Hosting a Home Poker Game

So you’ve stayed up late watching World Series of Poker repeats over and over again. You overpaid for a poker set with the professional-weighted chips. And you’ve convinced your significant other that hosting a game won’t turn into a scene from Animal House.

pokerchipsNow, you’re ready to set up a home game. But first, there’s much more to do than getting the wrinkles out of the felt table and filling the refrigerator with beer.

There’s nothing better than enjoying a game of poker among friends, but it’s important to remember there are nuances about the home game that are very different from a casino game. The home game is about socializing and having fun. Winning money is secondary. But without casino personal to handle any disputes, it’s necessary to establish rules and proper etiquette to have a successful home game.

Rules of the House: People you trust are the biggest issue when it comes to establishing your game. Since the game is based on the honor system, you want players you feel comfortable with, not ones sporting bad attitudes and looking for angles. Quality players are fine in a game, but not at the expense of starting trouble or breaking up friendships.

First decision: There are two choices when deciding on what type of game you want to establish: ring or tournament. A ring game has a standard betting structure and can include dealer’s choice. However, the choices should be limited to a list of five or so games, guarding against crazy draw games filled with wild cards.

As poker’s popularity has reached stratospheric heights over the past few years, the tournament game has become more popular. With a set buy-in, players are not allowed to reach into their pockets for more money when they go broke. Being able to call the “all-in” adds a touch of flair and glamour to the home tournament game as well.

Banker’s Hours: Pick one person to handle the money and chips. In a ring game this person must be able to handle the responsibility of paying off all chips when the game is over. And when exactly the game is over is another issue. Set a time before the game starts and stick to it. In the casino or online, you can quit at anytime. In a home game, it’s unacceptable for a player who is winning to walk early. Someone who wants to quit early should announce their intentions before the game begins.

poker gameWhat’s at Stake? You have to be a good financial planner and know the risk tolerance of your players. Make the stakes high enough to make the game interesting, but not so high that someone will stress out over their losses. Make sure the buy-in, betting limits and amount of raises are clear with every player. In some games, check-raising isn’t allowed because it can create bad blood. Make sure the table agrees on check-raising. While it’s common poker strategy to fake a weak hand, some players see check-raising as a deceptive tactic.

Misdeals and Mistakes: You’re not dealing with Vegas’ top professional dealers, so determine how you’re going to handle misdeals. Casino rules dictate that a player who receives too many or too few cards has to throw the hand away. Whatever the house rules on misdeals, make sure everyone agrees so you can keep the peace.

And not keeping the peace is mistake No. 1. This isn’t the World Series of Poker. No poor sports and no sore losers allowed. Other miscues to avoid: watch out for a ringer in your home game; play smart and don’t be afraid to fold when you don’t have the cards or afraid to raise when you do have the hot hand. And above all else, keep the atmosphere light and the game fun.


The following are items you need to make your home poker game a success.

Poker Chips – Since poker’s popularity shot up like a rocket in the past few years, there’s no shortage of retailers, off and on-line, that are stocking their shelves with poker chips and kits.

When it’s your time to buy, you will need about 500 chips to host a 10-player poker tournament. This ensures that each player will have enough chips so that you’re not always making change from the bank.

Poker chips come in what seems like an infinite number of weights, sizes, styles and colors. There are made of clay, ceramic, plastic and some even have metallic insert chips. What’s right for you depends on your style and bank account.

playing_cards_smallPlaying Cards – Bicycle and Bee are probably the two brands of playing cards you’re most familiar with. They’ve been around seemingly forever. However, these coated paper cards will begin to stick, rip and tear after several games, so make sure you have more than deck.

Plastic playing cards are more durable and can be washed to withstand the rigors of tournament poker games and spilled beer. You want cards that won’t rip, crease or tear and at $4-$8 per deck, these won’t. Some popular brands include KEM Cards, Gemaco and COPAG.

Poker Table – A genuine casino poker table is for the host who’s really serious about this game. However, it’s easy to turn your dining room into a card room buy purchasing table padding at the local department store. With the plastic side up, tape it down underneath the table, leaving no wrinkles. Then top it off with billiard or poker cloth. It will look just like you sat down in a casino card room. Or at least close enough.

Dealer_Button_SmallDealer Button – If you don’t buy a set that includes a dealer button, you can purchase one separately for extremely cheap. The buttons, which designate the dealer in Hold’em, look like a hockey puck with the word “dealer” stamped on it and are usually made of plastic. If you don’t want to purchase one, a large coin, bar coaster, or just about anything other than a poker chip will do the trick.