How to Host a Poker Night

How to Host a Poker Night

Every six months or so, I host a gentleman’s poker night at my home. I’ve been doing it for the past few years, and it’s developed such a following that we’ve had to move it into my office boardroom to make room for all the new players.

Hosting a card game has numerous benefits.

  • Fellowship among like-minded gentlemen.
  • An opportunity to potentially win some money.
  • The chance to make new friends.
  • Business opportunities and networking.

Whether you host a game once a month, bimonthly or even just annually, getting together with a group of friends is one of the most enjoyable ways to spend an evening, if it’s done well.

Clay poker chips are great to have but not necessary

Clay poker chips are great to have but not necessary

Newbies vs. Card Sharks

One of the biggest challenges in finding people to play in your game is that many men who don’t play poker regularly – or at all – may feel discouraged to attend or may send regrets simply because they worry about being embarrassed, losing their hard-earned money to a more experienced player, or simply have never played and worry about holding the game back. Unless you happen to be a professional poker player, the vast majority of your friends, colleagues and family members won’t be overly experienced. There may be a few that are, but those are the ones the average player worries about.

If you have some friends that you really think would enjoy a night of camaraderie and fellowship, it’s important to make sure they feel comfortable about attending. After all, etiquette is all about making those around us feel at ease.

Here are a few tips to encourage new players to come out:

  1. Open your home an hour before the game so new players can come and learn with an open hand and become acquainted with the rules of the game.
  2. Explain that they aren’t the only one. That many of the players attending won’t be any more experienced than they are and that the point of the night is to have fun.
  3. Set the betting parameters ahead of time. Place bet limits, so everyone has an opportunity to win. Don’t allow cash bets and make that clear upfront. In my games, the buy-in is $20, and the re-buy is a nice bottle of alcohol with a minimum SRP of $50. In the end, the winner walks away with all the money and all of the alcohol.
  4. Don’t pressure someone to attend, but instead suggest they pop by just to enjoy a drink. If they don’t feel compelled to play, they might decide last minute to buy-in. Plus, the most they’ll lose is $20 and a bottle of alcohol (if they re-buy). At the very least, they’ll learn the game and see what the night is all about.

So long as there is little pressure, most men will come around. A big tip is to invite gentlemen from various circles, so there is a wide range of personalities. This gives the other men a chance to meet a new friend perhaps, or gain a business contact.

Who to Invite

The goal is to invite a range of personalities, but ones that will get along well. Since money is on the line and alcohol is being consumed, you want to ensure that the game doesn’t go from friendly to argumentative. Here are some tips to ensure a smooth evening without having any regrets.

Inviting Colleagues and Clients

A poker night can be an excellent opportunity for networking and to become the hero at the office. However, you need to ensure that your reputation remains on point, and when you invite business associates or your boss, you want to be sure that everyone will get along. Because of this, you need to be particularly careful about who you invite. You don’t want anyone to feel left out, so either discreetly invite just a few close friends from the office, or if you work for a small company, consider inviting everyone.

Friends and Family

Friends are the reason men host poker nights. However, there are always a few friends that perhaps are of concern. Either they tend to drink too much, they can be rowdy or sometimes they simply can be downright offensive (homophobic, racist, etc.). Despite wanting to ensure a mixed crowd, if you have any concerns about people getting along, it’s best to refrain from sending an invite to whoever might be the source of anxiety. If you have to invite them because they’re part of a larger group that’s been invited, you’ll have to decide how big a risk they are to the evening. The last thing you want is a rowdy, drunk buffoon taking over the night or a penny-pinching angry drunk who might take losing too seriously.

This is pretty standard for any party that serves alcohol, but when you mix gambling, hard earned money, mixed personalities and alcohol together, you need to be especially careful that the evening goes without a hitch.

The Invitations

In today’s world of instant messaging, Facebook and email, it becomes increasingly common to quickly throw out an invite via social media. One of the reasons my games seem to be popular is because I try and bring it back to the days where men dressed up to go out. I often receive feedback throughout the year from players who have attended asking if next time they can bring a friend, or when the next game will be. Even though most modern guys tend to prefer cheap beer and baseball caps, I’ve found men really do enjoy a nice night out.

