There are a few things programmed  for humans to like naturally:

  1. Drinks
  2. Desserts
  3. Playing by your own rules

We can’t help you (or your waistline) when it comes to the first two. But we can undoubtedly assist you in playing by your own rules. 

What better way to live large than hosting your own home game?

Whether you are just testing the waters or already an experienced host, check out these tips and tricks to give any casino a run for their money. 

There’s a new game in town. Yours. 

#1 - Engineer the Structure

Whether you are going to host a cash game or tournament, the essential thing to keep in mind is the structure

In a cash game, you want to give everyone ample room to manoeuvre

  • So, impose a 100 big blind minimum. Seriously. 
  • You can even mandate higher (your game, your rules).

But perhaps postflop play isn’t your priority – you want action. 

Many casinos purposely create short buy-in structures because it juices the games. When players are low on chips, they are incentivised to commit their stack. They move all-in more often, seeing more rivers.

Engineer the Structure – Poker Home GamesEngineer the Structure – Poker Home Games

Most casinos take additional rake on the turn and river cards. So, if people are seeing full run-outs, it maximises the casino’s profit. More turns and rivers mean more rake.

This structure also increases variance and negates skill edge. There is more of a “luck factor”.

  • It will be harder to beat as a studied player. 
  • But keeps fishier types from going broke. 

Of course, this setup is not a guarantee. But over a large sample deeper stacks, it favours pros.

If your priority is fun, then encourage short-stacks. 

  • You can do this with a low buy-in as a barrier to entry. 
  • Creating a low cap is an even more effective way, as nearly everyone is short-stacked. 

But if you’re looking for postflop battles to test skills, consider structuring a deeper game. 

Got a competitive crew? 
Don’t want to play bingo?
 

Lower the buy-in but amp up the number of blinds in the starting stack.

Tournaments are more about guaranteeing guests enough play for their money. Everyone likes the feeling of shuffling a big, hefty stack. So, start your tournament deep. 

Time-crunched? 

It is usually better to sacrifice shorter levels than shorter stacks. They will produce the same results. But from a player-experience standpoint, tall chip towers are much more exciting.

Tall Chip Towers Are Much More ExcitingTall Chip Towers Are Much More Exciting

#2 - Adding on Structure Add-ons

Straddles can also change the dynamic. Obviously, straddles make the gameplay shorter. So, keep the earlier information about short-stacks in mind.

Strategically, you want to decide whether or not to allow button straddles (aka “Mississippi straddles). Bart Hanson of the CrushLivePoker podcast says that they give skilled players an extreme advantage that should be illegal.

If you have a couple of sharks in your waters, they may be able to weaponize these straddles to get an even bigger edge. Exercise caution.

Under-the-gun and early position straddles don’t provide the same boost. The straddler is out-of-position. These may boost the pot sizes but won’t grossly favour any exceptionally skilled player.

Running it multiple times also has little benefit swayed to any player. So, it doesn’t risk damaging or advantaging the game. This feature is a huge reason why many people play home games in the first place.

So, we strongly suggest you include it as a home game feature. But feel free to restrict players to either running it 1x or 3x. So, there is always a winner. 

Running it twice can result in consecutive chopped pots and have the opposite desired effect – slowing down the action. You don’t want to cause frustration.

#3 – The More Funkier Promos, The Better

One of the main reasons people like home games is the creative promotions. Even when competing with Vegas casinos, this is a huge draw. 

Generally speaking, the more promos, the better. 

We’re not just talking about the run-of-the-mill high-hand jackpots (which can be taunting since they are so unlikely to hit). Instead, try PLO flips every hour or 30 minutes. Even if everyone only puts in $1, these are conversation starters that get the adrenaline pumping.

It is better to do a bunch of flips for $10 that are much easier to hit than have only one person win $50.

Also, consider bomb pots. If you’re unfamiliar, here are the basic rules – 

  • All players have put in an agreed-upon bet before the flop.
  • For example, everyone throws in $10 before seeing their cards.
  • Then play postflop as usual. 

