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“Organizing a live poker game” by Alan25main

December 11, 2019

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Is one of your New Year’s resolutions to run your own poker game? Alan25main shares all the things you need to think about before getting started. Read on!

You’ve decided to organize a live poker game. You’ve played online and once in a small charity game at a social club event. You know a few local players. All you need now is to figure out how to do it. Here’s what you’ll need:


If the game is primarily social, you’ll want to recruit between four and ten other players to be certain you’ll have at least five to start a game. They don’t have to be “good” players, but you really want them to be reliable, so they’ll show up and play. If they have to travel any non-walkable distance, they may need access to parking. The number of players seated comfortably will depend partly on what games you expect to play (more hand cards = fewer players) and the equipment to play with (a bigger table can seat more players).


You’ll need an acceptable flat surface to play on. Usually that means a table, but I’ve been in games where the “table” was an upside down cardboard box about 18″ on a side, covered with a towel. The shape (round, square, oblong, oval, etc.) doesn’t really matter as long as it’s large enough to hold the bets and any board cards for all to see.

You’ll need cards, at least two reasonably new decks of contrasting colors. I recommend plastic decks (they’re much more difficult to mark during play, last about five to ten times as long as Bicycle paper decks, and usually have easy to read graphics), but ordinary Bicycle decks will work.

Chips of different colors (for different values) would be nice, but coins work and may be easier to deal with if the stakes are small enough.

You’ll need places to sit for all the active players. I’ve played in games sitting on the ground around that cardboard box, so this can be flexible, but you really want your players comfortable, if possible.


Keep in mind that games with blind bets, Hold’em-type games for example, are only fair to all the players if played all the way around the table. Other games like Draw poker (either high or low) give the dealer a slight advantage and are usually played with an ante but no blind bets. Stud games usually have no ante or blinds, but do have a forced bet by the lowest board card on the first round of betting.

You want the game issue addressed up front so you don’t find yourself playing Indian Poker (look it up–you won’t believe me if I just tell you) or some other variation like Night Baseball (you won’t believe that one, either). Discuss wild cards; are they allowed or not; if allowed, which variations? I’d suggest none, but it’s your game.

Stakes and Betting Limits

Since we’re assuming a social game, the stakes may be whatever the players agree to. Why can’t they be free? Because the players won’t value the bets unless they have some actual worth. The most recent game I’ve played in (two summers ago) was 5¢-25¢ (the minimum bet was a nickel, the maximum was a quarter, but a player could bet a dime, fifteen, or twenty cents, if they chose to). We had no limit on the number of raises per round. The players treated their chips as if they had value–because they did. So, the stakes need not be high, but they must have some real value.

These are critical decisions. If you choose to play no limit for free chips, expect unlimited bingo because that’s what you’ll get. For a beginning game, I’d suggest playing with a limit rather than a no limit game. If someone has to drive 30 minutes to get to the game, spends another 10 minutes parking, and then goes broke on the first hand of no limit, do you think that player will be back next week/month? I think it’s doubtful.

When, Where, How Often?

Most social or fraternal club games are after the club has its regular meeting, like the second and fourth Wednesday evenings at about 8 PM. Is there a specific start and/or end time for your game? You’ll need to find some mutually agreeable time and day when most or all the players can attend.

And, because everyone has doctor appointments, vacations, and such, it’s always a good idea to continue to recruit additional players to fill in when one (or more) can’t make it. If you “think” you need eight players, you really want to have ten or eleven. If the “extra” players all show up, they can kibitz until a seat opens. And, you can bet money they’ll show up earlier next time to get a starting seat.


Some things we haven’t addressed because they can be put off: refreshments (what kind, and at whose expense? paid for by a rake or a head charge?), do you want or need “house rules” for specific situations? No doubt I’ve forgotten something basic. Ask and I’ll try to answer.

Starting a game from scratch is an incredible pain in the, uh, side. But, it can be done and it can be a lot of fun. The better prepared you are going into it, the more smoothly it will run and the more fun it will be for everyone involved. Good luck.