Top 10 Tips To Host The Perfect Poker Night

Organizing a poker night can be a daunting task at the best of times, especially if you have never done it before. There are a whole host of considerations to make, from who will come, to how many poker chips you'll need for each player. It can take days of planning and require a lot more work than your day job, but ultimately a well-run poker night is worth all the blood, sweat and inevitable tears. With a bit of preparation and some good ideas, you can make sure your poker night is a hit for everyone involved. To that end, here are our 10 Tips To Host The Perfect Poker Night.

Be prepared and ma e a plan. As they say if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. OK, so that’s a bit extreme for a fun poker night, but you get the point. Start by making a checklist of everything you’ll need – players, a table, snacks, poker chips, cards, a venue, drinks and every and anything else you can think of. If you write everything down and mark it off, you’re less likely to forget something important. Take a few days to think about it if possible.

Your list should include relevant information, such as:

Venue - Where is the game going to be? Does the venue have a table and chairs? Is it outside? Will there be a smoking area?

Players - Who’s invited?

Catering - What food/snacks are you going to provide? Are any of the players allergic to anything? Will it be bring your own (BYO) drinks (alcoholic or otherwise) or will you provide some? If you’re providing the drinks, what will they be?

What - What style of game will be played? Will it be a cash game or tournament? Texas Hold em’ or Five Card Draw or something else? What will the buy in be? Are there going to be rebuys? Will the blinds up base on a time limit, or when players are eliminated?

Most people don't have a purpose-built poker table sitting around, so it falls on a regular household table to fulfil the job for the game. It should be able to seat between 6 and 10 players comfortably. Less than 6 players and the game often stalls, any more than 10 and you'll spend half the night playing one hand. Space is also an issue; you want everybody to be able to sit at the table without bumping into each other.

If more than 10 players commit to the game, you’ll need a second table, as a minimum, have 6 per table. Regardless of how many people you’re expecting, it would be best if you planned for a few extras; there is always that one person who brings a friend or two. It’s better to have too many rather than not enough.

Chairs are another consideration, make sure to have enough chairs for every one of your guests, then have a few extras at the ready for an emergency and interlopers. If you’re desperate, make the event BYOC – Bring Your Own Chair. Rather than make it seem like something you should apologize for (I mean, who really has 15 chairs laying around their house?), make a feature of it and award a prize for the best chair.

Unfortunately, social media is the easiest way to invite a whole bunch of people to a game; the days of ringing up buddies at their houses are long dead. Create an online event and put as much information in the description as you can, everything from the time and date, to what kind of poker game it’ll be – tournament, cash game or something else entirely.

Deciding on who is invited can be a crucial choice that many people overlook . There are certain types of players who will cause issues, depending on the game type and the level. If you have a room full of beginners, you don't want to have that one person who made a living at college by hustling cards to come along and take everyone's money. It’ll make it hard to encourage people to come along to another night if they think you’re just planning on setting them up with a shar.

Some poker players also don't adhere to common courtesy in home cash games. It's an unspoken law that anybody planning to leave before the end of the game should tell everyone at the start of play. There is nothing more annoying than someone winning big in the first 20 minutes, then making up an excuse to leave and cash out, taking a sizable chunk of the money on the table with them. So make that clear in the invitation what the expectations are and gently point this out again at the beginning of the night, to avoid having to deal with it later on.

If you want to make the game a regular event, everyone needs to have a good time, and keeping out players who are likely to unduly upset people will ensure that happens.

If you’ve been lucky and didn’t just get a heap of maybes and other nonsense when you posted the event on social media, there might be too many players to fit in the venue or on the available table. In these cases, it is best to have a waiting list. Waiting players can sit and watch, or they can leave, and you can update in the event page when there is an opening after someone busts out. A waiting list will ensure that the game runs smoothly when you have too many people.

Set out the rules of the poker game early to avoid disputes later. Unfortunately, if money is involved, arguments can and will happen, no matter how friendly everyone is at the start. Outlining rules such as if there are rebuys, what happens in the event of a draw and what happens to someone’s power hand if they are out on smoke break or in the bathroom when the cards are dealt, will ensure it doesn't fall on you as the host to play referee and settle disputes. Bear in mind no matter how well you organize things and tell people how things will run, you’ll probably need to do a little bit of ‘conflict resolution’ of some sort during the night, whether it’s because someone’s chair breaks or because they show signs of tilt. It’s part of running the night and don’t worry, it’ll all work out in the end!

