Planning a Home Poker Game
Why home poker?
Home poker games are played all over the world in almost all countries. They have several benefits over casino poker games:
- No rake. Most home games have no rake. Brick and mortar rooms notorious for having large rakes (close to 10% of the pot generally).
- Less travel time. Some people may not have a B&M poker room within 2 hours of where they live. But you can almost always find a home poker game within 10 to 20 minutes of your house.
- Social. The best benefit, by far, is that you get to play poker with your friends. While playing poker in a casino can be fun, it sometimes gets boring just sitting in a chair and folding 90% of your hands while sitting next to people you may have no interest in talking to. At home poker games you also get the chance to meet new people.
Is my home poker game legal?
Hosting a home poker game may or may not be legal, depending on your state. You can check out our home poker law page for more info.
How often should I have the game?
Many home games are held weekly, while some are held every 2 weeks, and some are held monthly. A general rule of thumb is that if you are having trouble getting enough players together to hold a game, then you will want to space out your games. Even some dedicated players may not want to come every week - but if you only have one game per month, then people will be less likely to casually skip it.
What day should I hold my game?
Although most people work during the week, I find that weekday games are oftentimes preferred because it gives people something to do after work, as opposed to just going home to watching TV or whatever. Also, on weekends many people spend their time with their families instead of their friends.
Although some people go to home poker games hosted by people that they are good friends with, some people play in home games with people they don't know very well (like games people find on the internet). In this case, they will want to reserve their weekends for their better friends.
If you hold your game on a Sunday during football season, keep in mind that many people like to watch football all day. This may be a good thing because it lets everyone get together and watch the games, but other people may prefer to watch football un-distracted by playing in a poker game. If you host your game on Sunday and the crowd that goes to your game is a football crowd, then you may want to have a good TV.
What poker games should I play?
Here are a couple of the decisions you have to make about the types of game to host:
- "Real" vs. "joke" games - Home games are usually broken up into 2 kinds of games - "real" poker games (such as Hold 'Em, Stud, Omaha) and "joke games" (such as Follow The Queen). Real poker games with established strategy and are dependent much more on skill and less on luck. "Joke games" are games with no generally recognized strategy where the rules are invented (sometimes on the spot) and are much more dependent on luck than skill. Oftentimes there will be many cards that are declared to be wild and everyone will end up with crazy hands. "Joke games" are always played for fun and never for money, while "real" poker games can be played for fun, for money, or both.
- "Real" games - Most home games are Hold 'Em, 7-Card Stud, Omaha, or Dealer's Choice. These day since hold 'em is so popular, some people won't know how to play the other games. So if you have a lot of amateur players, you may want to keep it as hold 'em only. Many games advertised on the internet will explicitly say "hold 'em only" to make sure that amateur players will be comfortable. But even if these other players know how to play games other than hold 'em, many of them won't be good at these games and will lose a lot of their money. Although the strategic differences between hold 'em and stud are subtle, you can still lose a lot of money when playing against good players. This may not be a big deal if you are playing in low-stakes ($0.50/$1.00), but the losses could pile up if you are playing higher stakes. One time, I played in a $2/$4 dealer's choice game where I had never really played Stud before (although I understood how it was played), and I quickly lost about $50 in a few hands because I misplayed a few hands.
- "Joke games" - For a list of different games you can play for fun, you can look at my poker variations page.
- Cash games vs. tournament - From a hosting perspective, cash games are much easier to run because all you have to do is to oversee the initial buy-ins. If you are hosting a tournament though, you may have to spend a considerable amount of time managing the tournament by doing things such as: rule disputes, table changes, color-ups, etc.
- Limit vs. no-limit (cash games) - No-limit games are less popular because the larger pots in no-limit lead to the players getting busted out earlier than limit games from losing their buy-in quicker. No-limit cash games do have an advantage over no-limit tournaments though because they allow every player to keep playing until the end of the game (if they want to buy back in) - unlike tournaments where people are permanently eliminated.
It's up to you how elaborate you want your rules to be and how strictly you will enforce them. The important thing to consider is that whatever rules you do choose to have, it is important to communicate them to the players. Most home games don't have printed rules. It is simply understood what the rules are. This is fine if you have the same players week after week. But if you have a lot of new players coming to the game, then you will want to be more proactive about communicating the rules.
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