So your wife finally gave in and said you could have the guys over for a poker game. You have visions of taking every last penny from your brother-in-law who knows everything about everything. Yea, that is right you are a combination of Phil Ivey and Phil Hellmuth when it comes to playing poker in your garage. Bring on the beer, the cards, the chips and it will be game on this Saturday night.
The first thing you need to do is decide what kind of game you are going to have and when. There are several kinds of poker and several kinds of formats for each. For this example we will be talking about Texas Hold em, although many of the games can use the same format and structure.
As a host you will have to do more than just play. Depending on the group, you may be the tournament director, waiter, dealer, banker, and the rules person. The more you decide in advance the better the experience will be for you. Remember this is supposed to be fun, if you are in it to make a profit by hosting, you are already breaking the law in most states.
The second thing you will need to decide is who is invited. Being this game is probably in your home or garage, you will want to know in advance who the players are. Let a friend of a friend bring a friend, and now you have no idea who is in your house. Keep it small, if it is intended to be a social gathering, keep it as such. One or two tables and you will be a quite busy host. Try to start on time, have a cut off time for late arrivals and include this in the invites.
Decide on your format next. This could be a cash game, a limit cash game, a freeze-out tournament, a re-buy tournament, they all attract different players. Announce the format with your invitations. This will enable your players to bring the right amount of money and the right denominations. You might be surprised when someone shows up and tries to buy in with a check if you don't.
House rules should be next on your list. Decide any house rules in advance and announce them to all players before you start playing. After someone has money on the table is not a good time to tell them something that could affect the way they play. This is trouble waiting to happen. These should include, drinking, borrowing, cursing, arguing, and anything else that might cause you grief. Don't forget your family lives here.
Before you get started, remind the players of the format, cost, payouts, finishing time, and anything else that could affect the game. Take donations for the refreshments if you want, but don't make them required. Charging for food, taking a rake, charging a fee, or making a profit makes your game illegal in most states.
Get the cards in the air on time. This will let the players know if there is a next time, be on time. Be prepared for a long night if you are first out in a freeze-out format. Having a second or third table for the losers to play a cash game may be a good ideal. If you do this have a totally different set of chips, it will help to eliminate confusion, and keep that money separate from the tournament money.
Keep your game small in the beginning. It will help you enjoy the time with your friends. I have seen lots of good players who started games at their house become a no playing host, when the game grew too fast. Be careful not to grow your game to fast, it will become like a second job, and the fun will run out.
I hope this helps you get started with your home game, it can be both socially and financially rewarding if you are a good player. Good luck and get those cards in the air.