Hosting the ultimate poker game part 2: open for business

I recently wrote about home poker games, but that was only the basics. This article will focus on what you need to know specifically if you’re the host. The information below will likely determine whether or not your home poker game is successful.

Young man throwing chips on the table while playing cards

Keep in mind that this information wasn’t generated out of thin air, and it wasn’t even based on Internet research. It’s coming directly from people who have hosted big home poker games for many years.

The first rule of home poker…

Do you remember the first rule of Fight Club? Here it is: You do not talk about Fight Club! You want to know the first rule of hosting a home poker game? You do not invite outsiders!

If you invite people you know, or at least people who have been carefully vetted, then you know what to expect. If you get greedy in a raked home game by inviting outsiders, then you won’t know what to expect. Below is one example of how things could play out.

Let’s assume you invite an outsider to the game and he plays poorly that night. You watch him rebuy again and again. Before you know it, he’s down over $1,000 and you can see that he’s fuming inside. He feels like he’s been cheated because he’s an outsider and doesn’t trust anyone at the game. When he leaves the game, he might call the police or sell information to unscrupulous characters that will profit by holding up your game. Since it’s a raked game, you won’t have the option of calling the police afterward because you were running an illegal operation. There is simply no way out of this situation. Therefore, avoid this situation by sticking to insiders only.

If you choose not to heed this advice and an outsider has an argument about a hand, DO NOT get involved. That might sound counterintuitive, but if you step in, that player’s animosity will be directed at you, which greatly increases the odds of a tip-off to police or selling information to thieves. Instead, let the dealer handle it. The host of a poker home game should always remain neutral.

Keep the players happy

Happy poker player winning and holding a pair of aces, concept of winning or having the upper hand

Now let’s assume that you play “your hand” correctly and only invite people you know. If that’s the case, then as the host, you’re going to want to make everyone happy and keep them happy.

In regards to that point, you never want to make the stakes too high. If these are friends and associates you’re playing with, then you risk losing those relationships with high stakes. In fact, it’s a no-win situation. Someone is going to lose.

This situation can be made even worse if you’re playing as the host and winning. That’s akin to saying, “Hey, come on over to my home as a so I can take your money, you dimwit.” Yeah … that usually doesn’t work out too well.

If you keep the stakes relatively low, then relationships can be maintained, you can still make a little money with the rake, and everyone can have a good time. It’s also likely that most people won’t mind if you play. Furthermore, by only having people you know in the game, you can extend credit. If an outsider is in the game and he sees you extend credit to someone else, then he might want to take advantage. If you extend credit to that outsider, then you might never see your money again. You probably won’t.

It’s recommended that you have the television on as a distraction, which leads to a little more action. This can prevent the game from getting boring.

If you really want your players to get pumped about attending your game, add a Bad Beat Jackpot or High Hand. This will require you to take a little extra out of each pot, but it adds to the excitement, and someone is going to end up ecstatic. Humans operate on hope. Therefore, every player that doesn’t win the Bad Beat Jackpot or High Hand is still going to strive for it the next time out.

Stick to the rules… and the checklist

If you’re playing as the host and you don’t want to be too distracted, then be sure to have set rules in plain view, but try to present those rules in a light or humorous manner so your guests don’t feel like they’re playing in a prison.

If you want to host a poker game with a good balance between making some money with the rake and keeping it friendly, refer to the checklist below:

  • Don’t invite people you don’t know (see reasons above)
  • Implement Bad Beat Jackpot or a High Hand
  • Use custom chips (helps avoid cheating)
  • Offer food, beer, a professional dealer, and possibly a masseuse in exchange for a 10% rake with a $5 max (add $1 to rake for Bad Beat Jackpot or High Hand)
  • Make sure everyone knows the rules, which can avoid problems before they become problem

It might seem like a lot of work, but hard work usually pays off. Also remember this key point:
The house always wins. Therefore, be the house.

Important Note: This information is for entertainment purposes only. Check your local laws prior to running a raked game.

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