Poker, the game of champions, the fulfiller of dreams and a great way to spend time with your friends. Unfortunately, as students, we can’t afford trips to the local casino every weekend, so what are we to do? The poker home, that’s what. But before you go inviting everyone in your WhatsApp group around for a few hands, you better get a handle on hosting the perfect home game. So, forget everything you thought you knew about playing poker at home. Follow our guide and learn how to do it right.

Choose Your Players

Before you even mention the idea of a poker home game to any of your friends, you need to think carefully about the people you want sitting around your table. Just because some folks are good friends, doesn’t mean that they’ll make good poker buddies. So, what should you be looking for in potential poker companions?

Your ideal poker buddies need to be good at losing because in a home game everyone loses a hand at some point. If anyone in your circle tends to get all huffy and sulky when things don’t go their way, they probably won’t enjoy a poker night.

In fact, they also need to be patient because if poker stats for the average player are anything to go by, they’ll fold much more than they play.


You also want to avoid inviting friends that are not interested in card games. Poker nights can last for hours on end, and if boredom sets in, they’ll probably want to turn on a DVD and Star Wars in surround sound does not a good background noise make.

But of all the friends in your squad, we’d suggest the phone addict is the one you want to avoid. Nothing and we repeat, nothing ruins a buzz more than someone on their phone or taking pics of the table. They’d probably have more fun at home on their own anyway.

What you’re looking for are close friends that have a solid interest in gaming of some sort and that are happy enough to lose as often as they win. Oh, and make sure you have at least four players, but any more than eight and the game and night will be much harder to keep under control.

Choose Your Setting

Once you’ve got your select group nailed down, it’s time to choose your setting. Now, this is far more important than you think. Of course, the bedroom makes no sense at all, but if there are other flatmates to consider, then it might be your only option. Ideally, though, you’ll make sure that you have the place to yourselves for the evening to avoid distractions.

The kitchen table is the obvious impromptu poker table, but that that might not be an option if there’s a chance that someone will want to cook or turn on the wash in the middle of the game.

Choose the setting where you’ll all have the fewest distractions, and if that means the garden (weather permitting), then outside you go. Once the setting and seating are comfortable, then you should be good to go.

Get the Food and Drinks In

You’d be surprised how hungry you can get playing cards, but it does happen. So, make sure you have plenty of food in the house or better still, get your poker buddies to each bring something over.

But forget the salads and Rogan josh, what you need are easy-to-eat snacks that are NOT messy. Anyone arrives with Doritos, send them home. You don’t want that orange stuff all over your cards.

Make a list of suitable snacks and drinks and then find out who wants to bring what. This way, everyone can bring something they like, and there’ll be no complaints halfway through the night.

Prep the Table

No, a quick wipe with the kitchen cloth won’t do (although it’s a good start). What we’re talking about here is giving your friends that authentic poker night feeling. If your budget stretches that far, you can head down to the local craft shop and buy a sheet of green felt. Lay it on your kitchen table and tape the edges to the underside of the tabletop. Yes, it’s DIY, but it makes a big difference in the atmosphere.

You’ll also need at least two brand-new unopened decks of cards. Of course, there’s no chance you’re going to pull a fast one on your friends but ripping the plastic off the deck before getting started adds to the whole “this is a real poker night” feeling.

We’d also suggest buying a few packs of poker chips, and you can get these and your cards for next to nothing online. There are plenty of poker shops that will sell you cheap, colorful poker chips and deliver them straight to your door, and this thread on a board game forum has some great suggestions on where to order. You also should do this because let’s face it, who wants to play with matchsticks?

Real poker chips make a huge difference in the game.

Real poker chips make a huge difference in the game.

Learn Your Hands

If you’re all novices to the game, then this is an essential step in the process. To avoid any confusion or sulks later in the evening, at least one of you has an understanding of how each hand ranks against others.

In an ideal world, you’ll have at least one player who knows their stuff and who is patient enough to put up with a bunch of noobies asking silly questions. If that’s not possible, then make sure that everyone reads up a little on the basics, so you can get the game going as soon as possible.

Don’t Take It Seriously

And probably the best piece of advice we can give you is this: don’t take it too seriously. Poker is fun, and your kitchen table is not a table at the Ritz or the Hippodrome, so don’t let things get out of hand.

If you’re playing for money, then keep it friendly. Keep all bets small and place a limit on the pot. This means that once the pot reaches a specific limit, no more bets can be placed. The idea here is that no player will win or lose too much on a single hand.

Now, think carefully about what your limits should be. What might seem like a small amount at first can add up to a substantial win or loss. And you don’t want anyone at the table feeling taken.

Do it right, and your poker home game can become the highlight of your monthly social calendar. It’s a cheap, fun way to spend time with your friends and cuts down on expensive nights out. As far as nights in go, the poker night beats DVD and pizza night every time. So, give it a chance and who knows, you and your crew might even become solid poker players.