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Poker News | Casino Poker | Tournament Reports

How to Host a Home Game

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The home poker game was a popular get-together even before Chris Moneymaker entered an online satellite on Poker Stars and went on to win some big poker tournament. A game of cards was a good excuse for the guys to get together and burn a few extra cigars, or for the housewives to bet extra coupons, remember Mr. Mom?

But now? Holy cow!

Remember when your parents used to get together with the neighbors to play Bridge? Now they probably play poker. Or at least younger parents do. So you're probably thinking about hosting a home game of your own. There are many ways to do it. So grab the queso, a visor and adjust your picture of dogs playing poker. You've got a poker game to plan.

First of all, you have to ask yourself what kind of an experience you want for your guests. There are probably three levels of the poker experience. There's the Bad Blood, Super Fancy experience. There's the Cheap As Hell experience. And there's somewhere in between.

Somewhere in between
- That's a home game I help plan with one of my best friends. We use fairly professional chips at our home game, chips I got from completing a bonus on Full Tilt . My buddy has a poker table that he bought for $50 at Big Lots. That sounds cheap but it's actually a pretty cool table, with felt, a place for your drink and enough room for at least eight players. We have cards he bought from a casino in Deadwood, and we use a new deck when a card gets blemished. We bring our own beer, but we trade bottles with each other. I bring queso, a Velvetta and Rotel mixture (use the Mexican flavor of Rotel), and occasionally another guy brings drinks to mix.

We listen to hair metal when we play.

Cheap as hell - I have played at games where someone pulled up a plastic table or we just used a kitchen table, and we used plastic chips or a chip set bought at K-Mart. People ate their own fast food. The cards were sometimes damaged so much that I knew it when someone held the K of spades in their hand. The game, however, was still fun.

The Bad Blood, Super Fancy Experience - Bad Blood is one of my favorite bloggers and he loves to write about his home games. Let's just say he goes all in.

"I spent an entire weekend two years ago building my own table. I have roughly six setups of Kem and Copag plastic cards. I've spent over $1,000 on custom Chipco poker chips with my own design. I pretty much went the whole nine yards. I suppose if I weren't a winning player at my home game, I wouldn't have done all this. But I think that the home game experience should be as close to the real thing as possible. It's what initially drove my enthusiasm for playing."

The other question to consider is what kind of home game you want to host. Do you want to play a tournament, or should you play a cash game? The blogger Mookie99 prefers to host a tournament. Tournaments can be fun, but Mookie99 sees a few essentials that you may not need at a cash game. These ideas are also based on what I've played at tournament home games.

You'll need a clock or projector of some sort to display the time remaining for the blind level. You can buy a cheap one in any Wal-Mart or other megastore. There are also software programs you can either download or buy for your computer. You'll also need basic rules for your game, a good payout structure and the understanding from other players that your word is final. The tournament software can help you figure out the rules and the structure.

The home game I play in is a cash game, dealer's choice, like the home games of old, although we play a lot of Hold 'Em and Omaha.

As I see it, there are advantages and disadvantages to both formats.

Advantages to a tournament:
• Most people know poker from televised tournament poker and therefore want to play it more than cash games.
• A tournament offers a clear ending to the night and gets more exciting as the night goes on.
• There's a set buy-in, so people won't lose a lot of money, causing awkward or hard feelings between friends.

Disadvantages to a tournament:
• You generally need a good crowd to make it worth it. The larger the better. But that makes it harder to get a game together at the last second.
• When people get knocked out, there's nothing for them to do...unless you have a cash game on the side.

Cash games have more variety, and everyone can play all the time. But they tend to drag on after a while, and inevitably someone winds up the big loser, which no one likes.

Bad Blood got away from his home games for a while, even if he was intense about them (Blood, of course, is intense about a lot of things). It became too difficult to get people together, organize the game at his house and pick up after it when it was over. "Suffice to say that cleaning up the entire downstairs of my house at 1:30 in the morning, after dropping four buy-ins, was not something I looked forward to," Blood said. But after enjoying some time in the poker underground games, a recent robbery and another bust, has convinced him he needed to give home games another try.

Home games may occasionally be hard to organize, hard to set up and hard to manage. But at least they're almost always safe from the long arm of the law or the UIEGA.

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