Stuart Campbell shows you how to make friends and (not) alienate people at your next home game
If you’ve ever watched a tournament director setting up the tables and chips and shouting out the new blind levels when the timer beeps, or if you’ve already had a few informal games with mates, you might have the false impression that running a proper poker game is incredibly easy.
Well, it’s not – it’s actually only pretty easy. Nevertheless, there is a right and a wrong way to do it, so over the next six months we’re going to give you a crash course in how to run successful tournaments and cash games, from the simplest kitchen-table affair right up to the point where you’ll be able to handle the management and administration of an entire league.
You’ll also learn what bits of poker equipment will give you the ultimate home game experience without breaking the bank, and some of the pitfalls to avoid so that your friendly evening of cards doesn’t culminate in a squadron of police cars at your front door and a hefty glazier’s bill.
Right, let’s start off with the basics. All you really need for a game of poker is a deck of cards and something to bet with, but your guests won’t want to sit on the carpet, so make sure you’ve got a nice sturdy table and enough chairs to go round. A lot of home games fail even at this stage, because poker is best played with seven to ten players to a table and most dining rooms only come with four or six chairs, meaning it can be surprisingly hard just to get everyone sensibly seated. (And no, it’s not acceptable for some poor sap to be perched on a footstool or armchair two feet lower than everyone else with the cards flying straight into their eyes). So make sure you’ve got a proper seat for everyone, even if it means asking some people to bring their own chairs.
Next, you’ll need some chips. If you haven’t yet bought a proper set there are plenty of alternatives you can use. If you’re going to play a cash game you can play with real money instead of some form of chips, but it’s a bit tacky and requires someone to go to the bank in advance for a hefty bag of change. On the other hand, if you use Smarties or other confectionary it may be hard to avoid eating your stack.
To be honest, we’d recommend you start as you mean to go on and invest in a half-decent set. It really does make for a better game, and if you’re really hard up you can pick up a plastic set from Argos for no more than a fiver. Check back next month for a full buyer’s guide.
If you opt for a tournament format (sit-and-go) you should always remember to provide some entertainment for players who get knocked out. Obvious examples are a games console or some DVDs to watch, but those are noisy and can end up being distracting for the players still left in the game, so a bunch of quality magazines – such as this one you’re reading now – is probably the best idea for occupying bust-outs quietly. Another option is to keep them involved by getting them to act as dealer, but obviously that only works for the first person out.
So that’s the Home Poker For Dummies stuff sorted. These simple steps should give you a workable game with no major disasters, and in the next part of this series we’ll start getting into an altogether more professional sort of set-up. See you then!
Stuart Campbell is assistant organiser of the Bristol & South West Poker Meetup Group, which runs small tournaments and cash games at venues across the region