How to find players for a new home game?

Flawed_Titan

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Hello all, this is my first post so please be nice to the newbie!

I have been playing poker with some friends on and off for about a year. I recently went up to AC and had a hell of a time playing with regulars in a 1/2 game and almost doubled up. Now, you gotta understand: I’m a new player. I love watching, reading, playing, and learning everything I can about poker but that doesn’t mean that I’m good. With semi-monthly games for a year I have only about 15-20 games under my belt. Yet, I have still decided to build a 6 seat table (will be finished in ~week) and have purchased chips from Apache.

I hope to create a home cash game with 6-8 handed group. The stakes will be .10/.20 with $20 buyins and probably capped to three but ins. I’ve got 2 guys that would be regulars weekly. The big question/point of this post is this: how do you all pick up new players? How do you vet them? When do you decided a player shouldn’t be invited back? How do I manage my home game properly?

My ideal response is a step-by-step checklist of how you all started and manage your own cash games!

Cheers!
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Taghkanic

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Do you play in any home games or social hall games in your area? I would try to get out and play as much as possible and keep an eye out for others who might want to play more often.

Also ask your two friends who are already interested if they know anyone who might join.
 

Flawed_Titan

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For those of you wondering, it’ll play like a 1/2 chips but each chip-dollar being only worth $.10
Do you play in any home games or social hall games in your area? I would try to get out and play as much as possible and keep an eye out for others who might want to play more often.

Also ask your two friends who are already interested if they know anyone who might join.
the problem is that we don’t know anyone who would want to play. I recently heard about the world tavern poker league. There’s a bar near me that hosts, maybe I should try to pirate their players?

Once you find a player to invite, what do you do to invite/indoctrinate them? It would be a bummer for them to show up, lose their stack on tilt and never show up again. I would generally like to avoid any awkward situations but new players are all a random grab bag… how do you decide who to invite?
 

Poker Zombie

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You get players the same way you get friends. Go out, meet people. If they seem cool, invite them over for cards.

Most of my group are friends of friends, most stemming from the coworker tree. When people ask "what did you do this weekend", tell them about your game. If there is an interest, invite them by. It's not really that complex.
 

Poker Zombie

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Once you find a player to invite, what do you do to invite/indoctrinate them? It would be a bummer for them to show up, lose their stack on tilt and never show up again. I would generally like to avoid any awkward situations but new players are all a random grab bag… how do you decide who to invite?
I host mostly tournaments. With new players we use a blind structure that starts deep and slow, to "assure" at least 2 hours of play. We allow for one, and only one rebuy per player, so Mr Deep Pockets can't intimidate the table, but allows for that unfortunate cooler to be eased with another $20.

In the end, you are providing an entertainment experience. What would you want for your $20 of fun?

Also, and I have said this dozens of times... invite friends and their spouses.
 

Flawed_Titan

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You get players the same way you get friends. Go out, meet people. If they seem cool, invite them over for cards.

Most of my group are friends of friends, most stemming from the coworker tree. When people ask "what did you do this weekend", tell them about your game. If there is an interest, invite them by. It's not really that complex.
I guess the pandemic has destroyed my social skills. Time to get back on the horse.
 

Flawed_Titan

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I host mostly tournaments. With new players we use a blind structure that starts deep and slow, to "assure" at least 2 hours of play. We allow for one, and only one rebuy per player, so Mr Deep Pockets can't intimidate the table, but allows for that unfortunate cooler to be eased with another $20.

In the end, you are providing an entertainment experience. What would you want for your $20 of fun?

Also, and I have said this dozens of times... invite friends and their spouses.
How do you feel about a shared financial interest in the game between spouses? I mean, at a $20 game there shouldn’t be any problems, but I’d like to get into $200 games.

I do understand inviting people and their spouses is helpful, though. I have fun with my wife and my friends wives around.
 

Poker Zombie

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I guess the pandemic has destroyed my social skills. Time to get back on the horse.
I've never had social skills.

I have Mrs Zombie though. She's the outgoing one, and the main draw into our group. I'm happier to dive into spreadsheets and statistics, and cook a good meal for the group.
How do you feel about a shared financial interest in the game between spouses? I mean, at a $20 game there shouldn’t be any problems, but I’d like to get into $200 games.
One of my spreadsheets tracks players and how they perform against their spouses. Only once have we had to explain that "soft play" was illegal (she honestly did not know). Most of the time, spouses are out for their better-half's blood. I mean, if I'm running hot, I'm taking Mrs Zombie down, and using those chips to give me an edge.

Don't get me wrong though. Spouses have better reads on each other than two random opponents. That's just good poker.
 

