What are the best rules and etiquette to introduce into home poker games?

Make sure you avoid tears at your home poker party by laying down ground rules first.Organising a home poker game? You should pay careful attention to the house rules and etiquette and make sure that everybody knows them before the game begins.

Why is this important? Nothing spoils the fun of a home poker game more than a fight over some breach (real or perceived) of 'the real rules of poker'. A post on United Poker Forum illustrates this point exactly:

Click here to read the post and people's responses, including Father Ashley's! (Opens in a new window.)

In this case, the point of order was about two players who wanted to check a hand to the river.

Without getting too in-depth about the points this question raises (for example, the two players involved had a lot more to lose than to gain from this idea), it makes the point well enough. With a simple list of house rules, this issue would never have come up.

So, never shy of doing stuff for you which would otherwise waste your precious poker time, The Church of Texas Holdem presents the The Home Poker Game Rules.

These are not 100% comprehensive, because every home poker game is different. Copy and paste them into a word processor, make any changes you wish to and then print a copy for each of your players.

Once they have been given the rules, they cannot say they haven't been warned when a fight breaks out.

The Home Poker Game Rules

The cards speak

Despite anything said during a hand, this rule means that the winning hand is the best five cards displayed at the end of the betting rounds.

Example: A player declares, "I have two pairs." The 'two pairs' turn out to be four of a kind ("Two pairs, Jacks and Jacks, ha ha ha ha!"), his hand is four of a kind Jacks. Anything he says makes no difference.

Cards touching the muck are dead

Whenever one of your cards touches the muck, your hand is dead (if not very smelly).Anytime a player discards his hand, it is technically only dead when it touches the muck (which includes the dealer's hands, the pot, the deck and any other discarded hands).

HOWEVER, see below, When a player acts out of turn

Example: Joe makes to toss his hand away when he sees his opponent show down two pairs.

Suddenly he realises that he fluked a middle pin straight. As long as NEITHER of Joe's cards hit the muck, his hand is live.

Players acting out of turn

Acting out of turn is generally discouraged by making that play become binding. It's not possible to completely 'return a hand to its normal state' in this way: the damage has, to some extent, been done.

Acting out of turn can be completely discouraged by a more draconian move, to kill the player's hand when he acts out of turn. You could operate a three strikes policy. Third and subsequent acts out of turn result in a player's hand being mucked.

Example: Bob declares a raise before Jon has had his turn. Bob must now raise when it's his turn to act, no matter what Jon decides to do! This can be a real penalty if the game is no limit and Jon has found a hand.

Players who try to collude

Whether open or cloak-and-dagger, collusion is not allowed at poker games.As in the above United Poker Forum post, collusion should not be allowed at any home poker game. Players who openly agree not to contest pots are cheating, no matter whether it's in their own best interests or not.

Other forms of collusion exist, usually less obvious. When players have hands which would normally involve in betting and raising, but they clearly were not acting as expected, this indicates collusion. It's hard to prove if only one hand is exposed.

Keep an eye on both players and warn them if necessary

Example: Harry and Bill bet and raise, driving other players out of the pot. Now they check it down. Bill shows a set, Harry flashes a pair of Kings. Clearly this is collusion. If they won't listen to reason, ban them from your home poker nights.


Finished reading the Home Poker Game Rules?
Click here to return to the How to set up poker tournament and cash games menu