How To Set Up Your Own Poker Tournament At Home

How To Set Up Your Own Poker Tournament At Home

Are you looking to host home poker tournaments? Home games can be a fun alternative to playing in a poker room in a casino or a card room. You have the power to set your own rules and players in the tournaments in your home.

Home poker tournaments are invite based, so you can control who is attending your house for the tournament. This is always an underrated aspect of home poker tournaments. Everyone knows all about going to the casino and there is typically an irritating player or two at your table.

Determining an invite list is an important step that has to be completed before anything else. These can be a friends-only tournament that is largely a fun, recreational tournament. Conversely, it can be a tournament only for serious players that are pros or semi-pro poker players.

It is imperative that there is enough room to host all of the players on your tournament list. No one wants to sit on top of each other. If this is a big tournament with multiple tables running at once, make sure that you can accommodate everyone.

Setting a night that is convenient for everyone is also an important aspect of hosting home poker tournaments. It is probably not going to be best for everyone on your tournament list. However, if it works for the vast majority of players, then it should work out fine.

Let’s get into your home poker tournaments checklist. Find out if hosting home poker games are for you, or if you should leave it up to a friend.

Home Poker Tournaments Checklist

Keep in mind that there are some elements of home poker games that you might want to do a little differently. Some things might be better for your players than others. That being said, most of these home poker game items can be applied universally.

1. Have The Necessary Equipment (Tables, Cards, Chips)

We advise going through this checklist after establishing a tournament list. After hosting one tournament, there should be a good feel for the number of players you will have at your poker games.

Poker Tables

You will need to be well-equipped with the correct amount of decks, chips, and tables to host a home poker tournament. If you want to have a big home poker tournament, understand that it will require more than one table.

The typical home poker table has room for eight or nine players. Poker tables will be the most expensive undertaking for hosting home poker games.

You can keep it simple and go with cheap tables, or go all the way up to in the thousands of dollars for well-crafted poker tables. For fun recreational home poker tournaments with friends, it is probably better to go cheaper.

Decks of Cards

Understanding how big your tournaments are going to be is important for buying decks of cards, too. Poker can’t be played without playing cards. In other words, if there are not enough decks to run multiple games, you might have people sitting around waiting.

There is not much difference between decks of cards, but some are of higher quality. The cheap, small cards that feel awkward and difficult to read are ill-advised for a home poker tournament.

Poker Chips

The same applies to poker chips. You could theoretically get creative and use coins or something else for chips if you are short, but that is not a well-run home poker tournament.

There are two options for poker chips. You can go with cheap plastic chips or ceramic poker chips. Clay poker chips these days are just a ceramic composite.

If you plan on hosting home poker games often, it is probably good to invest in high-quality ceramic poker chips. This is especially true if these are serious games amongst pros.

2. Beverages and Food

A good poker home game host should have beverages and at least some snacks. Do not feel like you have to spend a fortune on beverages. Most poker players will want alcoholic beverages, but this is totally up to you as a host.

At the very least, bottled water should be the norm at your home poker tournament. Having no water is a good way for people to go elsewhere next time if you have another poker tournament at your place.

As far as food is concerned, it does not have to be gourmet cooking. In fact, just snacks, like cashews and pistachios, will work for a poker tournament. Addressing any allergies or dietary concerns with the group before selecting a snack menu is advised.

Please do not make the mistake of having greasy food. There is nothing worse than playing with cards and poker chips coated in grease. If you want pizza or finger food for players out of the tournament, then that is great, though.

3. Poker Games To Play At Home

What poker game do you want to feature for your tournament? The most common poker game for tournaments is Texas Hold’em. You will attract a bigger crowd with a Texas Hold’em tournament.

The next most popular poker game for tournaments is Pot Limit Omaha. Typically known in its short form, PLO, this poker tournament is going to attract more high-limit players.

However, keep in mind that an Omaha poker tournament is not going to have as many participants. Not as many poker players specialize in PLO as Texas Hold’em.

  • Another less common poker game to play for your tournament could be Seven Card Stud. There are Seven Card Stud games at the World Series of Poker, so there is definitely a market for this game of poker. Just do not expect a lot of willing participants like Texas Hold’em.

It is best to consult with your friends or group first. If there is positive feedback regarding a PLO or Seven Card Stud tournament, then give it a go. However, the safest poker game for a tournament is Texas Hold’em.

