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How to Organise the Perfect Home Game

Ace of HeartsPlaying poker at a casino or playing online is fun, however nothing beats the enjoyment of hosting a home game with friends. Home games have many advantages too – you’ll not be paying the casino any rake, you’ll not have to tip the dealers and you’ll not have to be sat next to that guy with the huge personal hygiene problem, or deal with the faceless monotony of the online game.

Here I detail the ways in which you can make your home game the best there is. I start with a look at the physical set up of the game before looking at the type of game you’ll want to play. I then look at your responsibilities as host and how you can make the game both enjoyable and deal with any problems should they arise. I finish with an overview of the perfect poker evening.

Setting up the Game

In an ideal world you’ll have a completely professional set up, with a full size felt poker table, a top quality chip set, gold plated playing cards and a super model to dispense the drinks. However, this is not going to happen! In reality, a specialist poker table would be a good thing – these can be quite cheap (in the £20/£30 range) and can be found at many online retailers including Ebay. Failing this, you can actually buy a ‘poker table top’ which are cheaper and lay on top of your dining room table. Of course you also have the option of simply playing at a normal table in your home.

You’ll also need a set of poker chips. Once again, these can be bought online for a variety of prices – for the ‘perfect’ game you could even choose to customise the chips, although this will set you back a little more.

The final two pieces of equipment you’ll need are the playing cards and the ‘button’. Ideally you’ll want to have at least two sets of playing cards (more if you are actually playing more than one table in your home game). The ‘button’ is probably the least important of all – you could buy one, but you could use a variety of objects around the house, an old coin perhaps (ensure the button is not edible as the chances are it will suddenly go missing at some point).

You could also invest in a timer – this will aid players in knowing when the blinds are going to move up when playing a tournament. However, many phones now feature timers, so this is not essential.

The Type of Game

This will depend on what you want from the evening. You could decide to have a purely ‘fun’ game with no money involved, although this does defeat the object of poker somewhat. If playing with a group of regular players, either a cash game or a tournament would be ideal, as all the players would fully understand the risks and the amount of money they could potentially lose. If playing with a group of inexperienced players, a tournament would probably be your best option, as this means that the players will only be required to pay out a set amount of money at the start.

If wanting a serious game of poker where your aim (and the aim of every other player) is to make money, then sure, go ahead and play for whatever stakes everyone is comfortable playing at, however this will obviously lead to a less social game.

If wanting a fun evening with friends, then you should ensure the stakes are relatively small, as you won’t want anyone to become disappointed and not enjoy the evening.

Your Responsibilities as Host

Wild West PokerOne of the main responsibilities as host is to supply food and drink. An ideal game will last at least a few hours, so you’ll want to lay on enough to keep all players happy. Snacks are ideal for a home poker game which can be eaten while playing, although you could lay on something more substantial during a break in the game. One of the most enjoyable poker nights I attended actually stopped for an hour, so we could eat our Indian takeaway – always a good option. In terms of drink, ensure you lay on both alcoholic drinks and soft drinks – some players will be driving home, others will not.

It can be a good idea to have a rule book of some kind on hand to cover any disputes. I remember playing a home game once where two players were all in pre-flop with Ace-Ace and Queen-Queen and the board was 4-5-6-7-8 meaning a split pot. The player with AA however disagreed and was adamant that he had won the pot. As a host it is your job to both know the rules and explain them to other players (especially if they are inexperienced or in fact have never played at all before) – and having the rules on hand will help in these situations (of course you could always go online to find a particular ruling).

The Perfect Home Game – Overview

Having hosted ‘the perfect’ home game, you’ll have players wanting to come back and play again, meaning that your home games could become a regular feature. Getting together with a group of friends or acquaintances over a game of poker is never a bad way to spend an evening – so give it a go, arrange a game, be the perfect host and have a great evening!

If any of your friends are not yet familiar with the betting sequence or rules of the game, then why not suggest they play online to get familiar with the main aspects. This will speed things up when you come to play.

International players will get up to $88 free from 888 Poker (comes as tokens in $8 increments, no deposit needed) to try out the games. See for details.

US based players can enjoy real money games at offshore poker sites, this article explains how things are organised, and which are the biggest and best sites.

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