Flawed_Titan

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I've never had social skills.

I have Mrs Zombie though. She's the outgoing one, and the main draw into our group. I'm happier to dive into spreadsheets and statistics, and cook a good meal for the group.
I’m the same way. But I’m not sure I understand — What kind of sheets can you build on poker night?

The cooking is sometimes my favorite part of the night. It’s always nice seeing one person get up and grab a plate, then everyone else sees him sit down with his food and the whole table gets up for some.
 

Glacier

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Our bigger game is comprised of fraternity Alumni. We have games 2-3 times a year.

Other games are comprised of mostly other parents with hang out with due to our kids playing sports, dance, or other extra curricular activites.
 

Poker Zombie

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I’m the same way. But I’m not sure I understand — What kind of sheets can you build on poker night?
Who was knocked out by who is the biggest one. It includes the level they were eliminated, and if they rebought. From there it becomes derivative. Such as did the player cash? Who was at the table? Attendance. Which blind structure was used? Who had position on who?

Our games are usually 2-3 table events, but they were once small affairs of 4-6 people, like yours. Stats may seem pretty boring early on, but as the group grows, they really become fascinating (to me at least).
 

Taghkanic

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Stats may seem pretty boring early on, but as the group grows, they really become fascinating (to me at least).

I’ve kept stats on my tourney for years, and also kept them for a couple years for the prior host before I inherited the game. These are very illuminating to review, especially over a long period.

I can see who has gotten better, who has gotten worse, and who just keeps treading water. I have a sense of how much each player is up or down over the long term, and what each of their ROIs are. I came up with some formulas to create the equivalents of batting averages or ERAs, adjusting for how often people played and where they placed.

Unexpected things pop out (such as a couple players who are always around the bubble, but rarely win… which suggests to me that they are playing too carefully in the middle stages of the tourney, letting themselves get short, then not playing smart short stack strategies).

The best and worst players are obvious without looking at the data. But there are others in the upper and lower brackets who are less obvious. You also can spot the “BINGO” players whose results cluster around early bust-outs or high placement, with little in-between.

The sheets also became of renewed interest after I and another reg started investigating persistent cheating suspicions against one player. The decision to oust him from the game was based on close observation of his gameplay and card manipulation alone.

But looking at the sheets after we reached our conclusion, it was even more obvious what an outlier the cheater’s results had been—several orders of magnitude above even the 2nd and 3rd best performers. Way beyond normal variance even for a strong player, over a long period in a two-table tourney.

Getting back to finding players: When you’re building a game from scratch, I guess you can’t be too picky about who you invite. But one always wants to keep an eye out for cheats, especially colluders.
 
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Chawks45

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Connect with local PCFers.

I already had a good rotation of players, which included @MIZ, over the years. Then, I met KC metro PCFers @Grandmasturkey, @tdccarpenter , @Chester Copperpot, all of whom are now regs at my game. Recently chatted with another local, @Pawn38, who will join the table the next time I host. It's great because we talk chips much to the chagrin of non-chippers at the table, have some giveaways on occasion among us and get to build camaraderie among like-minded peeps.

While they're not in the KC metro but in close enough proximity, @bsdunbar1, @DoubleEagle, @RowdyRawhide, @DMack, among others in the region, have a standing invite to my game whenever they're in town.
 

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For those of you wondering, it’ll play like a 1/2 chips but each chip-dollar being only worth $.10

the problem is that we don’t know anyone who would want to play. I recently heard about the world tavern poker league. There’s a bar near me that hosts, maybe I should try to pirate their players?

Once you find a player to invite, what do you do to invite/indoctrinate them? It would be a bummer for them to show up, lose their stack on tilt and never show up again. I would generally like to avoid any awkward situations but new players are all a random grab bag… how do you decide who to invite?
If you really don’t know anyone that would play than definitely go play at the bar league. If it was me I would have to get to know a complete stranger pretty well before I invited them to a game but you may be able to network and find decent people.
Most novice players gravitate toward tournament style poker either because it’s what they see on TV or because they think there is less risk of loss. That said, in my experience, tournament style is not a good option for a regular game…..especially if people have to drive some distance. It would suck to drive an hour to bust out in an hour.

I’d do a .25/.50 or even .25/.25 cash game

The beauty of cash is people can come and go all night and you can start when you feel you have enough people. This is very common in my game. I usually get 8-10 people who commit but usually 3-4 have to come late. So I will start when 5-6 players are present. Shortly we end up with a near full table. At least one person has a bad night and calls it quits early but we usually get a text from a guy who thought he couldn’t make it but is asking if we are still playing. It is very common to end the night with a full table but with some different players than we started with. I have a text chain with about 15 guys to get enough players.
 

