Any poker night is a good night, but what makes a poker night perfect? Maybe it’s a gathering of like-minded people, some booze, dimmed lights, and smooth jazz playing in the background?
If you’re fed up at work, overwhelmed with bad news, or simply exhausted from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, a poker night might be a lifesaver. As the game goes on, you might stop praying to the mighty poker gods to put the odds in your favor and start just hanging out and bonding, making new friends, and catching up with old ones.
Therefore, we’d first like to point out that poker isn’t only about shuffling the cards, stacking the chips, and bluffing your way out of tricky situations. It’s about the atmosphere too, so make sure to balance the competitive play with a good time. A great poker night might add a lot to your life, even if it does lose you some money.
If you’re thinking what we’re thinking, it’s time for us to help you organize a perfect poker night – as, in everything else, the key to success lies in proper planning.
Preparing to Host a Game
A smooth get-together with poker mates starts with some early preparations. If you want to spice up your game, think about sending out personalized invitations via email or creating a Facebook event with reminders. You might even want to set up a theme for the evening and have everyone get their pearls and bow-ties ready for a 1920s-inspired party.
Related: 5 Tips for a Fun Poker Night
Think about how many people should attend the poker night at your house. Even though there is no preset number of participants, poker is usually played by two to seven players of comparable skill. A circle of six or seven people is generally the best choice.
For example, if you opt for Seven-card Stud, you can invite up to eight people. Another option for many people is Texas Hold ’em because it allows you to host up to 10 players around the table – any more than that, and things descend into chaos. On the other hand, if you prefer a more private setup, you’re good to go as long as there are two to tango.
Play By the Rules
There are many fish in the poker sea, and it’s up to you to pick the one that suits everyone’s interests and skills. If you’re hosting a party with people who you guess will spend quite some time googling “poker for dummies,” the best option might be to go for the 5-Card Draw. With only five cards dealt with each player, only one round of drawing, and two rounds of betting, this variant has long been touted as the easiest one. You’ll explain the rules in no time and head on to the next level.
Related: 3 Tips for Hosting a Casino-Themed Party
On the other hand, if your poker buddies are already well-versed in all sorts of variants, you could put your cowboy boots on, play some country music, and organize a Texas Hold ’em party for the pros. After all, it’s the most heavily popularized poker variant, so it’s fair to expect that almost all invitees will at least know the basics. If not, we’ll help them out: Deal two hole cards to each player, add the community cards and use both to make the best five-card hand. Yee-haw!
Finally, if your players know their stuff and want to add some new flavor to the mix, we recommend a game of Omaha Hi-Low. Dress to impress, shuffle the cards, and dive in the shark tank because we all know how challenging this variant is. You’ll get five pocket cards, and you’re supposed to use two of them combined with three out of five community cards to compile a winning hand. The tricky part is thinking of both high and low combinations of hands because both can get you a prize.
Once you finalize your player lineup and choose the variant you’ll all enjoy, make sure to share some easy-to-follow poker tips and tricks or send them out along with useful YouTube links to all the participants. After all, luck favors the prepared.
Spice Things Up: Poker Essentials
We can now safely conclude that your poker night will be about poker – and so many other things. The main ingredients are fun, a lighthearted atmosphere, and mingling with friends. Make sure you inform your high rollers and sore losers to leave their attitude at the door, though. Once that’s done, it’s time to get into the necessary supplies for the actual game of poker.
First things first, you’ll need something to play on. Even though a real poker table, with green felt and everything, would add to the ambiance, a regular dining table works, too. If you want to make things look more realistic, you can invest in a poker-table topper.
On top of that, we suggest getting two decent sets of 500 chips and decide the value of each set of colors. There aren’t any rules set in stone here, so it’s up to you and your guests’ bank accounts. Although chips can represent money, they don’t have to. You can play for prizes or throw a strip poker party – just agree upon the rules beforehand.
Related: How to Host an Unforgettable Guys’ Night In
Make sure to have at least two decks of playing cards: One for the first hand and the second just in case. Draw the drapes, get some drinks and snacks (we suggest putting them on a separate table or a buffet server), put a good record on, and you’ll be ready to go. If you’re not sure about the music, you can find plenty of poker-themed playlists on YouTube or Spotify.
Set House Rules
If you’re the one organizing the whole poker shindig, that means you’re also the boss. And the boss makes the rules. Decide how many chips are assigned to each player upon starting the game and the penalties for playing out of turn. If you want to avoid a bumpy ride, it’s also better to set rules about when to raise blinds or how much one can buy back if they go out on time.
Are cell phones allowed? Should players be allowed to wear sunglasses to hide their tells? Can the poker enthusiasts in your home be allowed to use the bathroom before or after they’ve folded a hand? Is it permitted to touch your opponents’ cards and chips? These are all legit questions that you should know the answer to before the game night starts. You can even write the rules and pin them above the poker table for easy reference.
Last but not least: As the host, you’ll be in charge of troubleshooting. Have a backup plan in case someone doesn’t show up and do a mental walkthrough of all the things that could possibly go wrong. Prepare a list of solutions for the worst-case scenarios. After all, if nothing goes as planned, you can always have a Netflix movie night or try some tarot reading. The perfect poker night is what you make of it, and perfect is different for everyone, so don’t stress if not everything goes according to plan – so long as everyone is having fun, you’re good.