Home Game Essentials: Set the scene for a great poker game at home.
Home poker games can be a lot more fun than the live casino or online variety. In a physical casino, everything’s so officious. Following rules and game etiquette isn’t important, but that stiff atmosphere can make a lot of players uncomfortable. Likewise, online poker eliminates most of the communal joy from the experience. Home poker games not only seat you amongst friends, they have a lighter, more entertaining atmosphere.
Setting up the perfect home game isn’t all that hard. You’ll need all the obvious essentials, like cards and chips, food and beverages, and most importantly, a universal understanding of the home game rules.
Home Game Essentials
The following is a check-list you can use to ensure you’re prepared to host a successful poker game at home.
You’ll need a good size table with enough comfortable chairs to accommodate everyone. Have at least two full decks of cards on hand. Do not use old decks that may have been inadvertently marked over time from normal wear and tear. Have a quality set of chips on hand. You can get a good set of cards, chips and buttons at most department stores and online merchants like Amazon for about $30-$50.
Poker players can be a hungry and thirsty lot. Make sure there’s plenty of snack-type food and beverages on hand. Avoid greasy foods, for obvious reasons. Sandwiches and finger foods are best. For a longer game, prepare an easy meal that’s not too messy. A 12-pk of beer is usually a good idea, but no more. Everyone should be able to get home safely.
Be warned that this can get expensive. It’s only fair that everyone share in the cost. Don’t be afraid to ask for a $5-$10 donation from each player to help cover the cost of F&B. Alternatively, ask everyone to bring something. For instance, if there’s 5 players, have three bring food, and two bring drinks.
#3 Pick your players
This is supremely important. You want to make sure that you’ll be in good company, and that all of your friends will, too. If you get along with George and Joe, but George and Joe don’t like each other, don’t invite both George and Joe. Try to invite players who are on equal ground in terms of skill, too. Don’t invite a poker pro to a friendly game. If you are a pro, don’t invite your non-pro friends, or they won’t be your friends for much longer. Avoid people who are argumentative by nature. If alcohol is on the menu, don’t invite those who are belligerent when drinking. Think long and hard about your list before sending out those invites.
#4 Home game rules
Choose the game to be played, such as 5 Card Draw, Texas Hold’em, Omaha, or 7 Card Stud. Decide the stakes to be played, and the buy-in for each player. Make sure everyone knows all of this information beforehand they arrive. Don’t surprise a penny-ante player with a $100 buy-in, or vice versa.
Don’t just set a date and start time, but an end time, too. Certain etiquette should be followed by all. It’s improper to get up and leave a game early, especially after winning a large pot. If a player does need to leave early, they should state so before the game starts, or announce that they’ll be leaving soon at least a few hands in advance of departure.
#5 House rules
Game rules and house rules are two very different things. House rules are the secondary rules applied to game flow, not the basic rules of a game. You can avoid any pre-game—or worse, in-game—arguments by setting the house rules in advance.
For example, how many raises are allowed in a single betting round? If playing dealer’s choice, what games are eligible to pick from? If playing a Hi/Low or Lowball poker game, what’s the best hand, A-5 or 2-7? Although rare in casinos, some home poker player will utilize wild cards and/or jokers. Is this allowed? And if jokers are allowed, can they become any card, or does the old ‘Aces, Straights and Flushes‘ rule apply?
Think carefully about these things and create a brief list of house rules. Have everyone go over them briefly before the game starts. This way, if there’s any disagreements mid-game, you have a quick resolution in writing.
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