Hosting First Home Game! - Looking For Tips (1 Viewer)

Nate_

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TLDR: Hosting my first game. 6 handed 25¢/25¢ with wide range of players. Looking for any tips or stories. Thanks!

I’ll be hosting my very first home game tomorrow night. Gonna be starting small with 5 close friends but I’m hopeful this can turn into something a bit more regular in the future. I was just wondering if y’all had any last second tips about hosting.

Plans are to have guys arrive at 6:30 and hopefully have cards on the table by 7. I’ll be providing snacks and drinks. The range of players is pretty wide and includes 2 newbies who have only played a handful of times, 3 pretty average players that have experience at a few home games and the occasional casino, and 1 player who’s actually pretty decent and plays quite a few tournaments. With that said, I’ve set the blinds at 25¢/25¢ to encourage more action and keep the 5¢ chips off the table. Buy in set to $25 (Barrel of 25¢ and $1) with an optional $5 chip add on in hopes of getting a few of them on the table early and bringing the buy in to $30. Unlimited $25 rebuys payed in $5s. Playing on an average foldout poker table with padded chairs and freshly oiled Apache Pharaohs. I’m planning on this game running ~3 hours but am prepared for more if it goes well.

I’m a little nervous about running the bank but I’ll do my best to keep accurate written records kept with the case of chips. Probably overthinking everything but I guess I’m really just looking for any thoughts y’all have about the game setup, tips about running the bank, or really just any funny stories about hosting your first game. Thanks!
 
I run a game with friends practically identical to this. In the past, I would exclusively deal and have everyone else rotate shuffling when some of the guys were new. It sped the game up significantly and allowed the new guys to learn quicker.
 
I run a similar game. Maybe a little bit bigger stakes, but when it comes to the bank I got one of those bankers bags on Amazon for cheap. I keep it in my Apache case with the chips, money goes in chips go out. I haven’t had a problem yet. Buy ins are usually in $20 bills. After getting all the .25¢ out at the start it’s pretty easy to keep track of handing out $5 chips for rebuys and have players make change on the table.
 
So this is a cash game, yes?

If so, go to your bank and get small bills to make change. You shouldn’t haven’t to keep a hand written paper, but if it helps, go for it I guess.

Also, I don’t agree with your blind / buy-in structure, it’s too tight. I’d consider increasing the buyin to $50, or decrease the blinds to 5¢/10¢. My opinion- better to have deeper stacks (at least 100BB) to start.

Sounds like you have a decent enough table and chairs, that’s really the most important part. And you have drinks / snacks ready, also a good host. So pat yourself on the back. Also, nice poker chips! You’re in great shape for a great game.

What game, NL Hold’em? Or dealers choice? If dealers choice, have some print outs with different poker variations and rules (pineapple, follow the queen, baseball, etc).

Think that’s pretty much it. Have fun!
 
I run a game with friends practically identical to this. In the past, I would exclusively deal and have everyone else rotate shuffling when some of the guys were new. It sped the game up significantly and allowed the new guys to learn quicker.
I'm not a fan of the dedicated dealer when you have green players in the game. A dealer can - and must - focus on the action, even when they are not in a hand. They will learn far faster when their focus isn't on "did that card help my hand" or "I folded... let me tell you a story".

Also, I don’t agree with your blind / buy-in structure, it’s too tight. I’d consider increasing the buyin to $50, or decrease the blinds to 5¢/10¢. My opinion- better to have deeper stacks (at least 100BB) to start.
With new players 100 BB is plenty. Rookie mistakes include (and primarily feature) calling with any ace, and thinking that a straight is great even though there are 4 cards to a flush on the table. Your job isn't to cater to the experienced players. Every experienced player remembers playing for chump-change, and they had fun (they are still playing, after-all). Your job is to scale the game back so the sheep get shorn, not slaughtered. Hopefully they get better, to the point they invite friends or spouses.