Because of this, we recommend sending out an actual invitation by mail. The invitation should specify what the night is all about, what game will be played and the basics that everyone needs to know, such as:

  • The time it begins and ends.
  • The buy-in and re-buy.
  • If they’re required to bring anything (BYOB).
  • If dinner will be served.
  • If there is a dress code.
  • If they can bring someone.
  • RSVP requests.

The Follow Up

About a week after the invitation has gone out, send a message via email or Facebook to each player you’ve invited. In it, provide a little more information and ask them to RSVP. It’s often a good idea to include a YouTube video on how to play poker so that it lets people know it’s open to all levels of players.

Tip: Consider starting a private Facebook group or scheduling it as an event so those attending can ask questions and get more information.

A few days before the game, it’s a good idea to send out an event reminder, not only in case someone forgot, but also to confirm if anyone needs to cancel last minute.

What You Need To Host A Game

Hosting a poker night can be costly, but it doesn’t have to be. When I started hosting these games, I didn’t have the ability to provide food, drinks, cigars and pay for the event supplies. It’s only as my career has progressed that I’ve been able to offer more as a host.

Here are some ideas of what to provide for various budgets:

Low Budget (Under $100)

Aside from the actual location and a table, you’ll need the following:

  • A deck or two of sealed playing cards (all plastic, not paper)
  • Poker chips.
  • Basic snacks such as chips, popcorn, pretzels, candy, etc…
  • Non-alcoholic beverages such as soft drinks, water, energy drinks, etc…

Have the guests bring any alcohol they wish to consume. Most guests won’t mind, and if you’re offering a place to smoke cigars, you can simply leave that option available by saying “Cigar Smoking permitted outside,” or in a specific room.

A poker chip set is a must have for any game

A poker chip set is a must have for any game

Medium Budget

Of course, the following are simply ideas on what you may want to provide to players, in addition to anything listed above.

Finger foods are the easiest appetizers to serve for game night

Finger foods are the easiest appetizers to serve for game night

High Budget

In addition to any items listed above.

A medium sized bar for poker night

A medium sized bar for poker night

Unlimited Budget

Of course, there is no limit to what you can provide, but here are a few suggestions in addition to the ones above:

  • Catering
  • A professional dealer at the table.
  • A full bar with an experienced bartender.
  • Waitstaff to serve the players.
  • A temperature-controlled smoking area (if smoking isn’t permitted in the home).
  • Hiring a dealer is great for tournaments

    Hiring a dealer is great for tournaments

Gentleman-Only Games vs. Coed

Prior to sending out invitations, it’s always important to decide whether this will be a gentleman’s evening or if it’s open to their wives and girlfriends as well.

If you do decide to keep it men only, you’ll need to mention this in the invitation, so it’s clear. There is nothing more uncomfortable than the one guy who shows up with his wife in tow when the other men are expecting a night away from the wives and girlfriends.

The poker game in Casino Royale

The poker game in Casino Royale

Your Own Family

One important tip is to abide by your own rules. When I host my poker games, they are for gentlemen only, so I make arrangements for my wife and my children to be away for the entire evening. Either they’ll go to a hotel for the night, or spend the night at the in-laws house.

When I host my poker games, they are for gentlemen only, Sven Raphael Schneider invites men and women.

If you are opening it up to wives and girlfriends or you plan to invite female friends, you should take every effort to make them comfortable and to offer a selection of food and beverages that meet any dietary requirements. This means perhaps offering items like Vietnamese salad rolls in addition to pizza and chicken wings. It means acting like gentlemen.

Laying out the Rules

Perhaps the biggest mistake any poker game host can make is not clearly laying out the rules of the game ahead of time. Any time that money is involved in a game, it’s important that every player is clear about what’s expected. Here are some tips to ensure there is no confusion, miscommunication or arguments.