Brushbroom

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Being in the navy I move a bunch, so my games are always cats I work with. I’m also not put off by teaching new players how to play. Now most of my regulars are dudes I taught but now pretty dang good. Like others have said, meet people and ask if they want to play. With your stakes low, that will make new players less intimidated I would think.
 

Flawed_Titan

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Who was knocked out by who is the biggest one. It includes the level they were eliminated, and if they rebought. From there it becomes derivative. Such as did the player cash? Who was at the table? Attendance. Which blind structure was used? Who had position on who?

Our games are usually 2-3 table events, but they were once small affairs of 4-6 people, like yours. Stats may seem pretty boring early on, but as the group grows, they really become fascinating (to me at least).

I’ve kept stats on my tourney for years, and also kept them for a couple years for the prior host before I inherited the game. These are very illuminating to review, especially over a long period.

I can see who has gotten better, who has gotten worse, and who just keeps treading water. I have a sense of how much each player is up or down over the long term, and what each of their ROIs are. I came up with some formulas to create the equivalents of batting averages or ERAs, adjusting for how often people played and where they placed.

Unexpected things pop out (such as a couple players who are always around the bubble, but rarely win… which suggests to me that they are playing too carefully in the middle stages of the tourney, letting themselves get short, then not playing smart short stack strategies).

The best and worst players are obvious without looking at the data. But there are others in the upper and lower brackets who are less obvious. You also can spot the “BINGO” players whose results cluster around early bust-outs or high placement, with little in-between.

Mr Burns Excellent GIFs | Tenor

Ah yes, the glory of keeping numbers. I used to play an MMO called EvE Online. Many have called it spaceships and spreadsheets... I've spent hours learning how to pull data from the internet automatically into a spreadsheet, applying equations, and creating functions between multiple sheets. I love that stuff, myself.

I look forward to starting my game up and keeping up with stats! Thanks for the ideas, folks.
 

Flawed_Titan

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Someone linked me in the "Locations" thread. I was thinking about PMing some of the people on the list near me. Is that poor etiquette or do you think it'll be fine?
If you really don’t know anyone that would play than definitely go play at the bar league. If it was me I would have to get to know a complete stranger pretty well before I invited them to a game but you may be able to network and find decent people.
Most novice players gravitate toward tournament style poker either because it’s what they see on TV or because they think there is less risk of loss. That said, in my experience, tournament style is not a good option for a regular game…..especially if people have to drive some distance. It would suck to drive an hour to bust out in an hour.

I’d do a .25/.50 or even .25/.25 cash game

The beauty of cash is people can come and go all night and you can start when you feel you have enough people. This is very common in my game. I usually get 8-10 people who commit but usually 3-4 have to come late. So I will start when 5-6 players are present. Shortly we end up with a near full table. At least one person has a bad night and calls it quits early but we usually get a text from a guy who thought he couldn’t make it but is asking if we are still playing. It is very common to end the night with a full table but with some different players than we started with. I have a text chain with about 15 guys to get enough players.
Yeah, I'll stick to micro cash games for a while. I'll try and sniff around the tavern games, but I'm also wary of inviting randoms into the game... But I suppose that's just how it works.
Being in the navy I move a bunch, so my games are always cats I work with. I’m also not put off by teaching new players how to play. Now most of my regulars are dudes I taught but now pretty dang good. Like others have said, meet people and ask if they want to play. With your stakes low, that will make new players less intimidated I would think.
Being relatively new, and taught by a friend, I wouldn't mind teaching new players to play. I also used to be a tutor in college, and I always loved it.
 

Poker Zombie

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Someone linked me in the "Locations" thread. I was thinking about PMing some of the people on the list near me. Is that poor etiquette or do you think it'll be fine?
As the guy that manages the PCF map, I have always been under the impression that the reason people ask to put their name on the map is so people can look them up.

I don't take any names off the map (unless requested), and a fair number of people have logged on, asked to be placed on the map, and then disappeared from PCF forever. As such, I would look to see if someone was still active on the forum before PM'ing them.

I would also be very careful before inviting just anyone to a home game. PCF is full of great people, but it has had a couple of bad apples - as any community does. I now have 2 regulars in my game I would not have met if not for PCF (or it's predecessor, CT). That's 2 players in 11 years.

I vet very carefully.
 

Flawed_Titan

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As such, I would look to see if someone was still active on the forum before PM'ing them.
Makes sense.
I would also be very careful before inviting just anyone to a home game. PCF is full of great people, but it has had a couple of bad apples - as any community does. I now have 2 regulars in my game I would not have met if not for PCF (or it's predecessor, CT). That's 2 players in 11 years.

