Sustainable Game With Friends That Aren't Poker Players (1 Viewer)

SteveEH

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I wanted to share my success story instead of typing bits of it over and over in multiple threads :)

I've been hosting regularly since the poker boom started in the early 00s. It started with my core group of friends from high school, but there are only 5 of us. In the poker boom days, I looked for random strange from bar tourneys, the internet, etc.. Most people were cool, but there were a couple of bad apples. This didn't sit well with me, and what sat worse was that I started losing some from my core friends. When I restarted my game post COVID lockdown, the core guys all showed up and it was great! But, the reality was that this was a post-lockdown one-off (it took another year for us to all get together). I needed to expand my player pool from my existing groups of friends that don't gamble/play poker much.

The results - SUCCESS! I now have a player pool of about 15 players that will return every couple of months, and my table is usually full or at 80%!

Note that I host 6 player CASH games. Way back we started with tournaments, but I don't want anyone busting out early because the point is to get together, play, and bullshit ALL night. Tourneys will work fine I'm sure, maybe even better, but a lot of the examples I talk about are based on cash games.

Here are the things that worked for me.

The Invitation

Screenshot_20220924-092844.png


Hold'em Image credit: https://www.pokerchipforum.com/resources/abby99s-mixed-game-cards.45/

Create an invitation that will resonate with your friends and communicate KEY info about the game. Mine is like a fancy restaurant's dinner menu. It's SOOOO good they don't need pictures or fluff...just black font on a white background. Here are the key points I communicate:
  • A feature drink and snack. Switch these up each game for variety. When people ask "what can I bring" I say nothing and mention what else is available in my bar. People still bring a bottle, beer, and/or snacks once in a while.
  • Buy in, stakes, and expect wins/losses for the night. A no limit example would be: "Buy in for an amount between $10 and $40, bring 3 buy-ins for the night, and expect to win/lose 1 or 2 of your buy-ins."
  • Betting structure. It's a hard sell for poker players and maybe even a hard sell for non-poker players that see all in shoves on TV, but I started with FIXED LIMIT. Not needing to think about bet sizing, or tough decisions makes it a lot easier and more social.
  • Game with high-level instructions. As much as I'd like to play dealer's choice with some old school spread limit Chicago High, make it Texas Hold'em. To non poker players Hold'em = Poker, and it's easy for them to pick up.
  • The cool poker stuff you have - table, chips, cards, etc..
Don't make it too complex. For example, I'm not communicating detailed rules, I'm going to ask them to trust me to explain the rules as needed, and try my best (like Nic Cage in the Rock).

Player Curation
For long term success, make it comfortable for your different groups of friends to get to know each other.
  • Curate each game by prioritizing a group of friends that know each other first. I have 3 groups: school, work, and neighbors.
  • As you're starting out, it's best if there's always a couple of people from each group that know each other. When I first expanded my player pool it was two of my neighbors with my school friends, then I did 2 neighbors with my work friends, etc...
  • As players from multiple groups start getting to know each other, your groups will evolve and become something like 2 neighbors and 2 work guys that have played together before.
  • Rotate different groups each game to keep them all engaged.

Communications
These are all individual text messages, not messages to the entire group.
  • 3 weeks out, I send the invitation to "group a," and follow up within the first week to communicate who's confirmed.
  • 2 weeks out if there are still seats available, I send out the invitation to "group b" and communicate who's coming (e.g. "my neighbors you've played with before").
  • 1 week out I follow up with all players "You still good for Saturday?" If anyone isn't, I reach out to wait list players, group c players, or a friend of a committed player that they'll vouch for.

Sustainability
Everyone must be comfortable with the stakes. Think long term, and make sure they're reasonable enough so buddy doesn't blow his wad the first night and never return.

I polled my group of school friends on what they were comfortable with. Their answers ranged from nightly wins/losses of $20 to $250, and we settled on about $40.

At some point poll your players to see what stakes they're comfortable with. I didn't ask the new guys until after they attended the first few games, which were designed to win/lose about $20 over the night. $20 has been a sweet spot for years - it's a good place to start (since then we've increased the stakes a little since we've moved away from fixed limit).

Hope this helps your game.
 

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Xzk1

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Really appreciate all this info @SteveEH !

This is really helpful as I'm looking to start doing home games with my friends.



The idea of fixed limit is actually great because new players won't really calculate bet sizings.
 

SteveEH

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The idea of fixed limit is actually great because new players won't really calculate bet sizings.

The only thing I don't like about limit is that I don't have a limit set! To be honest I get the itch to play NL sometimes, but I can't help but take it seriously and it isn't as fun. I'm more than happy to play anything if I can shuffle my chips :) Lately spread limit is the experiment - I'm looking for a little more balance to help satisfy a couple of degens in my group.
 
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NotRealNameNoSir

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Very well put together. We play 5c/10c and we've got friends who only expect to lose the $5 they put on the table and the others that bring the bottle plus $65 they dont expect to leave with; I treasure both these friends! World needs all kind of people lol.
 

TomC727

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Great idea.

I vary my games based on the audience.

I always put out a nice spread and my bar is fully stocked.

Cash games with 25c ante's, dealer calls it, max bet $20.
Tourney with $20 entry for the novice players
Tourney for $100 for primary players
NL Cash game minimum $100 buy in for my regulars.

All the above options depend on the primary audience. Last weekend, it was NL cash.

Next month will be an Ugly Sweater Christmas party for co-workers and family friends, so most likely a dealer calls it cash game.
 

cmoto

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Great info and detailed explanation. Thanks so much for sharing!
 

SteveEH

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Cash games with 25c ante's, dealer calls it, max bet $20.

So is this a .25-$20 spread limit game? If yes how much were players bringing for the night?

I was considering doing antes like we did back in the 80s and 90s. Every time try to get 7 card stud in people whine so I usually don't :(
 
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