own games, Bluff Avenue lets you choose which of these approaches you want to use—an automatic timer for games where you want to keep things moving along; or for more friendly, casual games where there's a lot of chatting going on, you might just want to let players have as much time as they want. If someone is taking too much time, players may call the clock.