Hosting the ultimate poker game part 1: where to start

Ever fancied hosting a home poker game? And not just any home poker game, the ultimate home poker game. Well, home poker games might sound simple, but they’re tricky. That trickiness relates to the rake.

There are two ways to approach a home game. Both options are listed below for your convenience. A third option might also surprise you.

Route one

poker dealer

If you’re hosting the game and you want to make a profit, then you need to charge a rake. If you go this route, then poker players will expect beverages, food, possibly a masseuse, and definitely a professional dealer. In regards to beverages, you will have to make a judgement call. Alcoholic beverages will negatively impact your margins, but when poker players drink, they tend to bet bigger, which adds to the rake. They also tend to tip the dealer more, which keeps your “employee” pleased.

The downside is that some people can’t hold their alcohol, which can lead to an ugly scene. Since this is something you want to avoid at all costs, it’s highly recommended that you stick to beer only.

If you’re going with all the bells and whistles — beer, food, masseuse, professional dealer — there will be heightened interest in the game. This will appear to be good news in the beginning, but the evolution of a raked home game is not good. You will eventually end up with more money in the game. When there is more money in the game, people talk. When people talk, you end up with police raids and robberies.

If you believe in self-preservation, then this is NOT the way to go. Avoid the greed rake and take the other route.

Route two


That other route is a no-rake home game. Tell your friends to bring their own beer and snacks. If everyone chips in, then there will be plenty of food and drink for everyone. In regards to dealing, not having a professional might seem like a negative, but the truth is that if you keep two decks running (one person dealing, one person shuffling), then the speed will be the same. Better yet, players will not have to tip the dealer, which increases their profitability and makes them want to play again.

Of course, when you host a no-rake home game, you don’t make any money. However, that’s only the case if you’re looking at this situation on the surface. If you keep people happy and the game is sustainable, then carefully vetted individuals will begin to enter the game.

And people entering the game leads to networking opportunities. Poker is an amazing way to land business deals, find jobs, and form new friendships. Therefore, hosting a no-rake home game is the savvy approach for the long-term strategist. And you won’t have to keep looking over your shoulder.

What about inviting pros?

Note: Whether you’re hosting a raked game or a no-rake game, inviting poker professionals is okay, but never more than two. This is the general consensus among poker players.

There is another way…


Now for that third option. The third option is something relatively new and unique, which is an online poker home game. That sounds like an oxymoron, but there is nothing moronic about it. Let’s be blunt: most online poker players likely don’t have much of a social life.

However, that might be changing. Some online poker players are now getting together in one location (laptops in tow) to play poker. They’re not playing against one another (most of the time); they’re simply getting together to interact with people who have similar interests.

In these situations, there is no need for a rake, masseuse, or dealer. That being the case, the guests will bring whatever food and drink they find they might be craving for their marathon online poker session. And the not-often talked about advantage is collusion. This is not cool and a form of cheating, but it does go on. If two or more of these players are at the same table, then they won’t need to chat online to tell the other player what they’re holding. In those online chat situations, they can be caught. With an online poker home game, since they’re sitting in the same room, they can simply tell the other player(s) at their table what they’re holding, which leads to a huge advantage over the rest of the field.

Perhaps this is the real reason for online poker players getting together for “poker home games.” A cynical mind would say yes. So there you have it. Now you know a little more about setting up poker home games, and hopefully which route you should go down. What you do with that information is completely up to you. In the next article in our series we look at what you should be doing – and not doing – in the game.

Run good, play good, and good luck.

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

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