Home Page
What's New
Home Poker Guide
Tournament Guide
Internet Poker
Etiquette & Rules
High-Low Poker
Draw Poker Games
Hold' em Games
Omaha Games
Stud Poker Games
Wild Card Games
Other Games
Poker Resources
Articles & Reviews
About HPE
Contact HPE


Planning & Hosting a Home Poker Game


Most important for a great home poker game is that it be an enjoyable and challenging experience for the participants. To accomplish that goal requires some planning and organization and a reliable group of players. These are keys to establishing and maintaining your home poker game.

There are many things to consider when planning and hosting a home poker game, especially if you want to successfully sustain it over time. But, it is not rocket science. Anyone can do it and HomePokerEdge.com is here to be your home poker resource and provide all the help you need. Among the things to determine for your home poker game are: player compatibility and selection, basic game structure, dealer's choice options, needed poker supplies and equipment, honest shuffling, cutting and dealing procedures, anteing, high-low split declarations, awarding odd chips and much more.

We've included some of the insight that the HPE staff has gained from years of experience in playing and hosting home poker games with our HPE recommends.

Why Are You Playing?


This may seem like a silly question, but it is not. Your primary reason or objective for playing sets the tone for your entire game. There are essentially two primary objectives: to maximize fun and enjoyment or to win as much money as possible.

HomePokerEdge.com is for players who want their poker experience to be one of enjoyment, both of the game and their fellow players. To engage in challenging but fair competition. To have the opportunity to learn and improve your play. To be one that does not exploit or take undue advantage of the other participants.

HPE recommends: If you share these objectives, structure your game and house rules in a way that promotes them. For example:
Adopt a dealer's choice format so that each player can select and play games they enjoy.
Invite players who have approximately similar skill levels.
Set betting and raising limits that the group considers reasonable and affordable and prevent excessive losses.
Avoid no-limit bets and unlimited raising.

A game with the objective of simply maximizing winnings is entirely different. It is more suited to casinos where you are playing with people you don't know. (You shouldn't want to take your friend's rent money, but if it's from a stranger...?) It is not that winning as much money as you can is necessarily wrong or evil. If that is what you want you are free to do so.

Your Players


To establish and maintain a regularly recurring home poker game you need a reliable core group of about 8 to 10 players who are interested and committed to playing poker on a consistent basis. You should also identify additional individuals who are willing to be substitute players if one of the regulars is unable to play. Besides helping you fill out the table, your substitute pool is a means of gauging how well a player may or may not fit into your group if a vacancy occurs in your regulars.

HPE recommends: Before you ask someone to become a permanent member of your core group have them play as a substitute a few times first.

Player compatibility is an important factor in maintaining your game over time. That does not necessarily mean that everyone be best friends. It does mean that everyone be tolerant and respectful of one another, so do not allow any offensive talk or behavior. The most important goal of a home poker game is to have fun, not offend people and risk breaking up the game. Mixing players of vastly different skill levels is also something that can threaten the long term viability of a home poker game.

HPE recommends: The best thing to do is to keep the group focused on playing poker. Leave discussions regarding politics, religion, or other emotional or controversial topics for another place and time.

Institute a procedure for confirming each player's availability for the next game. Use e-mail or telephone calls or texts several days before the game to allow time for finding substitutes, if necessary.

Your Game


Decide on the types of games that you will play. Ask these types of questions: Do we want to play only established "mainstream" games like stud, hold'em, Omaha? Or, do we want to play any variation of poker game? Shall we play high only games, high-low split games, wild card poker games or other non-poker games or ban some or all of them? Is the entire session going to be just one type of game? There are an enormous number of poker game variations, so check our game pages. You'll find descriptions of lots of interesting and challenging variations of Texas hold 'em, Omaha, draw poker, and stud poker to play as well as many playing tips.

HPE recommends: The most important priority for a home poker game is that it be fun for all the participants. Make choices that support that goal. Playing dealer's choice with a wide variety of poker games is the most likely way of achieving that.

To sustain your game over time it is important that players know in advance how often and when the games will occur. That way they can plan ahead and avoid scheduling other activities that will conflict with the game schedule.

HPE recommends: Maintain a regular frequency (eg. weekly, monthly, etc.), day of the week and time that the game will start and end. Standardize when the last hand will be dealt or the last round of deals will begin. Before the end of the current game, determine and confirm the date of the next game and who will be the host. It is best if someone acts as the game "secretary" to keep track of the dates and game locations.

