Incentives for cash game attendance (1 Viewer)

Taghkanic

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I’m wondering if any cash game hosts have added some sort of incentive system to encourage players to show up as often as possible.

I know of lots of ways to incentivize tournament attendance, but not so many for cash.

When I used to host a two-table tournament, I structured things to encourage strong attendance.

Among these was a “special” tournament every six months, which had a significant amount of overlay in the pool, built up from small amounts reserved from buy-ins from the previous six months of game. In order to qualify for the special tournament, you had to have played in 60% of all the previous ones. So in effect, those who did not show regularly or subsidizing everyone else.

For cash games, I do have a high hand jackpot, which can build to a fairly substantial amount, since you have to have quads are better (using two cards) to qualify. This gives cash players an added reason to show up, so as not to miss out on the possibility of that windfall. But I don’t feel like it is all that much of a draw for most of my players, TBH.

I was thinking maybe of replacing the high hand with a 2x per year freeroll cash game, where players with strong attendance would get an 80BB “free” starting stack. (They could top off to more, and rebuy like a normal cash game.)

So: Wondering what people think of that idea and also what other potential incentives might be brought to bear to encourage more regular attendance.
 
Note that, as far as the set up and creature comforts of the game, I feel like I’ve pretty much maxed out those already.

I have a competent and amiable dealer, a big screen 4K projection TV, a nice spacious room with a bar, custom chips, and a Gorilla table with phone chargers and cupholders. Good food, snacks, sodas and beer on hand, tea and coffee, etc.

Plus, it’s an unraked game.

But somehow, I’m still always struggling on the day of the game to get us to more than six players. I had eight last week, which is perfect with a dealer… but I really had to work the phones to get it there.

And yes, I’m always trying to build the roster and recruit more bodies. It’s just a bit of a struggle in a low-population rural area, at the stakes that we play (2/5)… and we’re not yet ready to bump those down. But that’s another option.

The goal is to get to the point where the game fills up quickly and I have a waiting list if anyone gets sick/flakes out/gets shut down by their spouse (happening more often lately, IDK why).
 
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I’ve tried a few things with little to no success. Sometimes I’ll rake over a few games and add the money into our next tourney. But my favorite is just raking for freeroll $50 bomb pots every 45 min.
 

Agreed, though we do have lots of action.

Had a $3,500 pot recently, at the end of which the loser said, “Flip a coin, double or nothing? I’ll give you an extra 10% if you win!” (A: no)

One thing that may be limiting the player pool, other than the stakes, is that I would rate this as one of the tougher games in the area. Tougher than the nearest casino 2/5 games for sure.

We don’t really have any easy marks in the game, and I like it like that—we’re all trying to get better, not just win money. We’ve got at least one guy who has endless money, but he isn’t just blowing through buy-ins; he’s solid.

So maybe more high-variance stuff like bomb pots are needed.

But still looking for added incentive ideas.
 
This... that's all I need.

And a hot dog roller... action and a hot dog roller... and that's all I need.

And good whiskey... action, a hot dog roller, and good whiskey... and that's all I need.
And this lamp....
steve martin film GIF
 
I have the chance to have players that love to play in my MCPR so it is pretty easy :cool but my cash game incentives are :
A collectible chip for the winner related to the set we use that night
IMG_8690.jpeg

A trophy for the best player of the year (yes that means that I track the results of all members ;))
IMG_8689.jpeg
 
Getting a game up and running consistently for years depends on a few critical factors:
  • Consistency - do your players know they need to plan for this weekly/biweekly/etc?
  • Stakes - high enough to matter but not high enough to constantly break the donators until they can't/won't show anymore
  • Venue - table, chips, cards, chairs, bathrooms, drinks/snacks if game runs for several hours
That's the backdrop for success. Beyond that, you need to build a roster, which is a bigger deal than people realize. Your roster should evolve to have a core of regular attendees who can be counted on to be there time and again. This is more a function of the overall vibe of the players and how well everyone gets along. One or more difficult guys/gals who are a pain to be around can ruin a game. Beyond the regulars, you want to build out the roster to have enough players to get a full table (whether that's 6 or 8 or 10+). This typically means having a roster that is 1.5 times the number of players you want to actually show each game. Until your roster is large enough, you can incentivize your existing players to bring a guest on a given week (avoid letting random people show up, always prefer ones who know existing players). The first time those players show, you can consider giving the new player and the guy who brought them a 10BB equivalent number of chips (e.g. in a 1/3 game, give $30 to both for the first game). After that first game with the new player, circle back to the other regs and see what they think about the player's fit with your game. Some players may just not vibe with a given group and that's ok. Just don't add them to your regular roster and let the guy who brought them know so they can pass along the feelings of the group. Better to deal with all of that right away rather than have someone show for a while and then either start causing trouble or need to be uninvited later on. First impressions matter.

The game runner (the guy who is responsible for getting people to commit to playing) needs to start asking for attendees for the next game well in advance so they can reach out to the substitutes until there is a confirmed roster. If people are not good on their word when they say they are coming, the game runner can use their judgement to ask them less often or just drop them entirely. If guys can't show up on time and don't tell you beforehand they will be late (anything more than about 15 minutes), then they need to be reminded about being on time or notifying else they end up on the substitute list and scheduled less and less often.