  1. Indicate what style of poker will be played on the initial invitation (i.e. Texas Hold ‘Em, Omaha, 7-Card Stud, 5-Card Draw) Note, most people play Texas Hold’Em today, so if you want to avoid confusion, this is probably your best bet.
  2. Indicate on the invitation what the buy-in requirements are. This doesn’t have to be overly specific, but it should mention the amounts. In other words, you don’t need to specify limits, but you should clearly indicate the initial buy-in cost and any re-buy.
  3. Prior to the game, but once all the players have arrived, ask for silence and go over the rules. This will include the standard rules of the style of game, how the blinds will work, how the re-buy works, any betting rules and limitations, when the game will end and/or how it will end as well as house rules (i.e. smoking, leaving the table, leaving the game, etc.).
  4. Don’t make up your own rules. Stick with standard game rules to prevent arguments and confusion.
  5. Don’t change the rules. Everyone has opinions on how games should be run but in the end, it’s your game. Stick to the rules or go to a vote. Don’t change the rules as the game progresses.
  6. After reviewing the rules, ask if everyone understands or if there are any questions before the game begins.
  7. For newbies: Review the hands and make sure everyone knows all of the poker hands and what hand beats what. It’s a good idea to have a visual chart or card for each table or even each player. Also, discuss if there will be any wild cards.

Time Restraints

Depending on how many people you have and how the game progresses, a poker night can last quite a long time. At my games, we go until one person is left and that person wins the entire pot. Usually, the sun has already begun to come up by the time the last players leave. Because of this, there are often players who need to leave sooner for family or work requirements or simply because they just can’t stay awake any longer.

If you do decide to play until the game naturally ends, be sure that you indicate this to everyone ahead of time. There should be absolutely no confusion about this rule, and it should be clearly stipulated what happens if you do have to leave the game before you’re out. In most cases this means forfeiting.

Timed Games

If you do decide to state an end-time for the game, do so ahead of time and specify when the game will end in the invitation. Then, when you go over the rules, explain how the winner will be determined and how you will deal with any risk of a tied game. Will there be a sudden death hand dealt, will the pot be split, etc.? The goal is clarity and ensuring that every player leaves without resentment because the feel swindled or was unsure of the rules.

Preparing for the Game

When you’re hosting the game, there is no option of being tired and going to bed early. If you’re out, you’re out. You can’t just say goodnight and go into the other room to watch television. Like any party, you have to be a good host. Other players can retire and go home when they’re out, but you need to be hosting until the last player leaves.

It’s a good idea to host games on nights that you don’t have to work the day before or the day after. Saturday nights tend to be the best. We also suggest that you don’t make other plans that weekend as you’ll need the day of to prepare and the day after to rest and clean up.

The Set Up

Try and plan your day with the intent of pulling an all-nighter. Don’t do anything too rigorous like going to the gym or being too active. Consider getting a nap or two in and even changing your sleep schedule the night before. The last thing you want is to get too tired that you become a poor host. Especially if the game goes until the last person wins.

In the afternoon, set up the house. If you’re using actual poker tables, set them up in the room or rooms the game will be played in. Limit tables to a maximum of ten players each and set up multiple tables if your guest count requires it. By the end, you’ll have a single table left.

A custom poker table is great for those with space who regularly host poker nights

A custom poker table is great for those with space who regularly host poker nights

On the table, you should have every player’s section set up before the players arrive. This should include the following:

  • Stack of poker chips (if it’s not cash bets)
  • Any other items such as a cigar, a coaster for their drink, a card with the rules.
  • Set up the dealer section with a dealer chip, two decks of sealed cards and a card shuffler if you don’t plan to shuffle by hand.
  • Place any other items required on each table such as the rule book, a visual guide for hands and a timer for blinds.

Set up a convenient food table and a bar if you won’t be having a waitstaff to serve your guests. This should be in the same room as the game.

The Day Before the Game

  • Clean the house from top to bottom.
  • Review the list of everything you need and buy any groceries or items you don’t have.

The Day of the Game

  • Tidy the house.
  • Have a long nap.

Two Hours Before Guests Arrive

  • Set up the bar.
  • Set up the smoking area and any other rooms in the house used for entertaining.
  • If you’ll have movies playing it’s a good idea to prepare them.
  • You can also pre-program music for the evening.
A well stocked home bar for poker night isnt required

A well stocked home bar for poker night isnt required

One Hour Before Guests Arrive

  • Make sure all the food is ready to go and is being prepared, so it comes out hot and on time.
  • Place any drinks that need to be chilled in the fridge or icebox
  • Decant any red wine you plan to serve as needed.

Thirty Minutes Before Guests Arrive

  • Turn on the music and the movies.
  • Fill ice buckets and coolers.
  • Begin to put out food and chilled drinks.
  • Set the temperature so it’s comfortable for your guests.
  • Pull cigars out of the humidor and place in designated area.

