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Home Poker Games

Home Poker Games
By Hank Cashman of

Some of the best poker games I've ever played were home games. The name ďhome gameĒ does not necessarily mean it is in your den. This is just the term used for a non-professional game that isn't in a card room or casino. It could be at the local bar or after work at your office.

Home games are usually more social and relaxed than casino games. Like in my home game, it is a weekly social event just like the Monday Night football party. Itís just a bunch of friends that get together to play, share ideas, strategies and hopefully take some extra money home.

First of all letís set the room. If you have a poker table or table top definitely use it. There is nothing like the feel of felt for poker. If you don't, don't worry about it. The table tops give you a better playing surface and maybe cup and chip holders. But, not having them won't hinder your game.

Make sure you have food arranged. Think about what you want to eat while you are playing. I love Buffalo wings, but not while playing cards. Likewise avoid spaghetti or other saucy foods. You want to keep it to finger foods that are easily wiped off with a napkin like subs or pizza. You can also plan foods to be eaten off of plates but not things that are easily spilt.

Drinks for everyone, but letís keep everyone sober. I love to play drinkers in the casino because they give me money. I don't like them in home games because I have to deal with them instead of calling the floor.

Now we need cards. If you're going to have a dealer, definitely use a good set of plastic cards. If everyone is going to pass the deal, you might want to stay with the paper cards. Plastics are better, last longer, easier to deal and are washable if the beer gets spilt on them but cost more. Paper cards are cheaper so if the get beer spilt on them you just toss'em. Everyone is used to paper cards so I think that they work fine for a home game.


Chips are a must. I don't care if you are playing nickel/dime or thousands you have to have chips. For many reasons chips help make your game. First of all they disassociate money from the game. You are here to have a good time. Sometimes seeing dollars on the table changes players. Your players will play their best game when they are tossing chips and not cash they look at as rent money.

You will only need three colors for most games. Blinds are not increasing like in tournaments. The stakes stay the same all night. Give the colors denominations to best fit your game. For example, if the minimum buy in is $50 and it is a $1-2 blinds use 1-5-10 chips. Give each player ten 1 chips, six 5 chips and a 10 chip. As they rebuy don't give any more 1 chips, just 5 & 10ís. This will keep plenty of small chips on the table without having too many.

When you set up your table, have chips stacked for the minimum buy-ins with extras for the rebuys and add-ons. Your minimum buy-ins should be 30-40 times your big blind. This will give your players plenty to play with for a while. If you are starting with a 1-2 blind then your buy in should be about 75.

OK, we have a table, food, drink, cards and chips. What are we missing? Oh, players. Who do you want to invite? Remember you want this to be a good game and enjoyable for all. Try to invite players that will play for similar stakes and at a similar level of play. You can have players from different experience levels but not players that will try to run over the newer players. You don't want to invite a fish to a shark tank. Try to set a friendly table so all will want to come back.

Set a stop time. If you get into a good game, sometimes you just want it to last forever. Set a reasonable quitting time so no one will be embarrassed to have to leave. This way even the winner will have a reason to call it a night without looking like he just wants to get away with all the chips.

Rakes are a touchy subject to me. I don't like rakes in home games. If you are going to have a rake to cover the cost of food or a dealer, just be sure everyone is agreeable. Personally, in a home game, I would rather everyone chip in to cover costs. To me, a rake turns it into a business.

Get your home games started and have a great time with your friends.

Keep the cards and chips flying.


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