Basic Rules


Set the general monetary structure of your home poker game: amount to be anted or blinds and betting limits. Determine the number of bets and raises that are allowed in each round and if and when the bets may be increased. Do not change rules, antes, blinds or betting limits during the course of a game.

HPE recommends: Limit poker with a maximum of 4 bets per round (initial bet plus 3 raises). Any raise must be at least the size of the previous bet or raise. While we don't think it is suitable for a friendly home poker game if playing no-limit (in a tournament for example) an unlimited number of bets and raises, until a player is all in.

The issue of check raising sometimes comes up in home poker games. Some people seem to take offense to a check-raise in a "friendly" home game, so stipulate if check-raising will be allowed or not.

HPE recommends: Check raising is a normal and proper poker tactic and an important part of the game. It should be allowed.

As practical as possible, attempt to make each player informed of the rules of your home poker game, especially if it their first time playing with your group. Consistancy and fairness in making, applying and enforcing your rules is imperative. The rules for each game should be the same whenever it is played. Allowing each dealer to make subtle rule changes for the same game is a recipe for players making mistakes. Without consistency there are bound to be arguments and ill feelings which may threaten to break up your game. You can also find additional valuable information about poker etiquette and poker rules on our Poker Etiquette & Rules page.

HPE recommends: Have the basic rules in writing. Give a copy to each player and have a copy at each game. It is also a good idea to have a basic rule book (eg. "Hoyle's Rules of Card Games") available. Seek and get the agreement of the entire group before altering a rule or changing the stakes.

Playing Dealer's Choice Poker


Dealer's choice poker games are the heart of most home poker games. Dealer's choice allows each player to select their favorite poker game variations and gives the group an opportunity to try new ones. Mixing a variety of poker game variations keeps a home poker game fresh, fun and more interesting. It also challenges players to learn and develop their skills. There are several dealer’s choice formats that can be used in a home game. Here are some possibilities.

HPE recommends: The “best” way for your dealer's choice poker game is the way you and your friends find the most enjoyable coupled with a method that is fair and equitable.

One dealer-one game-one time: This is undoubtedly the easiest method to employ. Each dealer designates the game to be played for that one time. While this works very well for games with an ante, it works less well with games that normally use blinds, like hold’em. You can certainly play those types of games. You will just have to abandon the blind format and use an ante. An additional benefit of this format is that it is very easy to try out a new poker variation. If it’s a dud you don’t have to play it again.

One game-one round: Another popular method to is to have the selected game played for an entire round of the table. This provides some consistency by repeating the same game several times and allows for players to get into the “flow” of the game a little more. It also works fairly for games that use a blind since each player will be in each position once. Your only problem is remembering who is the next player to select the next game once a round is over, since the next player to select will not actually be the next player to physically deal the first hand of that series. Use a dealer button to designate the current "selector" to help you keep track.

One game-one round + one hand: If you add one more hand to the one round-one game format the player who selects the game will deal both the first and last game of that round. This produces a rotation where the next player to select will actually be the next player to physically deal as well. The obvious drawback is again with blind games, so you will have to utilize antes instead.

One dealer-one game-one session: At the beginning of the session you could have each player select a variation that they will be obligated to deal for the entire session. This doesn’t seem to quite live up to the spirit of a dealer’s choice game. It also tends to stifle innovation and change. But, if these are games that everybody loves it's a viable option.

One game-one time period: The total poker session is broken down into smaller segments each of which might be 15 to 30 minutes long. One variation is played for the entire segment. If the the overall poker session is known ahead of time (ie. there are specific starting and ending times) the entire session can be divided by the number of players. For example, with 8 players and an overall session of 4 hours, each segment would be 30 minutes. Each player determines what variation to play in one of the segments.

Select the Right Playing Cards


Playing cards are one of the most important pieces of poker "equipment", so it is vital you use only decks that are in good condition. While it may seem trivial, the fact is that nice clean cards will make the card playing experience more enjoyable. The edges of the cards will show how dirty or clean they are better than the surfaces. Replace a deck once it becomes dirty or feels sticky or a card becomes marked, creased or cut. Playing cards are made in 2 basic ways: plastic coated paper and 100% plastic. Coated cards with an inferior coating are to be avoided as they will easily fray at the corners. Use only a premium plastic coated paper card or a 100% plastic card. At the top end of the durability spectrum are 100% plastic cards. They will last longer than any other card, can be cleaned if they become soiled and are resistant to creasing or fraying. On the other hand, plastic cards are expensive and some people find them to be slippery and difficult to control when shuffling and dealing.