Entertainment & Food

One of the reasons my games tend to be well attended is because I provide a varied selection of entertainment, food and beverages.

The following is exactly what I offer to my guests when attending a game in my home.


The room that the game is played in usually has no entertainment. At the most, I might have some music playing as the players begin to arrive, but it is always turned off once the game begins. Here are some music suggestions:

  • Crooners such as Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin or even newer musicians like Michael Buble or Matt Dusk.
  • Soft or cool Jazz music from the greats. I find piano jazz or the kind you would hear playing softly at a lounge works well.
  • Cocktail party music from hitmakers like Adele or something funky like Parov Stelar.

Since we have children, I don’t allow cigar smoking in the home, but always have our patio open for the gentleman who wish to smoke cigars, cigarettes or a pipe. Because of this, I usually have music playing in the backyard throughout the night to help set and maintain the mood.

Consider pre-programming your playlist or using a service like Apple Music or Google Play since they offer a wide array of curated playlists perfect for cocktail parties and poker games.

It’s also a nice idea to have varying genres of music playing in other rooms open to the players. If you have a sitting room that guests who aren’t playing can gather, consider having music playing in the background.

Other Entertainment

I’ve heard of men who hire exotic dancers to entertain at their poker games, but this isn’t something we recommend for a gentleman’s evening. Here are few of the things I do when hosting a game:


At some point, there will be men who will decide to sit out a hand or two, or will be out altogether but wish to remain at the gathering either because they came with someone who is still playing, or it’s still early, and they want to enjoy the fellowship. Because of this, I always have movies playing in a separate room throughout the night. Here are some suggestions that have received favourable reviews and work well for the type of party:

  • James Bond films (particularly Casino Royale)
  • Films such as North by Northwest, The Godfather trilogy or other classic movies.
  • Classic comedies from groups like the Marx Brothers.
  • Television series such as Downton Abbey, Peaky Blinders, Hannibal or Suits.
Food served during the game should be able to be eaten with one hand

Food served during the game should be able to be eaten with one hand


If alcohol will be consumed – and just as a general rule – it’s a good idea to serve food with the game. Since the games can last awhile, it’s best to offer food that will last through the night and food that can be snacked on.

For lower budget games, consider snacks like chips, nuts, party mix, popcorn, pretzels and other inexpensive items that can easily be consumed with one hand while playing. Of course, regardless of your budget, these are great items to keep on hand anyhow.

If your budget allows some more freedom for other options, consider hot and cold hors d’oeuvres. It’s best to try and select appetizers that don’t require silverware, are finger foods, and can ideally be eaten with one hand while holding cards in the other. This way players can snack without the game being interrupted.

Some hors d’oeuvres that we recommend include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Dry spareribs
  • Spring rolls
  • Samosas
  • Artisan breads with oil and vinegar
  • Fine cheeses
  • Charcuterie
  • Mini quiche
  • Dumplings
  • Shrimp and cocktail sauce

Of course, you can also serve traditional ‘game food’ like nachos, chicken wings and mozzarella sticks. That or elevate the menu and offer caviar on blinis, oysters and verrines.

Men Barbecuing on an Island

Men Barbecuing on an Island


Offering a gentleman’s dinner with the game night is another way of furthering the experience. There are pros and cons to having dinner with the game.


  • An opportunity for more fellowship.
  • Men are more inclined to talk during dinner than during the game.
  • A chance to discuss the game and go over the rules and gameplay.


  • Many men with families or significant others will send their regrets. A good idea is to ask people to RSVP separately for dinner and the game so even if they can’t attend one, they may show up for the other.
  • It extends the time of the event which is already a long night.
A great patio for gentlemen taking a break from the game

A great patio for gentlemen taking a break from the game


Here are a few tips to ensure a successful dinner and game night.

  1. Serve dinner before and not during the game at a separate table. This way, the game isn’t affected, and gameplay isn’t slowed down.
  2. Unless you have retained the services of staff or have household staff, consider making a large item such as a roast, brisket or a buffet rather than items that need to be individually cooked.
  3. Consider hiring a single all-purpose staff member to help cook, serve and clean up dinner so you can get right to the game and enjoy your company.
  4. In warm weather, consider an outdoor cookout and al fresco dining. Each man can be responsible for his own meal or you can do easy-to-serve and a casual menu of hot dogs, sausages or even steaks.

