Tips for Starting a Poker Night

Poker night with the guys.  Cards, food, music, maybe even some cigars to go along with your beverage of choice?  Many great memories have been made over games of cards, but those games don’t come together by accident.  They take smart planning.  If you’re tired of waiting for one of your buddies to organize one, you can take the initiative and host a few of your own.  In this article we’ll talk about the key things you will want to keep in mind to have an awesome poker night with your fellow Gents.

Who, When, and Where


Keep in mind that not everyone you invite is going to be able to make it any given week.  Also keep in mind that at a certain number, a game becomes more difficult to manage.  Consider having an invite list of up to 12-15, while limiting attendance to 6-8 to start.  After you’ve hosted a few you’ll have a better sense of RSVP dynamics and how to plan.  Don’t go for a weekly game to start.  Try monthly and see how it goes from there.


You can’t pick a day and time that will work for everyone all the time, but it should work for everyone at least some of the time.  Rather than torture yourself with a giant email chain, consider using a tool like Doodle that is purpose built for finding a common meeting time.


You don’t have to have a specialized poker table, but wherever you have the game should have enough room for everyone to sit around the table comfortably, and if cigars are involved, where you can smoke.

What Version of Poker?

The most popular variation, popularized by all those World Series of Poker tournaments, is Texas Hold’em.  Make sure you know your audience’s range and plan accordingly.  Newbies might want to study up and hard-core enthusiasts who can name a dozen professional players without hesitating should know not to be too hard on newer players.  Remember the goal isn’t to crush your opponents, but to have a good night with the guys.


Game Gear

You’re going to want two decks of cards; make sure the second deck is always shuffled and ready to go so you can seamlessly move on when you run through the first deck.

You will also want a 500-chip set and possibly a table-topper to give your game an authentic look and feel without shelling out for a genuine poker table.


A buy-in game is pretty common but payouts vary: some prefer a winner-takes-all settlement at the end of the night, others split out the pot in descending order.  Again, your buy-in doesn’t need to be $1000 per person: it could be as simple as $25 or $50.  If you have any house rules you should all agree to them ahead of time and on an ongoing basis.  


While it’s fun to eat at the table, we’ve learned the hard way that for some reason green felt attracts spilled alcohol or dropped chicken wings.  Have a designated snack table away from the action, but not so far away that those out of the hand and taking a break can’t follow along.  Keep the food simple: things like chips and dip, nuts, and wings.


The easiest way to handle drinks is always a six pack of someone’s favorite beverage, but if you want to step things up a notch you can also ask for one ingredient of a classic cocktail so that those who want to make one can do so.


Those of you who’ve been inside our clubs know that we prefer our music classic and mellow: think Frank Sinatra or a long Miles Davis set.  This keeps the aspiring karaoke singers quiet and the the mood perfect for conversations, which is half the reason to get together in the first place.

When done well, poker nights are a perfect time to bond with your band of brothers without waiting for a special occasion.  That’s something worth putting in some effort to make happen.

Anything else you’d add to our list for poker game beginners?  Share in the comments below.

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