If one decision becomes particularly divisive, take it to a vote and stick by the result, consistency is key. Once you've created the event page, it is also a good idea to post the set rules and a PDF on how to play poker. Most reasonable people will be happy to help newer players, we were all beginners once, but it’ll make life much easier if the new people at least have a bit of an idea how to play poker.

If you’re planning to supply some food, get plenty of snacks, chips, nuts, cookies and if you’re feeling generous, dips. If the game is going to go for a few hours, it might be appropriate to feed everyone something substantial – pizza, burgers or some kind of fast food is usually the easiest. Drinks are also a necessity, alcoholic and non-alcoholic. If money is tight, ask everyone to bring a plate to share, and their own beverages.

You can't expect everyone to enjoy the night with only glowing social conversation alone. Music and maybe even a TV on in the background will keep anyone waiting for a seat, or not in the hand, entertained. Pic a long playlist of music with a wide variety of songs and genres. If you get twelve people in a room, odds are they will all have different musical tastes, and there is no way to please everyone. If you use a music-streaming service like Spotify, you could make a playlist and make it public for people to add to. Invite the players to add to the playlist and on the night you simply hoo it up to your sound system (whatever your preferred system is – there are so many these days!) and let the tunes roll.

Getting the right amount of chips for your poker game can be the difference between a great game, and a boring disaster. If you give everyone too many, the game won't ever end; if you don't give out enough, players are eliminated too quickly. There is no official guide for how many chips you need to host a game, or how the different colors and values are assigned. The easiest method to divide the chips is to have a flat rate for the buy-in, then give everyone an equal starting stack.

Every player should get the equivalent of 50 initial big blinds as a minimum, and 100 as a maximum. Keeping the chip count high will ensure players won't run out of chips and need to keep trading to get different denominations. If there are rebuys, budget 75 to 100 chips per player, it's a lot more than is required, but having extra will ensure you have enough to keep playing once the game goes for a few hours and the stars start turning into mountains.

Player To Chip Ratio

  • Two to three players – have a total of 200 to 300 chips.
  • Four to five players – have a total of 400 to 500 chips.
  • Five to six players – have a total of 500 to 600 chips.
  • Six to eight players – have a total of 600 to 800 chips.
  • Eight to ten players – have a total of 800 to 1000 chips.
  • More than ten players – start with 1000 chips and add another 100 for every extra person.

Different Chip Values

Before the game starts, you’ll need to figure out what each chip is worth. Keep the variety of denominations relatively low, four as a minimum, and eight as a maximum. Most of the chips should be the lowest value, while there should only be a handful of the higher denominations.

If the buy-in is $25 and you want to have the chips represent real-world values, you could have five different chip values and use the denominations, $5, $2, 1$, 50c 25c, the big blind is 50c, while the small one is 25c.

To have the number of chips directly correlate with the $25 buy-in, divide them in the following way:

  • One – $5
  • Three – $2
  • Five – $1
  • Eleven – 50c
  • Fourteen – 25c

If you want to pretend to be high rollers and use massive values, then use the denominations, $25, $50, $100, $500 and $1000, the blinds can be $25 for the small blind and $50 for the big. Sticking to the concept of having at least 100 big blinds for each chip stack, you'll need $5000 worth of tokens for each player.

This can work out to be:

  • Two – $1000
  • Three – $500
  • Seven – $100
  • Ten – $50
  • Twelve – $25

Once you've got all the main preparations out of the way, look for ways to add a bit more fun to the game. A belt from a discount store modified to say “Po er Champion,” a trophy for the overall winner of the tournament, or the person with the most cash at the end of the game isn't essential, but will add a bit more enjoyment. There are many different ways to modify the game to add more fun; the only limit is your imagination, and maybe your budget.

No matter how much you plan and prepare, something will go wrong; it's inevitable when a group of people get together. You might run out of drinks, the pizza might be cold, a chair might brea, or someone might try to enact an obscure rule nobody has ever heard of. Don't stress; just enjoy the game you have built and be a courteous host.