4. Hire Dealers/Volunteer Dealers

You do not necessarily need dealers. The button can act as the dealer for your home games. However, if you want to run a home poker tournament with pros, it is advised that dealers are hired or are volunteers.

It is completely up to the host what they want to do with dealers. If this is just a small tournament with friends, dealers are not going to be that important. Just have every player on the button act as the dealer.

Do Not Put Out Ads For Dealers

Home games can flirt on the edge of being illegal depending on which state, country, or province you are in. Unless you have a license to run a card room, this is not the best idea to find dealers through job postings online.

Instead, find poker dealer friends or anyone that would like to volunteer. Consider offering them food and alcohol if they are volunteering as a dealer in your tournament. You should not be looking to make a living hosting poker tournaments at your house.

5. Set The Buy-In/Payout Structure

What is the buy-in going to be for your tournament? That is up to you and your players. The buy-in is going to completely depend on what kind of home poker tournaments you are hosting.

Most home poker games amongst friends are for small potatoes. It is more of a fun time to socialize and get together with friends than poker. These types of home poker tournaments with a buy-in of $10 to $25 is fair.

The buy-in is small enough that everyone can afford it, but the payout structures are decent enough to make the tournament worthwhile. This is what works best for a home poker tournament with friends or rec players.

A typical payout structure at a home poker tournament rewards runner-ups as well. If there are only four or five players, then 100% to the winner is fine.

7-13 Players

  • 1st: 50%
  • 2nd: 30%
  • 3rd: 20%

14-19 Players

  • 1st: 40%
  • 2nd: 30%
  • 3rd: 20%
  • 4th: 10%

20+ Players

  • 1st: 40%
  • 2nd: 20%
  • 3rd: 15%
  • 4th: 13%
  • 5th: 12%

This is a quick home tournament payout structure for reference. You are free to come up with your own. There is no hard rule for payout structures in home poker tournaments.

It is important to note that a player fee, or rake, is illegal in many states. If you are offering food, beverages, and dealers, then there is nothing wrong with asking for a small fee. Ensure that you check with local laws in your area if you want to stay within the rules.

6. Starting Stacks and Blind Structure Must Be Determined

In a home poker tournament, every player that bought into the game starts with a certain number of chips that are given a value. This is different from cash games, where players buy in for as much as they want and receive chips.

For fun, recreational home games, typically there are four colors. These chips are usually white, red, blue, green, and black. This is what most basic poker chip sets include.

Note that the blinds are not fixed like in a cash game. They will increase throughout the game. As players bust out of the tournament and the field thins, the blinds should increase.

Let’s assume that the blinds begin at 2/5 and then increase to 5/10. In this example, the chip values can go as follows:

2/5 Blinds

  • White: $1.00
  • Red: $5.00
  • Blue: $10.00
  • Green: $25.00

5/10 Blinds

  • Red: $5.00
  • Blue: $10.00
  • Green: $25.00
  • Black: $100.00

Again, there is no specific rule for home poker games. This blind structure will work for most home poker tournaments, though.

Home Games vs. Poker Rooms

There are many positives to hosting and playing in home poker tournaments instead of a poker room. The casino and card rooms are not for everybody.

If players are tempted by pit games and slot machines, going to home games instead of the casino is especially big. There are so many hidden expenses in a casino that can add up over time.

It should also be noted that the rake in casinos and card rooms continues to increase. As their expenses increase, the cost is passed on to players. Hosting your own home games might be the answer.

The concept of hosting your own poker tournament and having your own rules can be intriguing, too. Not every day do you get to play the poker room manager. The planning of home poker games is all part of the fun.

Visit our best online tournament sites page for more information if you are interested in playing online tourneys.

About the Author
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Kyle Eve
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Kyle Eve is a seasoned pro of The Sports Geek. Since joining the team in 2012, Kyle, has covered some of the biggest sporting events in the world. From the Super Bowl and World Series to March Madness, the NBA Finals, Kentucky Derby, and many more, Kyle has provided reliable analysis for millions of readers. After dedicating himself to hockey and football in high school, Kyle placed his first sports bet on his 18th birthday. Since then, he has spent his entire adult life devoting himself to becoming the best sports bettor and casino gambler possible. Kyle is from Windsor, ON, Canada

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