Menu Suggestions

Since it’s a gentleman’s night, consider traditionally masculine meals. Here are some ideas should you choose to serve dinner before the game.

  • Steaks (ribeye, striploin, filet)
  • Brisket
  • Lamb Chops
  • Grouse, Partridge or Quail
  • Ribs
  • Sandwiches (DIY or submarines)
  • Pizza and Wings (homemade or delivery)


There are some sides in particular that are easy to prepare, cook and serve. They don’t have to be fancy, and although you can elevate it and do a formal dinner, for a poker game, it can remain casual. Here are our suggestions:

  • Potatoes (roasted, baked or mashed)
  • Warm Tortilla Chips with Guacamole
  • Salads (Caesar, potato, pasta, coleslaw, etc.)
  • Grilled or Roasted Vegetables

If you do have the option of catering or employ a household staff, the sky is the limit. Consider other items or offer a selection from a printed menu.

A countertop beer cooler for draft beer

A countertop beer cooler for draft beer

Beverages & Cigars

It is almost imperative that at the very least, as a host you offer a selection of non-alcoholic beverages. For this, we recommend typical mixers that you use in a cocktail as well as other drinks.

  • Cola, Sprite, Ginger Ale, Club Soda, Tonic Water, and a selection of diet drinks.
  • Bottled water.
  • Sports and energy drinks such as Gatorade and Redbull.
  • Coffee, Decaf and Tea

Offering non-alcoholic beverages is perfect for all in attendance. It provides mix for cocktails, caffeine to help keep players awake, beverages for those who don’t drink alcohol or for those wishing to take a break or sober up before heading home.


If you do plan to offer alcohol, you can offer the very basics if you’re working with a budget or a full bar. If you do plan to offer liquor, here are some basics to have on hand for your guests:

– Beer

A selection of beers is best, but you can always just offer one kind. A good selection will consist of light and dark domestics and imports. You could also offer a selection of craft beer or flavoured beer if you really want to have a variety. Here are some basic brands to consider:

  • Budweiser
  • Coors
  • Corona
  • Sam Adams
  • Guinness
  • Innis & Gunn
  • Hoegaarden
  • Red Stripe
  • Becks
  • Heineken
  • Local Craft Beers


Wine is something you may want to consider offering but doesn’t typically get consumed as much as hard liquor and beer. However, it never hurts to have a few bottles or white, red and perhaps a port or sherry for your guests. If budget is a concern, wine is easily something that can be left off the menu. It’s nice to have, but not necessary.

Even a small selection of spirits is enough for poker night

Even a small selection of spirits is enough for poker night


Hard liquor tends to be the most widely consumed liquor at any of the poker games I’ve hosted. Whether it’s because men think of James Bond when they play poker or because they truly enjoy a hard drink, having a selection of spirits is always a good idea.

Of course, you can offer a full bar, but if you’re not interested in spending the money or losing the alcohol already in your collection, we suggest a few bottles of whisky, a bottle of vodka, a bottle of gin, a bottle of brandy, and a bottle of rum. Here are some of our relatively inexpensive favorites:


  • The Dalmore 12 Year (Scotch)
  • Auchentoshan American Oak (Scotch – perfect for beginners)
  • Lagavulin 16 Year (Scotch)
  • Crown Royal Deluxe (Canadian – perfect for cocktails)
  • Canadian Club Chairman’s Rye (Canadian – perfect for cocktails)
  • Basil Hayden (Bourbon)
  • Blanton’s (Bourbon)
  • Woodford Reserve (Bourbon)

Storied Whiskies

Sometimes it’s nice to offer a single bottle that has a story to it. This is one way to really elevate the evening. It doesn’t have to be expensive or rare, but it should be something that people find interesting and will discuss. This is especially great for groups that don’t know each other as it offers an ice breaker and opens up the lines of communication. Here are a few bottles you may want to consider:

Orphan Barrel Bourbons – Price Varies

The story behind Orphan Barrel is about as intriguing as it gets. Diageo basically finds long-forgotten barrels of rare whiskey discovered in old rickhouses and distilleries around the United States and bottles them for sale under the new brand Orphan Barrel. All are limited but some are very rare, and each one comes with a compelling story.

Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye – $28

In his latest edition of the Whisky Bible, renowned critic Jim Murray named this whisky his World Whisky of the Year. Controversial doesn’t begin to describe how whisky purists and critics responded to a $28 90% rye mash Canadian whisky receiving this accolade. Whether you agree with Murray or not, there will be no shortage of discussion over this bottle. The trick is finding one still on the shelves.

Pappy Van Winkle 23-Year – Price Varies

One of the most storied and rare bourbons in the world, Pappy Van Winkle is a whiskey that every man knows, but few will ever try. If you can get your hands on a bottle, consider pulling it out and talking about the history of the brand and whether it lives up to its reputation.

Any Vintage Scotch

Any rare or vintage Scotch is always a talking point. If you have the funds or a bottle in the bar, consider pulling it out. After all, a gathering of friends is the best time to open a bottle of Scotch.


Vodka is a little simpler than whisky. Sure, there are purists out there, but at a party, most men are content with one or two bottles that can be used in a martini or simply consumed over ice. For that, we recommend Grey Goose or Ketel One as both are considered high-quality vodkas but sell for reasonable prices.


Again, like vodka, gin is usually used to mix a martini, a G&T or another classic cocktail. Because of this, simply having a bottle of Bombay Sapphire, Tanqueray or Gordon’s will do the trick. If you want something a little more unique, consider The London’s No. 1 or G’Vine Floraison.


Brandy is always a hit, but it can get expensive. Unless you happen to own a rather large selection, having a single bottle is usually more than enough. Instead of offering it during the game, consider leaving it in another sitting room for men who aren’t playing and may wish to enjoy it with a cigar or during an in-depth discussion. Typically, most men associate an XO Cognac as being the best of the best. If you are looking for something more unique or less expensive, consider an Armagnac (which is actually my personal preference) or even a more unique brandy such as one from Spain, which is far less costly.


Rum is one of those spirits that has two styles of drinkers. There’s the purist who enjoys a quality rum neat, and there are men who enjoy it in cocktails. Since each style of rum is so unique, we recommend having the following:

  • A dark, aged rum for sipping such as Diplomatico, Flor De Cana, or El Dorado.
  • A spiced rum such as Appleton’s or the very inexpensive Shellback.
  • A blanco or white rum for cocktails such as Shellback, Havana Club or even Bacardi.

Other Spirits

There are many other spirits worth having on hand. The goal of a poker night is to enjoy the game, not get drunk. Plus, at some point, the hope is everyone can get home without having to sleep in your guest room or leave their car. Some spirits like tequila have a tendency to get misused by some guests, and if you open the game up to a wide array of people or friends of friends, you increase the risk that someone will have too much to drink.

It’s one thing to need a ride home, but it’s a whole other to have to be carried out as that can really affect the evening and impact the experience. You’ll never see James Bond being carried out of a cocktail party because he was downing tequila shots.

To combat this risk, we recommend serving premium spirits that guests won’t be so inclined to abuse. If you are going to offer tequila, consider an Anejo or Reposado tequila such as Partida. It’s not overly expensive, but it’s also not one that most men will down in a shot glass. The goal is to sip a drink throughout the evening, not to pound them back. Serve it in a snifter and you’ll elevate the formality of the evening and decrease the risk of intoxication.

A perfect smoking room at home

A perfect smoking room at home


Smoking is a sensitive subject. Today, most parties don’t encourage it, especially in the home. However, there is a tradition of enjoying a fine cigar while playing poker, so offering cigars are something we encourage. However, it’s important to remember not everyone will be comfortable with smoking.

In the summer, it’s easier because you can usually arrange a spot outside for those who do wish to smoke. However, in the winter, it can be challenging.

If you do decide to allow or to offer cigars, here are some suggestions:

  1. Don’t allow it inside, or restrict it to a specific area. Some people are allergic to smoke or simply don’t like it. Therefore permitting it at the table can be disastrous to the experience. Even if everyone agrees that it’s fine, you run the risk that they will regret that decision when they get home and smell of smoke – even if they didn’t smoke themselves. It is also something we do not recommend doing indoors if you live with children, pets or a significant other who doesn’t appreciate it.
  2. If you are going to offer it indoors, make sure it’s restricted to a specific room or area of the house that’s properly ventilated.
  3. Be sure to clearly stipulate the game rules regarding leaving the table. Those who do leave to smoke should be aware ahead of time if they will forfeit a hand or the game completely.

