Anyone who has taken the time to learn the game of poker will eventually try to start up their own home game with their friends. Unfortunately, this is often a very difficult thing to set up, as there’s a lot more to it than a deck of cards and some beers.
First, you need to establish who you will invite over for the game. Always invite at least one more than you hope to have show up. Eventually, you’ll have one too many people at the game, but for the most part, at least one person will have to miss each week. The number of people you invite will be largely decided upon by the number you are comfortable with and the number of friends you have who are interested. Keep in mind, though, that it’s not too much fun to play poker with three or four people. Nine or more can mean longer hands, and tends not to involve everyone as much. If the aim is for you to practice for tournaments however, you probably want to have between eight and ten people at the table. If you’re playing for fun, six or seven is best.
You should also take stock of the chips that you have. You can still get dirt cheap poker chips at some locations, but in general, the cost of these sets is rising. It can be as much as $75 for a nice briefcase full of chips, but be aware that they’re not giving you as many as you may need. Always have a backup plan, or a backup chip color that you can reserve for a higher denomination.
The stakes should also be decided ahead of time. This will largely be determined by the types of people you play with. While it may seem cheap to play for quarters, remember that pots of this size can grow pretty quickly, and it’s easy for people to lose their $20 pretty quickly. If you’re afraid that this will deter some people, you should play for smaller stakes, nickels and dimes are always affordable. You could even play for no money if you’re feeling especially poor.
Deciding upon the game is the part which is almost always the biggest problem. There are a lot of people out there who know only the most basic of poker games, and others who find it much more fun to play Indian Poker and baseball. I suggest that instead of allowing the dealer to pick the games, you establish that you’ll only be playing one game the entire night. Typically, a game like Texas Hold ’em, Seven Card Stud, or Five Card Draw are the best games for this, since they are well known to everyone and easy to keep track of.
You should also discuss how you plan to play. Is this a limit game, or no-limit? Will you allow rebuys? Does the game end at a certain time or when everyone is out of chips? All of these questions should be dealt with ahead of time, because getting seven or eight people to come to a unanimous decision can be difficult. Besides, you want to play poker, not discuss how to best play poker.
If you have all of this decided beforehand, you have a better chance to succeed in turning this into a weekly or monthly game if you desire. By setting up the rules ahead of time, you’re preventing the more dominant personalities in your group from dictating the rules, and giving some structure to the game for the inexperienced player. As crazy as it may sound, there are a lot of people who have never played poker before, and only a few who have substantial experience. Even those that do may come to the table with odd regional rules that they followed in their last few home games.
Arrange for a time for everyone to meet at your house, but don’t plan to start the game until a half hour or an hour after that. Not everyone will be on time, and nobody will be early, since most people consider this to be kind of like a party. If you have someone who is exceptionally late, you can feel free to start without them, and then to deal them in when they arrive.
There are some other things to consider as well. You’ll need to have some supply of food and beverages, and don’t feel bad about asking for everyone to chip in a bit. This can add up, and if you continue to offer up your house every week as the venue, you’ll be out a lot of money on this overhead. Nobody will complain as long as you remember that you need to put in your part.
You should also remember to take a few breaks. Some people might feel uncomfortable about leaving the action in progress. Your choice to allow smoking or not is up to you, though if you do not want people smoking in your house, make sure that you have ashtrays outside for them to use. And clean your bathrooms before you have people over.