I vet very carefully.
Any tips on vetting, or is it more of a gut feel kinda thing?
 

Poker Zombie

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Makes sense.

Any tips on vetting, or is it more of a gut feel kinda thing?
Vetting from PCF, I look for a number of things. How long have they been a member? What is their "feedback" on buying/selling? Read their posts and figure out what they are like, and if that personality would fit with my regular stable of players.

I also poached a handful of players from a MeetUp.com group I played with for about a year - 1.5 years. In that time there were people I truly enjoyed seeing at my table, so when I decided to leave that group, I invited those that I liked - and except for one that moved to California, they are all regulars now.

Again, it's not a quick experience. I tell my players to invite someone if they think they would be a good fit (no haters, and these days no COVID deniers) and they would trust them babysitting their children. I want - even demand - that level of trust from my players. I don't lock down my house on poker night. I dont hide prescription painkillers in my bathroom. I don't have a lockbox for buy-ins (even low stakes turns into a lot of money with a lot of players). So I need to have some level of trust.

I know a local game where the host plays out in a fully furnished barn. He doesn't have to worry about theft, because the house is off limits. He keeps the money in a lockbox, and a couple people are armed in case someone tries to get aggressive. However, that is a much bigger game. Players aren't necessarily friends. So his selection process is very different from mine.
 

Flawed_Titan

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Vetting from PCF, I look for a number of things. How long have they been a member? What is their "feedback" on buying/selling? Read their posts and figure out what they are like, and if that personality would fit with my regular stable of players.
Gotchya, I suppose looking through how they post can be at least somewhat insightful to what kind of person they may be.
I also poached a handful of players from a MeetUp.com group I played with for about a year - 1.5 years. In that time there were people I truly enjoyed seeing at my table, so when I decided to leave that group, I invited those that I liked - and except for one that moved to California, they are all regulars now.
I'll check it out.
Again, it's not a quick experience. I tell my players to invite someone if they think they would be a good fit (no haters, and these days no COVID deniers) and they would trust them babysitting their children. I want - even demand - that level of trust from my players. I don't lock down my house on poker night. I dont hide prescription painkillers in my bathroom. I don't have a lockbox for buy-ins (even low stakes turns into a lot of money with a lot of players). So I need to have some level of trust.

I know a local game where the host plays out in a fully furnished barn. He doesn't have to worry about theft, because the house is off limits. He keeps the money in a lockbox, and a couple people are armed in case someone tries to get aggressive. However, that is a much bigger game. Players aren't necessarily friends. So his selection process is very different from mine.
Jeeze, I never thought about medications or even locking up the buy ins. Never had to think about it... Kinda don't want to have to do that either, but I would if I had to -- at least to get a regular game started up.

All in all, a lot to think about, I suppose. Thanks, Zombie, for all the info/tips/responses on my posts!

And, of course, thank you to everyone else who has weighed in! I'll try to remember to post a pic of the small table I'm building, and let you all know how it goes getting a game started up.
 

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You get players the same way you get friends. Go out, meet people. If they seem cool, invite them over for cards.

Most of my group are friends of friends, most stemming from the coworker tree. When people ask "what did you do this weekend", tell them about your game. If there is an interest, invite them by. It's not really that complex.
And show them photos of your setup. Make people thirst to come to your game!

Nice quality table. I built mine. Take your time and do it right!
Best seating for your players that you can afford. Search Facebook Marketplace/Sales in your area.
Nice quality cards. I also have the Copags!
Nice chips. The Monte Carlos are a nice starter chip set in my opinion, but this is a chip forum and you will soon find yourself looking for better chips.

Player pool is tough as you are inviting people into your home. Be very selective! I have a group of 10 and get seven to eight when we play.

Start with coworkers and casually bring up that you play cards and you'll find a lot more people interested than you think.
 

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PARADOX

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How do you feel about a shared financial interest in the game between spouses? I mean, at a $20 game there shouldn’t be any problems, but I’d like to get into $200 games.

I do understand inviting people and their spouses is helpful, though. I have fun with my wife and my friends wives around.
That's way too much for a casual home game. At $200 per game people are going to go to a casino.

My players like $25 ($20 to prize pool. $5 bounty) tournaments with a T10000 stack and one rebuy within first four levels. This way they know that the most they will lose is $50. We also play two tournaments with a supper break in between. Total play time of about six hours.

When we have played cash games, it's been .25/.50 NLHE. I'm considering dropping the stakes to .10/.25 and mixing in some limit games so things don't get stale.
 
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