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Hosting a Poker Party

Every weekend, all over the world, friends are getting together and playing poker is just one of those things that always seems to be popular. Here are some things to consider when hosting a poker party.

Knowing that "the guys and gals" are coming over for a game of poker, it is actually pretty easy to set things up so that your guests spend their time playing poker and enjoying themselves.

Chairs and seating - playing on the ground shouldn't be an option – sure, you can do it for a short period, but for longer stretches, your poor guests will ache and be uncomfortable, so get a rough idea ahead of time for the number of people coming, and plan on one extra seat for any surprise guests. Consider a maximum of around 8 players per table – any more than this, and you'll either be fighting for elbow room or make dealing to the far corners of the table tough. Break into two smaller tables if you have more people coming, with kitchen and dining room tables good first and second choices, and make sure there is enough lighting for everyone to clearly see.

Alternate entertainment – having a nearby couch and TV at the ready will give the "early outs" something to do while waiting for the game to finish. Another option is a side table, where the losers of a game can get a few extra hands of poker in while waiting for the next game to start. It can be boring for a playing who looses all his chips early, as games can last an hour or more with good players.

Background noise and ambience – keep the music down, as loud pounding music will not help with most people's concentration. Something quiet in the background, say a baseball game or good CD, can help to build a good feeling at the table and help the table talk along. Much of the game and the enjoyment of the night come from the interaction between players, and loud music only serves to drown that enjoyment out.

Snacks and drinks – an unspoken rule is that the party host supplies snacks and the players supply drinks, but be warned that newbies to parties may not be familiar with that. Plan on having salty snacks like chips, popcorn and pretzels, which go well with the drinks being served, and serve them in several small bowls that can be spread about the table for everybody, rather than one large bowl which is impractical since the middle of the table will either have chips or cards flying by. Keep a small amount of beer and pop handy for yourself and in case anybody is forgetful.

Cards and equipment – don't put too much value on having a proper poker table cover or high quality clay poker chips – a plain table is fine, and at least three denominations of chips are really all that's needed. Nice chips do feel better in the hand and look classier but aren't needed to play the game, but coasters for drinks are a good idea so that the cards can stay dry.

House rules – prepare ahead of time, as players with a few more games under their belt will often ask the same questions: what's the game, what's the buy-in, do you want me to bring anything, etc… Picking the game and choosing the ante, if you are playing with some friendly betting, are best done ahead of time. Popular choices are small dollar buy-ins, from $10 to $25 per person to keep people playing honestly and not throwing away their chips, with the option of giving the 2nd ranked player their buy-in back and the winner taking the rest of the pot. Playing the game with rising antes or blinds, for example, doubling every fifteen minutes, ensures fast and serious play, but be prepared to allow players to cash in their smaller valued chips after the antes rise enough to keep chip piles manageable.

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