Top 10: How to run the perfect home game

There’s nothing more fun than a perfectly executed home game – make sure yours is the one everyone wants to come back to

1. Get equipped

You don’t need a professional poker table, but you do need enough chairs to seat everyone. Invest in a decent pack of cards (plastic Kems or Copags), some good poker chips and either a table top or felt – you can’t riffle chips on a wooden table.

2. Be organised

Let’s get the boring one out of the way early doors. You’re there to play poker, not to move furniture around and look for takeaway menus. If you’re hosting make sure everything’s set up for when your mates come round, including chip stacks and refreshments.

3. Play for the right stakes

Home games are supposed to be fun. It’s not meant to leave someone miserable and scared to go home. Keep your stakes sensible and make sure no one’s playing for a sum they can’t afford to lose. Saying that, it’s meant to hurt a bit. There’s no point playing for pennies. Hit the sweet spot and the game will be the perfect mix of pleasure and terror. And remember that if you’re playing cash all night, stacks can mount up quickly so you don’t need to be playing for silly money straight away.

4. Go just the right amount of crazy

If you sit and play no-limit hold’em week after week we’d like to sit you down and call you boring. Mix it up a bit. You don’t have to deviate from NLHE if that’s what you like, but add in the 2-7 game (win a pot with 7-2 and you get extra cash off everyone) or make it that the winner has to show one card. If you’re feeling brave try random shot-clock periods where the winner of a pot has to down a shot. Have these kicking in for 15 minutes at random intervals and you’ll be guaranteed a fun game.

5. Add action

Adding new games is tricky because everyone needs to know the rules. Even Omaha is a step up for a lot of players. If you really want to spice things up, add Pineapple or Crazy Pineapple to the mix. Both versions play exactly like hold’em but give you three cards.

In Pineapple you have to discard a card before you act preflop. Crazy Pineapple lets you keep it until the flop. All you need to know is that you need a bigger hand to win than in normal hold’em.

6. Respect

Things should get a little rowdy but that doesn’t mean all etiquette goes out the window. If you’re not in a hand, saying, ‘He’s bluffing, you should definitely call’, isn’t going to endear you to your mates. Stick to basic poker etiquette but feel free to rub it in someone’s face if they lose a big pot.

7. The best player loses

Every home game has one. The player who loves to regale you with tales of range merging and sub-optimal river play. Who takes the game way too seriously and generally takes home most of the money with a smug look on his face. The beauty of poker is that every now and again variance will come to bite him on his ass. He’ll lose every 90% lock and generally run colder than your iced beers. Enjoy it when it happens and make sure he knows he’s been taken to school.

8. Fight!

Fights at the poker table are generally bad news. With total strangers at least. Every good home game should have an altercation that leaves one of your mates in a rage. If he has to take himself off to the bathroom to calm himself down it’s even funnier. Just make sure it’s not you.

9. Clear the house

It might not be possibe, but if you live with other people, try to arrange for them to be out of the house when you host. There’s nothing worse than a home game cut off in its prime because someone can’t sleep.

10. Win!

Forget the old adage that it’s the taking part that counts. Home games are only perfect if you leave with more money that when you arrived. If you’re hosting you need to win at least enough to cover the cost for the food/drink and a cleaner.


And don’t forget that you and all your friends can brush up on your game with a free subscription to PokerPlayer magazine

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