Other than that, know which players generally get along with everyone but have one or two others they don't vibe with. Try to avoid getting them on the roster in the same week. Poker night should be fun, relaxing, and exciting. Avoid anything that makes it tense, frustrating, or difficult. It's doable and so worth it.

Good luck!
 
How big's your invite pool? It sounds like you're simply having trouble consistently scheduling a full table.

there are basically four of us who *always* play. It can get a bit stale if the table isn’t fuller than six.
Privately ask a few players outside of those four that you're doing an interest check. Once you got 2-3 yes, ask your four regulars.

If there's not enough interest, give up and pick another date.

If there's enough interest, you already have your 6-7 players. At that point, invite every else. "Only 2 seats left!"

Manufacture some urgency. To everyone outside of the regs you ask every single time, it will appear every time you want to get a game together seats fill up quickly.
 
Getting a game up and running consistently for years depends on a few critical factors:
  • Consistency - do your players know they need to plan for this weekly/biweekly/etc?
  • Stakes - high enough to matter but not high enough to constantly break the donators until they can't/won't show anymore
  • Venue - table, chips, cards, chairs, bathrooms, drinks/snacks if game runs for several hours
That's the backdrop for success. Beyond that, you need to build a roster, which is a bigger deal than people realize. Your roster should evolve to have a core of regular attendees who can be counted on to be there time and again. This is more a function of the overall vibe of the players and how well everyone gets along. One or more difficult guys/gals who are a pain to be around can ruin a game. Beyond the regulars, you want to build out the roster to have enough players to get a full table (whether that's 6 or 8 or 10+). This typically means having a roster that is 1.5 times the number of players you want to actually show each game. Until your roster is large enough, you can incentivize your existing players to bring a guest on a given week (avoid letting random people show up, always prefer ones who know existing players). The first time those players show, you can consider giving the new player and the guy who brought them a 10BB equivalent number of chips (e.g. in a 1/3 game, give $30 to both for the first game). After that first game with the new player, circle back to the other regs and see what they think about the player's fit with your game. Some players may just not vibe with a given group and that's ok. Just don't add them to your regular roster and let the guy who brought them know so they can pass along the feelings of the group. Better to deal with all of that right away rather than have someone show for a while and then either start causing trouble or need to be uninvited later on. First impressions matter.

The game runner (the guy who is responsible for getting people to commit to playing) needs to start asking for attendees for the next game well in advance so they can reach out to the substitutes until there is a confirmed roster. If people are not good on their word when they say they are coming, the game runner can use their judgement to ask them less often or just drop them entirely. If guys can't show up on time and don't tell you beforehand they will be late (anything more than about 15 minutes), then they need to be reminded about being on time or notifying else they end up on the substitute list and scheduled less and less often.

Other than that, know which players generally get along with everyone but have one or two others they don't vibe with. Try to avoid getting them on the roster in the same week. Poker night should be fun, relaxing, and exciting. Avoid anything that makes it tense, frustrating, or difficult. It's doable and so worth it.

Good luck!

All true… I just should mention that this game has been running in various formats since 2011.

I took it over about 10 years ago from a prior host. For most of my time it was a two-table tourney, a one-table 1/2 cash game after. Every two weeks. Strong attendance.

… Hiatus of 2+ pandemic years …

After that we switched to just one table of cash, in part due to initial reluctance by some to play (COVID concerns), which has since faded. Still, I don’t see going back to tournaments.

My contact list is about 25 people, mostly from the tournament days. But only half of those really ever really played cash.

We lost several key cash players, one to a heart attack, another moved, another to motherhood, and a fourt player’s job presents a conflict about 80% of the time. (If I still had all of those, it would be a snap to get a full table together.)

I’ve recruited several new faces, but these are more semi-regular than consistent.

So basically it’s a dozen realistic players, and I need 6-7 those plus for me.

I suspect that if I bumped down to 1/3 I could get a few of the old group back, but would lose at least two of the 2/5 crowd.

I am getting out to other games as much as possible, looking for players, but am also (in a small community) mindful of not poaching. Has to be someone looking for another game, rather than taking them away.

So! In the short term I want to encourage the core group to attend more. Hence the post.
 
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Agreed, though we do have lots of action.

Had a $3,500 pot recently, at the end of which the loser said, “Flip a coin, double or nothing? I’ll give you an extra 10% if you win!” (A: no)
The player who refused this passed on a free $175, basically. Bet he could have negotiated it up a couple percentage points too.

Tsk tsk, leaving money on the table.
 
Note that, as far as the set up and creature comforts of the game, I feel like I’ve pretty much maxed out those already.

I have a competent and amiable dealer, a big screen 4K projection TV, a nice spacious room with a bar, custom chips, and a Gorilla table with phone chargers and cupholders. Good food, snacks, sodas and beer on hand, tea and coffee, etc.

