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Lockdown is lifting and we can finally invite people over. What better time to try something new and host your very own, super classy Poker Night.
Whilst online Poker is fun, it just cannot compete with the feeling of looking the player opposite you in the eye as you try and decide whether or not they’re bluffing.
Maybe you’ve seen the classic Matt Damon/Edward Norton 90’s film Rounders. Maybe you’re wanting to channel your best Daniel Craig in Casino Royale and win it all. Or maybe you just want to learn a new skill and have fun with your friends.
Read on to discover the basics of hosting your own at-home Poker Night!
In general a home game functions best with 6 – 8 players. Bear in mind location and table size. There is nothing worse than attempting to squeeze 10 fully grown adults around a table for six.
Also make sure that everyone who has RSVP’d yes will actually turn up. Fewer people can change the timing and style of gameplay, as well as there being less money in the prize pot.
There is a stereotype that Poker is a “Gentleman’s Game” and as such a Poker Night should be a male-only affair. Well its 2021 and we don’t need that kind of outdated thinking.
Women play Poker.
Look at Victoria Coren-Mitchell. Victoria was the first woman to win an event on the European Poker Tour, and also the first player (make or female) to win two European ‘Main Event’ tournaments.
Women, don’t be afraid to host a Poker Night and don’t be afraid to invite other women to join.
The right group of people can make or break your Poker Night. It is wise to consider everyone’s level of experience with the game. Are you there to have fun and play a bit of casual Poker or is this more of a “serious gambling” session?
Either is fine but you need to ensure everyone knows what kind of night they are in for and feels able to hold their own on the felt.
If your group is relatively new to the game it is a good idea to have a print out of the Poker hand rankings available for all to see. We have made a handy printable version for you.
The basic equipment required for a Poker Night are a table, cards, chips and a timer.
Any is fine as long as it can comfortably fit your players. A felt cover certainly works best for moving the cards, and it will give your home game a luxe Casino-type atmosphere.
You can buy a length of felt and keep it taut with some table cloth clips or for something a bit more upmarket a Poker Table Topper could be purchased. Check out online retailers for options.
You should have two (visibly distinct) decks of cards that are used on alternate hands, so as to speed up the game. A red deck and a blue deck tend to work well. Use plastic cards rather than paper as they will hold up better to prolonged gameplay.
Purchasing an automatic card shuffler will save you a lot of time and effort
Any standard Poker set chips will suit your purpose. Some come with values printed on them and some do not. If not, make sure everyone knows the assigned value for each chip colour before playing.
For a tournament style Poker Night, a timer is a must.
Ordinarily, blinds (the forced bets posted by players) should increase every 15-20 minutes depending on how long you want your tournament to last. Set a timer to chime the intervals so everyone is aware of the blinds increasing and the stakes being raised.
This is the most important aspect of any home Poker Night. Below are a few things to think about and some general rules of thumb:
What Poker game are you playing?
The most popular variant of Poker today is Texas Hold’em. However other games such as Omaha, and 7-Card Stud are becoming increasingly common. Ensure all your guests know which game is being played.
Will you be running a tournament or a cash game?
A tournament style will result in a definitive winner. A cash game has no particular end point and players can continue to add money to their stack as they see fit.
What is the cost of the buy-in?
For a tournament style Poker Night there will be a buy-in (a cash amount that each player pays to enter). These payments will make up the prize pool.
The amount of the buy-in should be determined by your group’s level of experience and the general tone of the game.
£5 – £10 is a good amount to start off with.
The amount of the buy-in should be determined by your group’s level of experience and the general tone of the game. £5 – £10 may be a good amount to start off with.
Are players able to re-buy?
In some tournaments players are able to re-buy once they have busted (lost all their chips), up to a certain point in the gameplay.
This can inflate the prize pool and allow for riskier play, but will cause the tournament to continue for a longer duration. It is up to you whether this is something you want to allow and how many re-buys are available for each player.
One way to do it may be to allow any player one re-buy within the first hour and a half of the tournament. They pay an additional buy-in and receive their starting chip stack (the amount of chips a player has in front of them).
What are the payouts?
Is it winner takes all? Maybe you’ll pay 1st and 2nd place? It is completely up to you.
A common method for home games is to pay the top 3 places with a 50%/30%/20% split of the prize pool. Decide this before play begins and ensure all players agree to the payout structure.
Is there a designated dealer or will you take turns dealing?
Ordinarily at a home game each player deals when they are on the button (when the dealer button is in front of them). Once a player has been eliminated they may wish to take over the dealing.
Is there a hard end time for your Poker Night?
A hard end time means that at a certain time, the player with the most chips will be declared the winner, rather than playing until all but one player is eliminated.
People may have things to do the next day and may appreciate a strict end time. Alternatively your group may want to play for as long as it takes until a champion is revealed.
Discuss with your players and see what works best for them. You can also gauge it during play in line with everyone’s stamina and enthusiasm.
Keep it light and keep it fun. You are at home, not the casino so you can afford to be a bit more relaxed. Put on some background music, big band jazz, blues – nothing too distracting.
Or just play ‘The Gambler’ by Kenny Rogers on repeat throughout the evening. A Poker anthem.
Think about providing entertainment for the players who have been eliminated. Maybe you can have some video games or board games set up for those who bust early.
Another idea to enhance the fun atmosphere is to introduce a token prize to play for, as well as the prize pool money. Something like a mini trophy that the winning player can sit next to their chip stack at the following game for bragging rights.
Or else something on which the winner’s name can be inscribed.
For example, a mini cricket bat that lists the name of the winner alongside the month and year of their win. It could be the ultimate mark of respect to have your name written on the bat.
Staying well fed and watered is a must for a Poker Night.
Snacks should be on hand for your players to dip in and out of. However a word to the wise, it is important you provide snacks that won’t leave any residue on players’ hands that can then be transferred to the cards and chips.
Nobody wants to be playing Poker with greasy, Wotsits dust-encrusted playing cards.
Take a dinner break. Order in pizza and allow everyone to relax their Poker minds for half an hour. Just make sure everyone cleans their hands before play resumes!
Nobody wants to be playing Poker with greasy, Wotsits dust-encrusted playing cards.
Wash your hands.
If your Poker Night is going to be an on-going event, set it up for a regular time. Maybe its 7pm on the first Saturday of each month. Or every second Friday.
Keep it consistent and if there are some players that can’t make a particular night, invite a new player into the mix. New faces keep it fresh and fun, whilst encouraging different styles of gameplay.
Now you know the basics of how to host a Poker Night – what are you waiting for?
Dig out a Poker set, get in touch with some friends, try something new, and have fun. Who knows, you might even make some money out of it!
Have you hosted your own Poker Night? Do you have any tips or suggestions?
We would love to hear from you.