Hosting a Texas Hold‘em Poker Tournament at Home
2006, Debra Dragon  

After you’ve been playing online poker for some time, and you’ve mastered the mechanics of the game, the next logical step is to start hosting home poker tournaments. There are several factors that make for a successful home poker tournament: having the necessary supplies, determining a freeze out competition or one that allows re buys, starting chip counts and the nature of the blinds.

The most obvious items needed for a home poker tournament is a table and chairs. While you can play on your regular dining room or kitchen table just fine, you might want to consider having an actual poker table or at least a poker table top- both of which can be purchased for your local department store or online through any number of retailers. The table isn’t going to make or break your game, but it certainly adds to the playing experience. If you decide to go with your everyday table, you should at least cover it with felt in order to make dealing the cards easier.

Once you have the seating figured out, you’ll need people to sit in those chairs! You probably have a group of friends that already know how to play Hold ‘em, and another group of your friends who want to learn. Your first few games will help teach the new players the ropes, and help you, as the host, work out the kinks of hosting a home tournament. Just keep the buy-ins low for the first couple games, to give everyone a chance to learn the mechanics of the game.

You’ll need at least two decks of cards. You don’t want the dollar store cards- go all out and get two decks of the plastic coated, high quality playing cards. Cheaper cards will start bending within the first few hands from shuffling, and you want cards that will be sturdy for your home tournaments.

For tournaments of up to about eighteen players, you need a set of 500 poker chips. Poker chips come in several different varieties- and in this case, what you pay for is what you get. You can get plastic chips from just about any store’s toy department, but if you’re planning to host tournaments on a regular basis, it makes sense to purchase a nicer set of chips. Higher quality chips, the type you would use in a casino for example, are made from clay and have substantial weight to them.

Most poker chip sets come with a dealer button, but if not, you can use any object to designate whom the dealer is. Everyone in the tournament should always know immediately who is in the dealer position, without having to ask.

The last necessary item for hosting successful home poker tournaments is a timer or clock of some kind. You’ll need to keep track of the blind levels, and you don’t want to have to try to remember to look at the clock while you’re playing. A kitchen timer or stop watch will do the job, but if you want to get really fancy- you can purchase a specially designed poker timer, such as the “Game Genie”, to keep track of the blind amounts, antes, and ring a buzzer whenever it’s time to advance to the next level of blinds. The Genie can also clue you in as to how many chips to give each player at the start of the tournament, based on the length of time you want to play and the number of players.

Once you’ve obtained all the necessary supplies, you need to decide on your game play. As the host, you are expected to be the final decision maker in any and all disputes that might arise during your tournament. Your first decision is whether or not your tournament will allow re-buys or if it will be a freeze-out. Games that allow re-buys will typically have a low buy in, and you should predetermine when players will be allowed to re-buy. For example, you can set a time limit of one hour to allow re-buys if someone’s chip count drops below a specified dollar amount, and once that time period has come up- anyone can choose to top up their stack with a re-buy, regardless of their current chip stack. After the hour time limit (or whatever you set) has passed, no one is allowed to re-buy.

In a freeze-out tournament, the initial buy in is usually higher, and you might start with more chips. Once a player is out of chips, they’re out of the tournament as there are no re-buys allowed. Many home tournament players will start cash games on a separate table when they are out of the tournament in order to keep playing the game.

Before your guests arrive, you should have your blinds established. They should increase steadily at predetermined time intervals. Here is a popular blind structure:


In a re-buy game structure, you might want to increase the blinds every 30 minutes, while in a freeze out game structure, you might move the blinds every 20 minutes since you typically start with a greater amount of chips. The important thing is to establish your blinds and time limits before you start the game, and post it for all players to see.
Finally, you need to set the prize pool. How will you distribute the buy ins? Many home tournaments pay only the top 3 places, in which case you probably would want to pay out 50% of the total money to the winner, 30% of the total money to the second place finisher and the remaining 20% to the third place finisher. If you’re hosting a tournament with several tables of players, you might consider paying more than three spots.

Following the guidelines in this article will help ensure that you host a successful home poker tournament. Playing in home games will develop your playing strategy, and help you win more online poker games, as well as casino tournaments!

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