Plus, it’s an unraked game.

But somehow, I’m still always struggling on the day of the game to get us to more than six players. I had eight last week, which is perfect with a dealer… but I really had to work the phones to get it there.

And yes, I’m always trying to build the roster and recruit more bodies. It’s just a bit of a struggle in a low-population rural area, at the stakes that we play (2/5)… and we’re not yet ready to bump those down. But that’s another option.

The goal is to get to the point where the game fills up quickly and I have a waiting list if anyone gets sick/flakes out/gets shut down by their spouse (happening more often lately, IDK why).

Having played in a number of home cash games and having hosted a weekly game myself, two things stand out. One, what is the age range of your players? I have found the older the player pool, the more likely they are to prefer meals over pizza and snacks. I decided to make my game different by providing a home cooked meal to players. I would include what was on the menu when I sent out confirmation text messages to players each week. I would time it so the meal was ready to serve when the players showed up or shortly thereafter. Roughly two-thirds of the players partook in the dinner I cooked.

Two, I let the players in my group know that nothing good happens after midnight, due to a player who told me up front before I hosted my first game that his wife would be unhappy if he stayed out too late. I strictly enforced that rule by shutting down the game at quarter to 12. I know this helped me keep two regulars on the roster that I otherwise would have likely lost.

I currently live in a county that covers 2500+ sq. miles and has a population of 27,000.

During Covid, the host of the NLHE cash game I play in now dropped the blinds from $2/$5 to $1/$2 in an attempt to keep the seats filled. It worked. We still play $1/$2, and have no problem filling seats. In addition to the 10 players, we usually have two to three people on stand-by from week to week.

With the exception of one or two players who would buy-in for the table max of $500, players would buy-in for $300 when the blinds were $2/$5 and $500 when re-buying back into the game. Oddly, everyone continued to buy-in for $300 when the host lowered the blinds to $1/$2. The only thing that changed is players would rebuy back in for $300 instead of $500, even though the host put in place the rule that players could buy back in for $500 after 9PM. (The game runs from six to twelve, nine pm is the midway point.) The past few months, the majority of players are rebuying in for the table max. To please those players, the host changed the time to 8:30 as to when players are able to re-buy back in for $500.
 
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Just my opinion, but I think we have a stakes problem. If you are in a rural area withe lower population then the pool of people who already would enjoy 2/5 cash games is a limited. But there may be a pool of people out there that would be more comfortable playing lower stakes. Perhaps you can alternate stakes. Some nights lower and some nights 2/5. Get the lower stakes game regular enough and you may untap a few players willing to join your 2/5 game.

EDIT given some of your other suggestions.
Be wary that appeasing some (probably regulars) players with increased buy ins later in the evening will lose you some of the newer players.
 
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I’m wondering if any cash game hosts have added some sort of incentive system to encourage players to show up as often as possible.

I know of lots of ways to incentivize tournament attendance, but not so many for cash.

When I used to host a two-table tournament, I structured things to encourage strong attendance.

Among these was a “special” tournament every six months, which had a significant amount of overlay in the pool, built up from small amounts reserved from buy-ins from the previous six months of game. In order to qualify for the special tournament, you had to have played in 60% of all the previous ones. So in effect, those who did not show regularly or subsidizing everyone else.

For cash games, I do have a high hand jackpot, which can build to a fairly substantial amount, since you have to have quads are better (using two cards) to qualify. This gives cash players an added reason to show up, so as not to miss out on the possibility of that windfall. But I don’t feel like it is all that much of a draw for most of my players, TBH.

I was thinking maybe of replacing the high hand with a 2x per year freeroll cash game, where players with strong attendance would get an 80BB “free” starting stack. (They could top off to more, and rebuy like a normal cash game.)

So: Wondering what people think of that idea and also what other potential incentives might be brought to bear to encourage more regular attendance.
Sounds like you have an amazing setup! I am not sure how much of your friend's friends you have tapped into for building the roster, but you could always incentivize introducing new people to the game. We had a lower stakes two table event one time where I told 7 regulars to each bring friend that they think would be good for poker night and they vouch for. It ended up being a quick way to add 6 more people to the roster!

Also I know it may hurt lowering the stakes that you are used to, but doing so would make the game much more approachable to newcomers! (And an easier sell to people's wives who dont want them losing a ton of money)
 
Curious what people think about my one specific proposal (instead of a rolling high hand jackpot, doinh a periodic freeroll game for regs, where their first buyins are paid for).
 
I find regs already show up without special events/features targeting the regs. The high hand jackpot suits everyone and favours luck over skill which new players (and gamboolers) may prefer.
 
We have a facebook page. I post pictures of our dinner, big hands, and sometimes we do “splash pots” where I throw in litter tickets

Bomb pot buttons. Post pic to Facebook so people know they missed out
 
Spreading the word about the game among like-minded and at-first-glance trusted individuals.

No specific game features will ever attract casino or underground players, and, honestly, you do NOT really want them.

Guaranteed and verified honesty, friendliness and good hospitality is what shoud attract the right people to a home game.
 

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