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Hosting a Home Poker Game

Texas Holdem Poker is rapidly becoming a popular past time at home with regular games popping up all over the world. If you host a home game, it is important to make sure that you know not only the rules in case of a dispute, but how to run any games so that all the players have a good time and it all goes off without a hitch. Below are some pointers to help you achieve this:

1) Know the rules thoroughly - in any home game, if there are players that are not well versed at the game, there can be disputes over how to handle a situation. As host, it is imperative that you know how to handle every single possible situation and that you know each of them with certainty. There is nothing worse than having a dispute settled by someone who is clearly not sure, especially if you are on the receiving end of the decision! I recommend that you go to my Complete Texas Holdem Rules page, download the set of rules and learn them if you are unsure on any aspect and plan to host a game.

2) Set up some 'house rules' - the good thing about home games is that you can set up some house rules which avoid any grey areas, keep players in check and also add fun to the game with things like 'Dealer's Choice' nights. For example, you should implement rules on things like heckling other players, talking about hands, requesting to see mucked cards and many, many other things so that players know where they stand and other players interests are protected. The rules will vary from home game to home game so be aware that your players will need to know what these are prior to the start.

3) Get the blind and chip levels right - this is without a doubt the number one problem people come up against when hosting a tournament home game - getting the levels right to ensure the game is not too short or too long and that the game does not degenerate into an all-in fest late on! Most tournaments have blind levels based on time limits rather than number of hands played but either is an acceptable method. Generally, 10-12mins is about right for the levels so long as the blinds are not going up too quickly. The online card rooms are a good place to see the levels in action since they all have slightly different systems. Some work well, while others are not so good - the levels below are based on my observations from the 15 or so online poker rooms I have played online tournaments at (note that XX/XX means SB/BB):

Starting chips: 1500 -- Blind levels increase every 10 minutes

Level 01 : 10/20
Level 02 : 15/30
Level 03 : 25/50
Level 04 : 50/100
Level 05 : 75/150
Level 06 : 100/200
--First Break--
Level 07 : 100/200 + 25 ante
Level 08 : 150/300 + 25 ante
Level 09 : 150/300 + 50 ante
Level 10 : 200/400 + 50 ante
Level 11 : 200/400 + 75 ante
Level 12 : 300/600 + 75 ante
-- Second Break--
Level 13 : 300/600 + 100 ante
And so on.....

This system works for any sized tournament game but will of course require chips to change denomination as the game goes on (unless you have about 10,000 chips) because you need some $10 chips for the first 2 levels but then they become obsolete as the minimum bet becomes 50 and small blind is 25. Remember that this is just a guide, you can choose the chips levels however you like but the above system means that the first hour is a skilful affair without the need to be getting all your chips in too early and as the game moves into the second hour, things start to hot up nicely.

4) Keep your players happy - if you want to be thought of as a good host, and run a good quality home game that keeps people coming back, make sure that you keep the players well fed and watered! Some hosts collect a small flat fee from each player at the start of the night/season to cover food and drinks and this is a good way to keep everyone happy while not shelling out too much of your own money. If you have a system whereby each player takes a turn hosting the games, pull your weight and don't be the host that scrimps on providing the players with what they are after - remember that a happy poker player will often spend more money than an unhappy one!

5) Make sure you are well stocked - spare sets of cards, sufficient numbers of chips and enough seating for everyone to be comfortable are a pre-requisite to a good game. The last thing you want is to have someone bend a card and then not be able to replace it straight away. Also, running out of chips is a cardinal sin of the home game host, don't let it happen!

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