HPE recommends: Our Guide to Playing Cards will give you the information you need to determine the right playing cards for your home poker game and provides a directory of manufacturers and suppliers.

Get a Decent Set of Chips


It is by far preferable to use chips for betting. Chips are much easier to handle and quicker to divide in split pot games. Get a decent quality set. Do not use the cheap, thin, hard plastic chips. They are every bit as cheap as they look and it is far too easy for someone to sneak extra chips into the game. Thick plastic or plastic composite are servicable entry level chips as well as being very affordable. For casino-quality chips you will need to get clay composite or ceramic chips. Both are visually very attractive and can be personalized, although they are pricey. A personalized set chip set provides enhanced security as no one is likely to duplicate them. They also impart a special "upscale" feeling to the game. At the end of the session use care in cashing out each player. One person should be in charge of this.

HPE recommends: When making your chip purchasing decision consider that it is better to have more chips than you need than to have too few. Our Guide to Poker Chips has all the information you need to select the right poker chips and determine the number of chips and color combinations needed for cash games or tournaments and includes a directory of chip suppliers.

Insist on Honest Shuffling, Cutting & Dealing


One of the absolutely critical things in any poker game, regardless of the stakes or friendliness of the players, is to assure confidence in its honesty. An important means of doing that is to establish and faithfully utilize a standard procedure for shuffling, cutting and dealing the cards. Whether you use our recommendation or another procedure, you should have one and follow it completely and consistantly. It should be a requirement, not an option. Never allow exceptions or "trust" to enter into it. Granted, it is highly unlikely that cheating will occur in a group that plays regularly, but why take a chance?

HPE recommends: The player to the left of the next dealer shuffles the deck. The player to the right of the dealer cuts the deck. The dealer then deals the cards without further altering them. Encourage the dealing to be made close to the surface of the table so that cards are not able to be seen as they are dealt. Use a cut card to cover the bottom card so that it can not be seen.

You can shorten the time between hands by using two decks with different colored backs. One deck can be shuffled while the other is being dealt. Make sure to count and inspect each deck before playing. Replace a deck if there are any marks or flaws that could identify a card. Have a spare deck or two as backup, just in case.



Unless you have an established procedure for anteing at the start of every new hand you are creating an opportunity for confusion, arguments and potential cheating as players randomly toss chips into the center of the table. Anteing needs to be done in an organized manner. At the very least, have each player place their ante in front of them, not directly into the pot. When all the antes are posted and correct, collect them into the center of the table. Alternatively, you can have the dealer ante for the entire table.

HPE recommends: Have the dealer ante for the entire table. It is much quicker and there will be no arguments on who "forgot" to ante.

Who Speaks: The Player or the Cards?


Some people feel that a player must announce the hand that they have and once having done that are bound to that hand. If they have made a mistake and not realized that they actually have a higher hand it is just too bad, they are stuck with what they announced. Most consider that the value of your hand is determined solely by the cards you have, the "cards speak" concept and that what you say does not matter. For example, at the showdown you state that you have two pair, and do not notice that you also have a flush. It does not matter what you said. Your hand is a flush.

HPE recommends: The cards are the facts and the facts must always be accepted. However, you must realize any mistake and correct it while the cards are still being shown. You can never retrieve your hand from the mucked cards to re-check them. Of course, the reverse is also true if you state your hand is better than it actually is.

Considerations for Playing High-Low Split Poker


High-Low split pot poker has many appealing features and is great for a home poker game. More players are usually active in each hand and they stay in the hand longer. There is more action so the pots usually are larger. With twice as many pots to award, there are more chances to win as well as the hope of "scooping the pot" by winning both the high and low hands. Additionally, there is extra skill involved in reading other players' hands and declaring your own hand.

HPE recommends: We whole heartedly encourage you to give high-low split poker serious consideration. Once you have tried it we think you will be hooked.

When high-low split games or low only games are played you must establish the lowest possible hand. Casinos usually use 5432A as the lowest hand and ignore straights and flushes in determining low hands. Casinos use it because it avoids the difficulty of trying to recall which players are playing for high and which for low. With 5432A it is also easier for a player to win both the high and low hands. However, an alternative option employed by many home players is to have straights and flushes count against or disqualify the low hand. In that situation 6432A (not all suited) becomes the low hand.