Everyone has already committed chips. So, the pot will automatically be worth fighting for, and this action creates an incentive.

Plus, no one can put you on a hand! It’s a little bit like playing poker in the dark!

Home Games - The More Promos, The BetterHome Games - The More Promos, The Better

Most poker players do not bluff anywhere close to high enough frequencies – you have the power to change that. As a home game host, you can offer incentives for big bluffs (For example, anyone who bluffs more than $50 wins a “jackpot”). 

Just like casinos build a bad beat jackpot, you can create a bad bluff jackpot

Remember, one of the main reasons people enjoy home games is it’s a more relaxed environment. They can feel comfortable bluffing their pants off. (And, hey, maybe they can even bet a pair of designer jeans, or shoes - or watches!) 

The seven-deuce game is another excellent way to encourage bluffs – you can even make it personal. Instead of 7-2, pick someone’s birthday or a favourite athlete’s jersey number. Just make sure you decide this ahead of time, so everyone is clear. 

Funky games are endless… 

  • Players can even have a “one time” to see an opponent’s card or cards. 
  • Another typical twist is requiring anyone who wins a pot to show a single card. 

Trust us, that’s a fun one. You’d be surprised how competitive someone can get when they’re shown a deuce… they want revenge! Payback time.

Finally, casinos have already figured out that advertising is the best way to get people excited about promos. Remind guests with your promos proudly displayed on a whiteboard or poster.

Heck, even tape a flyer to the wall. Anything you can do to keep the fun alive is a good thing. Out of sight is out of mind. 

If you want your promotions to have pull, you need to keep them front and centre.

#4 - Crowd Control

As a home game host, one of your essential responsibilities – if not the most crucial – is vetting your guests.

  • Especially if you have inexperienced players, you want to keep the game friendly
  • Protect them from being completely out of their league. 
  • Be thoughtful about the varying personality types and also the skill levels. 
  • Don’t feed fun-loving friends to sharks!

Home Game - Crowd ControlHome Game - Crowd Control

If you and your friends are all pros, then have at it! One of the best ways to improve is by playing against good players. 

You need to decide what the priority is – 

A casual, beginners game needs to be extra careful not to create skill gaps that make people uncomfortable. 

Maybe this isn’t your crew, though. 

If you have more advanced names on your guest list, feel free to invite a challenge. Sometimes sharks like battling fellow sharks.

Finally, nobody wants to be at a home game with dull and uninteresting people. (Can you say boring ??) Who do you know that is a chatterbox? If people can get the conversation going, they can often rev up the game. 

  • Action players are rare treasures. 
  • They give the game life – both monetarily and socially. 
  • Treat them like celebrities and roll out the red carpet.

#5 – Create an Appealing Ambience

If you want to be a successful home game host, prepare to go to Costco. You’re going to want to shop ‘til you drop. Guests like amenities.

Create an Appealing AmbienceCreate an Appealing Ambience

Three musts to include on your shopping list are the following -

  1. Snacks (avoid popcorn and finger foods. You’ll also thank me later when you have fewer crumbs on your carpet. Good, grabbable snacks include things that can go on a toothpick: cheese cubes, olives. Sushi works if you have chopsticks or want to do a group order. Resist the temptation to share a pizza. Greasy cards get gross.)
  2. Drinks if you please.
  3. Phone chargers.

Bigger-ticket items include the following – 

  • Big-screen TV
  • Unique decorations
  • “Mike’s Home Game” signs add a bit of personality and fun
  • Whiteboards or chalkboards to display your promos or big winners go a long way. 
  • Splurge on decent chips, buttons, or cards
  • An electronic card-shuffler pays for its weight in gold. Not everyone can shuffle cards, and many find it to be unappealing. 

If you’re not going to compete with the casinos by having a dealer, you’ll need to make up for it in other ways. 

  • Get that neon sign. 
  • Get those personalised whiskey glasses. 
  • Create a vibe that would make James Bond jealous.

BONUS TIP – Avoid with issues finding parking! Tell your friends to take an Uber.
 

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