Playing "hybrid" poker with friends?
June 1, 2022 8:57 AM   Subscribe

Hi! I've been in a monthly poker game (limit hold 'em) with a group of friends for 15 (!) years. The last 2 years we have been completely remote - using the Pocket Poker app for playing and zoom for socializing (and venmo for settling up at the end of the night). With everyone triple/quadruple vaxed and rates leveling off, we'd like to start playing in person again. However, there are several players who are not able to join us in person (including one who moved across the country!) that we would still like to include. Is there a manageable way to play live, in-person poker, while still allowing for several remote players to join in the game?
posted by ericbop to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (8 answers total)
This sounds potentially very complex, but an obvious solution would be to continue using the Pocket Poker app for the game, while using a mix of Zoom and in-person for socializing.

The problem then reduces to the more general problem of running a hybrid meeting. This is still a pretty annoying problem. If you have a big budget, you could try something like the Meeting Owl, which has 360-degree cameras and tracks who is speaking in the in-person portion of a hybrid event so that Zoom participants can follow more easily. Of course, you could also just position a webcam so it can see all the players. The most important feature is probably to have good microphone coverage for all in-person players. Maybe someone in your group is in a position to borrow a good hybrid meeting setup e.g. from work.
posted by grobstein at 9:09 AM on June 1, 2022 [1 favorite]

My regular game faced this same issue. We never "solved" it, but we decided to play every other game online. So say the 2nd week of the month in person and the fourth online. The online only guys had to accept it. It was too cumbersome for everyone to sit around with their phones in the same place. Guys would be walking around as if they were home. The two remotes never really were able to join in the conversation over Zoom. So, it became two games with 6 of the 8 overlapping.

It came down to there are consequences to moving across the country.

posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:54 AM on June 1, 2022 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Bleep, in the area I live in, rates have been falling steadily for two weeks, and are now the lowest they have been in a month. Kindly keep you unsolicited advice to yourself, thanks.
posted by ericbop at 10:10 AM on June 1, 2022 [2 favorites]

I concur that a hybrid approach will probably be the worst of both worlds at least in terms of the conversation aspect. I don't think there's any realistic consumer-level work around for the (Zoom) audio situation... the lag for virtual folks (but no lag for in person folks), and the fact that in person folks can interrupt other in person folks, but interrupting in other directions doesn't work. Moreover, these challenges may be stronger for any group members with hearing or auditory processing difficulties.

However, if the group is interested in trying the hybrid approach out, it might be worth testing to see if cellphone/ landline audio is better than Zoom's computer audio. (I can say that it was my experience in the spring of 2020, that the audio quality/ interruption issues were worse when I called the zoom phone number from my phone, and my friend used computer audio compared to the times when the two of us had had a "normal" 1 on 1 cell phone conversations outside of zoom.)

Alternatively, perhaps your group has an interest in meeting up in the virtual reality space.
posted by oceano at 10:55 AM on June 1, 2022 [1 favorite]

Is there someone willing to be a proxy for the remote players? They could sit at the table with a speakerphone call running (to get chat and bids from the live players) and receive private text messages back and forth with the table/hold cards and instructions to bet and play.
posted by JoeZydeco at 11:05 AM on June 1, 2022 [2 favorites]

I've also had the experience that muting zoom's audio and using a (voice over LTE) cell phone in speakerphone mode improves things a lot. Zoom seems to prioritize video and lets audio go to hell and that's the opposite of what I want.
posted by fritley at 11:13 AM on June 1, 2022 [3 favorites]

Do not mention "poker" in the Venmo transactions. I know someone who got a permanent Venmo ban for using his account to settle up the weekly small stakes poker game. He tried unsuccessfully to appeal.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 1:16 PM on June 1, 2022 [2 favorites]

This sounds potentially very complex, but an obvious solution would be to continue using the Pocket Poker app for the game, while using a mix of Zoom and in-person for socializing.

At the risk of explaining the obvious, a very useful adjunct of this strategy would be to put your remote players on a big screen e.g. TV everyone in the room can see.

We have run some pretty good hybrid workshops in my department, both at higher- and lower-budget levels. I can do some asking around about equipment if you're going that way.
posted by grobstein at 10:47 AM on June 2, 2022

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