HPE recommends: 5432A as the low hand and ignore straights or flushes for low. This is a close call for HPE and we have no problem with 6432A. But, 5432A gives more opportunities for a player to scoop both the high and low hands so it may make the game more interesting. Throughout the site when we discuss high-low split we are assuming 5432A to be the best low unless otherwise specified.


Playing high-low split poker games introduces many additional factors that must be considered so we have devoted an entire page to it. Our High-Low Poker page has far more information necessary for playing and winning high-low spilt poker games.

Just about any poker game and nearly all of the poker game variations we describe throughout HomePokerEdge.com can be played as high-low split.

Making High-Low Declarations


In high-low split poker games there has to be a procedure for identifying which players are going for the high and and which are going for the low hand. Will the hands just be revealed without a declaration, or must a player declare their hand to be high or low? With no declaration each player just reveals his cards at the showdown. The best high and best low hands are determined and the pot(s) awarded on that basis. This is referred to as "cards speak" and it is the method casinos utilize. With declaration each player must specify if his hand is high, low or both. Declarations can be sequential (1 player at a time makes a verbal declaration in a clockwise sequence around the table) or simultaneous (players place chips in their hand to designate, high, low or both and reveal them all at once). Typically no chip in the hand means low, one chip high and two chips both. Once made all declarations are binding. There is no remedy for a mistake.

HPE recommends: We much prefer simultaneous declaration. No declaration "cards speak" is an acceptable alternative. We specifically recommend avoiding sequential declaration as it gives a huge advantage to the player who declares last.

If declarations are used and a player calls both high and low will losing or tying in one direction disqualify a win in the other?

HPE recommends: If you declare both ways you must win both ways. If you lose or tie one way, you lose both ways. If there is no penalty then each player would declare high and low every hand and you might as well just use a no declaration format.

Awarding an Odd Chip


If you are playing high-low split or if 2 or more players tie for a hand, it may not always be possible to split the pot evenly. Sometimes an odd chip will be left over. Designate a consistant method for awarding that odd chip. Possible ways of doing it are: The odd chip always goes to the high (or low) hand. The odd chip always goes to the player closest to the left of the dealer. Another alternative could be that any odd chip is left for the pot of the next hand.

HPE recommends: Award an odd chip to the player closest to the dealer's left. It will work for both high-low games or ties.

Take a Break, Not a Rake


Home poker games are typically social events as well as poker games. One way to develop the social aspect is to take a short break somewhere in the middle of the session. This gives players the opportunity to discuss topics other than poker. Consider serving a light snack during the break. But, if the object is to play poker and not be concerned with social interaction, then by all means, forget the break and keep dealing.

HPE recommends: While taking a break is fine, taking a rake is not. Do not rake the pots in your home game.

Play Responsibility


This should go without saying, but, before engaging in any poker game or other gaming, at home, on the internet or anywhere, it is every individual's responsibility and obligation to fully understand and accept all the risks involved and to make certain it is legal to play. Never play for stakes or under circumstances where you can not afford the level of loss you may incur. Play responsibly, with full personal acceptance of the risks, or don't play at all.

Home Poker Game Resources


For detailed information on selecting and locating the supplies and equipment needed for your home poker game start with our Poker Resources. It's HPE's comprehensive guide to poker chips, tables and playing cards. Includes directories of manufacturers, vendors and suppliers.

Considerations When Hosting


Hosting a home poker game is similar to hosting any other event or gathering. A considerate host will consider, plan for and accomplish these other tasks:

Clean or at least tidy up the area you are playing in. Clean the table and chairs. Set out side tables so drinks and snacks do not have to be placed on playing table.
Have things ready to go: Make sure decks (have at least 2) are complete and in good condition. Count out starting chips for each player.
Have at least 1 empty trash receptacle in the playing area.
Have paper towels, napkins and tissues handy.
Make room in the refrigerator for your guests to store any beverages or food they bring.
Designate a spot for coats, etc.
Provide parking instructions to players in advance. Let them know where it is permissible to park and where parking is prohibited in your neighborhood.
Make it obvious on what entrance to your house you want your guests to use. (Put on exterior lighting, etc.)
Clean the bathroom. Have clean hand towels on the rack (consider buying paper "guest towels"). Put on a full roll of toilet paper and have additional rolls in plain sight.
Inform your guests of the location of the bathroom and if there are other rooms or areas of your home they should not enter.