Building the Perfect Home Game
Sept 16, 2005  
by Jason Kirk  

Poker is a great game for a lot of reasons. There's the money to be won, which is an obvious draw for a lot of people. Then there's the opportunity for competition. Two of my personal favorite reasons are that you can spend time with good people, and that you play the game literally anywhere. When you put those last two reasons together, you're talking about the beginning of a home game. Having a home game doesn't necessarily mean settling for a lesser experience than playing at a card room. It's neither difficult not extremely expensive to equip your game so it feels more like you're playing a real game of poker. The internet is the best thing someone planning a regular home game could ask for - all the poker products in the world are right at your fingertips, and you can shop around and compare prices without leaving the house. A few basic ingredients are the quickest way to make your game better: a set of chips, a deck of plastic cards, and a poker table.

Poker Chips

Most anyone who's played in home games for any amount of time is probably familiar with those wafer-thin tricolor plastic chips that get sold at Wal-Marts the world over as "poker chips." There's no way to make your own game feel less like the big leagues than to fool around with these things. A set of clay poker chips goes a long way toward making your game feel more like the same game you'd be playing in a casino. These chips are actually made of heavier and more durable materials than clay these days, and under normal game circumstances a set will last you a lifetime.

Most of the chips you'll find for sale today are 11.5g chips made of composite materials, though occasionally you'll see sets of 13.5g chips available as well. The 11.5g chips feel closer to those you'd use in a casino, but outside of that there's very little real difference so far as how they affect game play - anything that's not plastic does the job! You can buy generic chips or custom-printed chips, in aluminum cases or wood cases, in sets of 300, 500, or 1,000. The best news of all is that prices on these sets have never been lower than they are today - you could literally pay as little as $40 for what cost $100 two or three years ago. Type "poker chips" into Google to see everything that's available.

Plastic Cards

The one other simple thing that can make your home game feel like a big game in no time is to use a deck of plastic playing cards. These cards are nearly impossible to mark, never lose their shape, and best of all are washable. Don't confuse plastic cards with plastic coated cards, which are made of paper and have a coating applied to them. The cards you want to use in your home game are those made of 100% PVC plastic. For the longest time the only ones widely available were KEM plastic cards, and those tended to run in the range of $25-35. Now, though, a quick glance at any online poker supply retailer will show some decks as low as $3-4 from other manufacturers like Royal and COPAG. Type "plastic playing cards" into Google and you'll have all the choice in the world right in front of you.

Poker Tables

Chips and cards can go a long way toward a nicer home game, but the kitchen table will do only for so long. There are several options, the first of which is to get a table-topper. These felt-covered surfaces sit on top of an existing table and fold up when not in use. They're easy to store, and easily the cheapest alternative to the kitchen table. Another choice is a folding poker table. These are more expensive than the table toppers, and you'll probably have to clear out a space to use it if you have room to leave it set up.

If you do have the room for leaving a table set up at all times, you might consider building your own table as a nicer alternative to a folding table. Buying the materials to build a simple table can be as inexpensive as $100, only twice as much as some of the cheapest folding table. If price isn't an object you can completely customize your table with racetrack-style rails and drink holders, not to mention custom artwork. The only real limits on your poker table are your imagination and your price range. A great place to start is the PC Potato Poker Section, which features plans for a basic table and links to more detailed plans created by others.


There's no reason not to have a nice atmosphere just because you're playing poker at home. For about the cost of a buy-in to a 1-2 no-limit hold'em game, you can set yourself up with everything you need for a more enjoyable game. Just make sure you invite the right mix of friends (and friendly fish) and you'll have a fun and profitable time without ever leaving home.

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