Other than that...
  • Have rules available in case of discrepancy and there is challenge to your ruling. Best to look it up and make everyone happy knowing things are being done right, than to enforce a ruling that others believe to be wrong.
  • As others have said, have change ready.
  • Let players know what the payout will be. If you are rounding down dollars to help cover your costs let them know before the first card is dealt (although that maximum rake of $3.75 wont even cover a bag of potato chips). If you plan to race fracs at the end of the night, let players know that as well, wether it's a tournament style high-card race or a flip where everyone with 1 or more gets a face up 2-card hand for all the change, or a flip where each frac gives you 1 card, and then you deal a flop/turn/river. Just let everyone know.
  • Rookies will make errors. Correct them and let them know why the rule exists. I've let green players string bets stand - but only the one time, and only when you are positive they weren't trying to angle-shoot. Educate, but no need to rap them on the knuckles with a ruler.
  • Have fun. This sounds pretty simple, but when you are teaching new players, you give up the right to get tilted. If the host is upset the whole room goes on edge. Put on a happy face. When the newbie calls your Ace-high flush all-in with 2 pair, let them know what their outs are. Then when he catches a boat on the river, you cheer with them. They feel good, they learn a little about outs. and your game thrives because everyone is having a good time.
 
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I run a very similar game. I would agree to get smaller bills to make change for the end of the night. I usually do my buy-in with $1 and $5. Everyone else will usually buy-in with $20's. Otherwise, keep it friendly and open. Let the game develop itself.
 
So how did the game go? Did you learn anything new that you didn't expect? I'm asking because I'm gonna start hosting but it's been a while so happy to hear your experience.
 
So how did the game go? Did you learn anything new that you didn't expect? I'm asking because I'm gonna start hosting but it's been a while so happy to hear your experience.
Thanks for the reply, it went very well! Most people showed up on time but I did have 1 no show. Ended up running 2 decks letting small blind shuffle and everyone picked up on it pretty quick. The action was good and we even showed the new guys a few hands of Omaha and a Bomb Pot or two. Game lasted about 4 hours in total and the blinds never changed from .25/.25. I think at its peak we had $160 on the table and and the biggest single pot got up to $40+. The bank sheet worked out and I’m glad I wrote down buyins/rebuys to balance everything at the end of the night because I did have a few Venmo’s as well. Probably unnecessary with close friends but good habit to make especially if the games get bigger. Getting a good bit of change was a must and I’m glad some guys on the forum commented on that. Probably made too much food and bought too much beer but that wasn’t a problem at all haha. All in all a good time. With that said I’m looking for this to become a bit more regular. This is probably pretty subjective but what do other hosts feel the best balance between games is?
 
This is probably pretty subjective but what do other hosts feel the best balance between games is?
Myself and the guys I play with are shift workers, and work a 4&2 schedule. We get a weekends off every 6 weeks, so I’ve been holding games the first Sunday/Monday we’re off. I could probably up it to every 3-4 weeks with the same turn out, but following this schedule I have always had a full table. It also seems that during the cold months people have more free time to play. I was holding monthly cash games over the summer and July was a bit of a bust with only 6 guys availability. But if you host they will come! Sounds like you ran a pretty good game!
 
Most people showed up on time but I did have 1 no show.
Totally standard. Plan to have a no-show every time you host.

Ended up running 2 decks letting small blind shuffle and everyone picked up on it pretty quick. The action was good and we even showed the new guys a few hands of Omaha and a Bomb Pot or two. Game lasted about 4 hours in total and the blinds never changed from .25/.25. I think at its peak we had $160 on the table and and the biggest single pot got up to $40+. The bank sheet worked out and I’m glad I wrote down buyins/rebuys to balance everything at the end of the night because I did have a few Venmo’s as well.
Are you doing cash for chips only, i.e., the incoming Venmos are going to someone with cash and the cash goes in the bank, or are you allowing both cash and Venmos to pay directly for chips, and you pay people back with a combination of cash and Venmo?

Probably unnecessary with close friends but good habit to make especially if the games get bigger. Getting a good bit of change was a must and I’m glad some guys on the forum commented on that.
My roll of active poker money is about 80% made up of $1s, $5s, and $10s for this reason. As you host more, try to cash people out with the largest bills possible, and hold onto as many small bills as possible, so you have them next time, just in case. Eventually you may find yourself having to offload the small bills too, which is a good problem to have.

Probably made too much food and bought too much beer but that wasn’t a problem at all haha. All in all a good time.
Awesome. This will keep people happy and coming back.

With that said I’m looking for this to become a bit more regular. This is probably pretty subjective but what do other hosts feel the best balance between games is?
Weekly. Same day, same time, every week, consistently, with only the occasional miss for holidays and such.

Think about how people build their routines. It's almost always on a weekly basis, right alongside work schedules.

If your game is weekly, it's more predictable for everyone and easier to recruit people into. "My buddy runs a poker game every Thursday at 6 PM. You want in?" Compare that to having to ask someone if he's interested in a game that has an erratic schedule with no continuity.

Even players who can only make it every other week or once a month will have an easier time fitting it in when they know the game goes off weekly.
 
Congrats on a successful night. In time, you will learn how much food and drink it will take for your sessions.
I have 8 regulars, and a spare list for my $0.25/$0.25 cash games. Unless there is an emergency, I seldom get any no shows, and if so, I can get one of my
spares to come fill in, so I'm fortunate in that regard.
I also provide free drinks and light snacks for our game from 6:30 -11:00pm
 
This is probably pretty subjective but what do other hosts feel the best balance between games is?
I also work shift work, getting 1 free weekend every 3 weeks. As such, we host a game every 6 weeks, with one 3-week interval thrown in. We once had a player that had child custody every other week, so we threw in the 3 week interval to get it off the every-other-week obligations.

Plan to have a no-show every time you host.
I think I have had 1 no-show since I started hosting around 2006.

I think the big difference here is that if you run a weekly game, it is far easier to miss, since there will be a game next week. Monthly games probably sport better attendance, since missing a game means waiting another month. In the (alleged) words of P.T. Barnum; "Always leave them wanting more!"

I also agree with the regular schedule. Because my work schedule is somewhat difficult for non-shift workers to grasp, I print a stack of schedules before the last game of the year for all the games in the new year. I have players that post it on their refrigerator, and others that plan their schedules (as best they can) around the Zombie games.
 
I host my game monthly, but put on the game flyer the projected future dates for the next 3 months. I post the monthly game on the "Band" app as an event and make people commit to an rsvp (cuts way down on the no shows). My game is from 6:30pm to 2:00am. I actually had to impose a hard stop at 2 otherwise some players would keep playing until the sun came up. If you find that players are routinely showing up late, start the night with a quick All-in or Fold tournament. I used to do that at the start of the night with a $5 scratchoff ticket as the entry with the last 2 standing splitting the tickets. It takes about 20-30 minutes to complete. That gets them in the door and in their seats right on time (added bonus: it gets the guys accustomed to moving chips around so that when the cash game starts they're making larger bets right from the start). Always keep plenty of change for cash outs. I always collect the buyin money, count it out loud and place it in front of me. Then cut out chips and tell the player to double check as I put the money in the bank. At the end of the night I cash everyone out one at a time. They count their chips, then I count their chips. If we both have the same number, I count out their cash. If we have different numbers, I count again. As long as you use a consistent system of doing the same thing in the same order every time you shouldn't ever have a problem with the bank being off. I actually don't have a min or max buyin for the game. We also play 25c/25c. Some guys buy in for $40, some $100. Usually it's the splashier players buying in bigger so it saves me trips back to the chip case for rebuys.
 
