How to Host a Poker Night

host poker night

Whilst the basic rules of Texas Hold’em don’t change, the nature and flow of a poker night is radically different to the environment of a casino. This article will explain what is needed for a poker night to both run effectively and be fun.

What is a Poker Night?

A poker night is a cash game or tournament hosted between friends at someone’s house. It can also be called a “home game”.

Planning a Poker Night

For a poker night to run smoothly, certain things need to be established before anyone walks through the door. If not, you will soon see disagreements, delays in starting and people complaining they are hungry or thirsty. You need to be organised and cover all the bases before starting your first poker night. The list below are all the parts of a poker night you need to have sorted in order to have it run smoothly.

Start Time

Everyone needs to know when you are starting, otherwise you will get people rocking up at different times and disrupting the flow. Starting in the early evening is best to avoid running too late.

Poker Table & Chairs

The most fundamental part of running a good poker night is to have a proper poker table and comfortable chairs. If you are planning on running a regular poker night, you should definitely invest in proper poker table. Check out the image below for the best poker tables and awesome deals. Using a poker table instead of a dining table makes the experience far more pleasurable for everyone.

Poker Chips

Needless to say you will need the best poker chips to play. One of the most fun things about poker nights is performing chip tricks. You can pick up a chip set relatively cheaply in places like Amazon or poker accessory stores. It’s important to ensure there is enough for the game to operate and that people will understand the denominations. You’d be surprised how often people accidentally under and over-bet.


Is it a cash game or a tournament? If cash game, what are the blinds going to be?

If tournament, what are the blind increments, starting stack and pay-outs going to be? Ideally, this needs to communicated to attendees in advance. You should give the structure a lot of thought. It needs to strike the right balance between not going on too long but also making sure the game has action and players get their money’s worth.

Buy Ins

It’s very important everyone understand how much they are likely to need when playing a poker night. There is nothing worse than people having “IOUs” because they didn’t bring enough cash. If you’re playing a tournament, it should be relatively straight forward, unless you’re playing a rebuy or bounty tournament.


Who will be dealing throughout the night? Sometimes it’s assumed it will alternate each hand but when you have people who are terrible at dealing, it slows the game and intensity. If there are a few that are quicker and efficient, it makes sense to rotate between the best dealers.

Poker Night Rules

This may seem strict but trust me it relieves pressure and potential arguments if house rules are printed and visible. We are living in the digital age so you can even PDF it and send round in advance. Or just print off hard copies and circulate at the start of the night.

The house rules should inform on etiquette, ethics and ad hoc rules including whether a tablet or phone is allowed at the table. They may seem trivial but you don’t want your poker night to descent into a drunken game of Texas Hold’em strip poker. See below for some good poker night rules:

  1. The game is Texas Hold’Em, with blinds starting at 10/20 chips. Blinds increase every 20 minutes.
  2. Minimum bet is the amount of the big blind. Maximum bet is 100 chips.
  3. Players act in turn clockwise from the dealer button. Dealer button rotates clockwise each hand.
  4. Players must act when it is their turn. Failure to act in 30 seconds forfeits their action.
  5. Players may fold, check/call, or bet/raise when it is their turn.
  6. All chips must remain on the table throughout the game. No cashing out early.
  7. Side pots will be established for players who are all in. Multiple side pots can exist.
  8. Players must keep their cards visible at all times. Cards speak for themselves when revealed.
  9. The winning hand is determined by the best 5-card poker hand using player’s hole cards and community cards.
  10. Winning hands must show cards immediately upon request to claim the pot.
  11. The host reserves the right to make final decisions on any disputes.
  12. Have fun! This is a friendly game.

Snacks & Drinks

It’s always a good idea to have food and drink bought in advance. This helps to appease the guy who loves coca cola and Doritos while he is playing. Some poker nights can drag on too so players may need a little sustenance.

Last Thoughts

Poker nights with friends can be a lot of fun. The banter, food and pride of beating friends makes them an enjoyable and memorable experience.

It’s important to remember that there are varying degrees of ability between home games and the players that play them too. Not everyone is proficient and experienced as you may be. Make sure the stakes are reasonable and the intensity of the poker night is fitting of the players that are attending.  

I hope you found this article useful. Remember to have fun, win money and gamble responsibly.

Narciso Baldo is the Director and Head Coach of Texas Hold'em Questions. He has been playing poker for over 16 years. After spending many years as a professional, he now runs UK poker training site Texas Hold'em Questions. Narciso regularly writes poker articles sharing tips, strategy, news and experience with gambling enthusiasts. Narciso also writes for reputable gambling portal Casino City Times, (bio here). Contact: