Home improvement

To ensure your game goes off without a hitch and becomes a regular thing, make sure you plan it…

Setting up a home game involves more than clearing the kitchen table and opening a new deck of cards. Follow our guide to make sure yours is the talk of the town home game

Pick a day

Every day of the week has something going for it. A Monday night game takes away the Sunday blues, a Friday night game can (depending on your stakes) make for a cheap, fun meet with friends and a Saturday noon start will give you a good seven or eight hours play before heading out on the town. Week nights can get a higher level of fallout from unreliable members but it certainly beats having a microwave meal and watching Top Gear.

Cashing in

If you’re playing cash games all night with friends – and really want to stay friends – agreeing on a monetary policy will keep everyone on an even keel. Setting the blind level is vital. Although 10p/20p blinds with a £20 buy-in doesn’t sound like much, the action can easily escalate (especially with alcohol) so that one or two players burn their way through several buy-ins.

Make sure everyone coming is aware that their initial buy-in may not, depending on how they play, last very long at all, while trying to avoid scaring off new players that could be, ahem, lucrative additions to your card school.

Cashing out

Agreeing on a minimum period of play will stop any complaints about the player who has run hot for an hour, taken everyone’s money and now wants to cash out because they’ve lost one small pot. Set a time that everyone has to play until – unless they’ve done their money and don’t want to buy in again.

After you’ve hit that watershed it’s up to the individuals to decide how long the game lasts. And the players that do lose all their chips? Convince them to buy back in – they’re obviously fish. Don’t feel guilty about taking their chips – they’re paying for poker lessons! Also, get yourself to a bank/friendly newsagent and get £50 worth of change in pound coins and 20p pieces for cashing out at the end of the night. As host you can pass this responsibility onto someone else.

Table space

This might sound obvious, but make sure you don’t invite too many people for that most basic piece of equipment – your table. Yes, you can play poker 11-handed but that doesn’t mean cramming people around a tiny kitchen table is going to be much fun.

Make sure that you have adequate seating and places to put chips, elbows and drinks. There’s nothing worse than playing with your legs jammed in for hours on end and drinks being spilled. Your legs will go numb, the cards will get messed up and you’ll generally be wishing you were somewhere else. Little tables and/or ledges are perfect for keeping drink spillages to a minimum.


There’s a reason that chips were invented and it’s not just so people can show off by riffling. Playing with chips makes the game move fluidly, easily and, ultimately, more enjoyably. At short notice you could grab hold of anything uniform such as matchsticks, matchboxes or pieces of paper with numbers scrawled on. That might do if you’re happy limiting yourself to turbo sit-and-gos. Anything larger and you’ll have to sort yourself out with some real chips, even if it’s a case of nipping down to Argos on the day. For a more professional game take a look at www.drinkstuff.com and www.gamble.co.uk, both of which have some good quality chipsets.

Food and booze

As host, PokerPlayer recommends that you levy a food and booze tax on everyone coming. Arrange a kitty from everyone present to pay for all the beers, finger food and pizzas that you could wish to gorge yourselves on. You don’t want to get into the have and have-nots situation and people interrupting the game to organise beer runs. Get it sorted out up front and if there’s anything left at the end of the night it’s a bonus. Oh, and get some napkins – the last thing you want is greasy fingers coating the cards in saliva and chicken grease.

Set the rules

Make sure that everyone knows what the evening is going to involve. Sit-and-gos are all well and good but the players who get knocked out early and have to sit on the sidelines will soon get restless and start harassing those left to push all-in every hand. Cash games obviously allow players to come and go as they please.

Decide what mix you want so no one can complain if they are sat out for an hour. Also, let everyone know a rough minimum amount of cash they should be bringing. Two £10 sit-and-gos (£20), three £20 cash game buy-ins (£60) and beer and food contributions (£10) would be about £90. This can obviously be scaled up or down according to budget. Send an email or use the telephone, just make sure that everyone knows the time, place and itinerary.

The other half

If you’re playing within the confines of a married abode make sure that the partner of the host will either be taking part or is happy to get out of the way. If your game is going to get interrupted half way through by someone wanting to watch Coronation Street or Match of the Day (delete accordingly) then you’re best arranging to play somewhere else.

This is where the rich, unattached players in your card school come up trumps. No interruptions, no bedtimes and no one to appease. If they’ve got enough room in their pad, or indeed if you are that person, why not host the weekly game there every week if it makes sense?


It’s definitely worth investing in some decent cards and chips. Cards are the biggest priority as the nasty paper-based decks that you used to play solitaire at your gran’s as a kid are just not up to the job. Plastic-based cards are what you’re after. Tournament Super Index Poker Cards are only £2.99 a pop, the good value plastic Torcellos are also a steal at £3.99, while you can sort yourself out with a deck of Kems, the daddy of playing cards, for £10.95.

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