When it comes to setting up a winning poker night, a few helpful tips go a long way. From the venue to snacks, here’s how to welcome friends and colleagues into your home and host a poker night to remember

The Venue

When considering your venue the most important element is having enough space for your guests. Consider how many players can comfortably fit into your home, leaving room for movement and socialising between hands. In a casino setting, the typical table hosts approximately 6-8 players and if this is your first poker night, we’d suggest you limit yourself to this range. Not only will this ensure you have enough space but it’ll also reduce the pressure of being the host and seeing to the needs of your guests. 

When considering your venue, you also want to ensure it’s a space without interruptions. If you decide to host it in your home and you don’t live alone, consider the schedules of your family or roommates. Yes, poker is a social game but it’s also one of focus. It can be less than pleasing when you’re in a heads up and a flurry of interruption bursts through the door making food, watching tv or simply wanting to use the shared space in your home. If there are too many interruptions breaking the flow of the game, it might be the last one you host with these players. 

The Set Up

Once you know you have a free space to host your perfect poker night, you need to make sure you have all the essentials in stock. Naturally, you’ll want a fitting set of poker chips. For most games of this size, a 500-chip set will do but if you’re feeling rich you can always bump this number up. If you want to be able to offer your players to buy back in after they’ve left the game, you could also invest in a second set of chips. This, however, is entirely up to you! It’s also your decision to determine the value of each type of chip if they’re unmarked. 

It might also be a good idea to have a second deck of cards on hand. Home games can, at times, be messy. Thus, a second deck of cards would prevent the night from coming to an end because someone has elbowed a drink across the table. What’s more, having a second deck can allow the pace of the game to move along more steadily as the dealer of the next hand or a folded player can shuffle as the current game plays out. 

Finally, while it’s not a necessity, you can choose to decorate your space with a real poker table. A regular table will suffice of course but there’s no better way to set the las vegas casino scene than with a genuine poker table. Now, if neither of these options appeal to you and you want to land somewhere in the middle, you could opt for a table topper. These are far less expensive than a genuine table but still, bring a drop of that authentic casino ambience to the room. 

Before the Event

Like any gathering in your home, the preparations begin long before your guests arrive. Naturally, on the day you'll be busy preparing your space. One piece of advice would be to leave yourself plenty of time before the event for your guest to arrive early. In fact, it’s probably a good idea to invite guests to arrive an hour or so before the game begins to allow them to warm up to the environment and socialise. This is even more important in instances where the players don’t know each other. Walking cold into a poker game while in a new environment and knowing no one is less than welcoming. This is also a good time to familiarise the players with the rules of the game if they’re new, along with betting parameters like chip denominations and bet limits.

Refreshments & Ambiance

When it comes to poker night refreshments the general rule of thumb is the less complicated the better. Players are concentrating hard on their game. The last thing they want is a snack or drink that they have to put together or that takes too much time to consume. Too much choice can also be somewhat overwhelming when a player’s focus should be somewhere else. Stick to simple, no-fuss nibbles that players can grab on the go between hands. The same goes for drinks! Beer, wines and whiskey are all uncomplicated but very much enjoyed at a poker table. That said, don’t forget about your players that may be driving afterwards. A few non-alcoholic options at the ready will most likely be deeply appreciated.

You don’t want the financial pressure of providing food and drink for a table full of poker players? That’s no problem! You can always uncomplicate the process by simply asking everyone to bring an alcoholic drink or snack for themselves and fellow players to enjoy! In most home games it’s considered rude to show up empty-handed anyway!

In terms of where to station the food and snacks, you should place them a short distance away from the table itself. This will prevent snacks from cluttering up the table as you play and the chance of drink-related mishaps happening and ruining your game. Also, it will encourage players to remove themselves from the table after they fold and socialise with players as they grab a drink or snack. 

If you want to add another touch of iconic poker atmosphere to your game, perhaps consider playing a selection of chilled-out jazz music in the background. While you can change this to any kind of music you prefer, the most important element here is to remove any dead air that may arise when the conversation lulls. As a final touch, remove any lighting that could be considered harsh on the eyes. After all that hard work, you don’t want your perfect poker night defeated by eye strain. 

Closing Time

It’s not what you want to think about when hosting an event but in poker, having a finish time serves a purpose. Without a definite time to end the game, many players are tempted to play safely, slowly and even stockpile chips. This behaviour doesn’t tend to go hand-in-hand with the most exciting of games. If players are aware of a predetermined time that the game will end, it adds a greater sense of urgency to their playing, allowing them to move faster and take more risks.