Your home poker game should give you many poker nights to remember

Poker night! The classic home poker game is a mainstay of sitcoms, dramas and movies. There’s a very good reason for this: people have been hosting poker nights for generations.

Whether you want to establish a regular home poker game, or fancy a one-off poker night theme for your next social gathering, the Church of Texas Holdem is here to help.

There are a few solid ground rules you should consider before I get into specifics. In future articles, I’ll talk about how to spice up your poker nights and how to source or create all the props and equipment you’ll need to run them.

Sensible considerations for your poker night

Cash only. This sounds amazing, but lifelong friends have fallen out over gambling debts. I was a regular years ago at a poker night which turned friend against friend, simply because every few weeks when we played, at least one person would get themselves into debt to the house. They’d dodge their friends in order to avoid being asked for payment.

Nobody wants any stress: home poker games are supposed to be fun social occasions. So don’t extend credit, and set the level of the game at one that’s reasonably comfortable for everybody at the table.

Losing should hurt, but not enough to make somebody’s life a misery. If losing doesn’t hurt at all, you're all playing too cheaply and there’s not much point in playing for money. Consider hosting a home poker tournament instead, to give people a shot at decent money.

Consider the health of the players. It’s not a bad idea to set a time limit for the game. Endless sessions turn into marathon grinds. It sounds romantic, to see daylight come and go through the windows while everybody plays on and on, but it’s not good for you or your poker.

You might want to think about banning cigars, cigarettes and booze at your poker nights. Because of movie stereotypes, people associate home games with whisky and Cuban cigars. This guarantees that non-smokers won’t attend your session. Keep the air (if not the language!) clean.

Make sure everybody knows the rules in advance. You don’t want an argument to break out in the middle of the night’s biggest pot. Especially if you turn away from Texas Holdem to fancy games like dealer’s choice Omaha, high-low or wild-card games, run a quick reminder of the rules before the session begins.

If you have any house rules, too, the beginning is the time to announce them. These might include: no check-raising (some people consider it ‘ungentlemanly’, which I think is crazy, but it’s a matter of personal choice); a maximum buy-in for cash games; any time limitations on the game; ‘the cards speak’ (a person mis-declaring their hand, whether by accident or design, is not penalised); and whether the game is fixed-limit, pot-limit or no-limit.

Stick to standard poker rules outside of this, unless everybody is in agreement about wild cards and bizarre variations.

Next time, I’ll go into more specifics about what you’ll need to make your home poker game run smoothly.

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