Pretty much what everyone else has said. I ask my players to show up with the initial buy in of 10's, 5', and 1's. After that they can buy in with $20's
 
At the end of the night I cash everyone out one at a time. They count their chips, then I count their chips. If we both have the same number, I count out their cash. If we have different numbers, I count again.
This. Otherwise, any shortfall is your problem - others may kick in funds, but it’s still your issue to solve.

Bonus: Use $20 chips. As indicated numerous times above, people use $20’s. A lot.
 
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This. Otherwise, any shortfall is your problem - others may lock in funds, but it’s still your issue to solve.

Bonus: Use $20 chips. As indicated numerous times above, people use $20’s. A lot.
Agreed… $20s just make so much sense for a cash game
IMG_4148.jpeg
 
Congratulations on your first successful game.

Over time, you’ll slowly discover all the little extra things you want to have on hand, based on your players.

For example, I found that my group rarely drinks any of the sodas I have on hand, but they will drink an incredible amount of seltzer if it’s available.

Phone chargers are another one for my gang. Always 1-2 people seem to be losing power but forgot their charger… So it’s handy to have at least one of all the standard chargers/cables on hand.

If you’re doing food: strong paper plates and napkins/paper towels, and ideally sturdy side tables, all really help to minimize grease and crumbs getting on the table.

After years of hosting, my mental list of these little things is very long, but there are just three typical ones.

The other thing I wanted to mention: It’s important either at the end of the night or before the next game to do a careful quality check on the decks of cards, to make sure that there are no dings or scuffs.

Even with better cards, I find it not uncommon to need to replace one or two after each game, though I’m probably being more cautious than necessary. I don’t like to see even the slightest imperfection that could be used to identify a card. Checking them under lighting which shows these well makes it a lot easier.
 
I found that snacks on the table always seemed to be in the way when dealing, so I got an idea to make pull out snack trays that would hold a paper bowl, or a plastic bowl. It was a big hit, and even with the bowl in the tray, it can be closed and opened as needed to get a snack.
I also purchased a tabletop ice making machine, and as the ice melts, it uses that water to make more.
 

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I found that snacks on the table always seemed to be in the way when dealing, so I got an idea to make pull out snack trays that would hold a paper bowl, or a plastic bowl. It was a big hit, and even with the bowl in the tray, it can be closed and opened as needed to get a snack.
I also purchased a tabletop ice making machine, and as the ice melts, it uses that water to make more.
Do you also have a mini Zamboni that drives around on the table?
 
As far as the game, ask the group about rules. Accept or veto them before the game starts. Make sure everyone is on the same page with basic rules like rabbit chasing, big chip rule, timer for player action, rat holing/going south etc.

Something I learned for the Bank is to keep the buyins separate from my change. I keep a few hundred in small bills for hosting. I had a game where my records were missing about 200 in buyins. It was just too fast and somehow I lost track. Also my cash box balance wasn't up to date, rookie mistake. This makes the chips the only record. And with all of the cash mixed together it was unclear if any other mistakes were made. One player said "just give him (big winner) whats left". They didnt understand all that cash wasn't just buyins. So next game I'll be keeping the buyins separate so I know said stack is all buyins and my change is out of the equation.

Good luck. Let us know how it goes.
 
That's awesome! @4SUMERZ you need to get one. I looked it up and it's pretty rare though. There's one on eBay for like $500 bucks but I just found one on Facebook in Michigan for $20. Maybe you could reach out and have him ship it to you?

https://www.facebook.com/marketplace/item/294909166547040/?mibextid=dXMIcH
:tdown:I'm surprised he's not paying someone to take it off his hands :D It can never happen, as my cloth was of the Montreal Canadiens...Cant have anything Leaf in my poker room...lol.
Actually, I have replaced that ice rink cloth to a Mirage theme cloth. If the CH ever get a decent team in the future, I may bring it back out of the closet.
Even my Leaf friends should have to bow to the table to be allowed to sit and play
I have a mini CH Zamboni as a card topper, but not remote :)
 

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