If you are going to allow smoking at the game, there are three ways to offer the opportunity of a cigar:

  1. Simply state in the invitation that cigar smoking is permitted. This will encourage those who do wish to partake in the activity, to bring their own cigars or tobacco.
  2. Provide one or two cigars for each player. This is something I personally do. Although I have a fairly large collection, most of my cigars are quite expensive and not ones I want wasted on those who won’t appreciate it, or rushed through because the smoker wants to get back to the game. Because of this, I usually offer the same cigar to each player and have it set out at each spot before the guests arrive. If they would like something different, I do offer it, but you could also ask that they bring their own.
  3. The third option is to simply allow free-reign of your humidor or have boxes open in the designated smoking area.

If you are planning to permit smoking, here are a few things you should provide:

  • Ashtrays. Even if you aren’t offering cigars, it’s a good idea to have at least one or two outside for those wishing to take a break for a cigarette.
  • A torch lighter. Most men won’t bring their own. Having a communal lighter or two is a wise idea).
  • A guillotine cutter. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but having a guillotine cutter available is great for anyone wishing to enjoy a cigar.

The Smoking Area

If you do plan to offer smoking inside the home, be sure to clearly indicate where it is permitted. It’s a wise idea to choose a room that is able to be closed off. If you are allowing smoking indoors, consider the following ideas to elevate the experience:

  • Have all necessary equipment such as ashtrays, cutters and lighters laid out ahead of time.
  • Have boxes of cigars or an unlocked humidor available for guests.
  • Invest in an air filtration system specifically designed for smoke or leave a few windows cracked open.
  • Have music playing in the background or a television playing movies.
  • Consider setting the lighting, so the area is calm or lighting some candles with masculine scents such as cedarwood, tobacco and leather.
  • If offering cognac, this is a great location to leave the bottle with a few glasses. You could also leave a bottle of whisky in the room or a bottle of port.

If you plan to have the smoking area outdoors, here are a few tips to ensure comfort and elevate the experience.

  1. If the area is near the room that the game is played in, close any curtains or blinds to prevent any risk of cheating or players outside seeing the hands.
  2. Consider outdoor heaters if it’s chilly or downright cold.
  3. Have music playing softly over outdoor speakers. Just be certain it isn’t loud enough to disturb your neighbors.
  4. Have seating and tables available with ashtrays, lighters and cutters easily accessible.
  5. Consider lighting candles or using outdoor lighting to set the mood and provide light.
  6. If it’s hot, consider having a cooler with cold drinks or a table set up with some snacks and beverages.
  7. If you have children, try and remove any of their toys or outdoor activities. This is an adults-only event. It shouldn’t feel like they’re smoking in a daycare.

Poker Accessories

Here are some items that will help ensure a flawless evening of poker and fellowship.

This poker table easily stores away but is great for game night

This poker table easily stores away but is great for game night

Folding Long Poker Table – $219

Certainly, you can use any regular table. There is no requirement to purchasing an actual poker table. However, for those who hold regular tournaments, it can be a fun way to elevate the game and enjoy a true casino-style experience. There are many people who invest thousands of dollars into a solid wood poker table, however, for the casual host, this folding table is perfect because, after the game, it can be tucked away into storage until the next tournament. It’s also great because you can transport it if you’re helping a friend host or hosting one elsewhere such as at a rental hall or even the cabin. Click here to buy one.

Octagon Poker Table – $355

If you plan to have multiple tables for a tournament or larger crowd, or you have limited space, this octagon table is a great option instead of the larger rectangular tables. Click here to buy one today.

A foldable poker table top is perfect for placing on another table

A foldable poker table top is perfect for placing on another table

Poker Table Top – $42

For the host who wants to save some money but still enjoy a casino-style experience, this table top sits neatly on any square or round table you already have at home. Perfect for the dining room or even the kitchen, it’s a nice way of enhancing the evening. Click here to get one.

1000 11.5-Gram Dice-Striped Chips in Aluminum Case – $84

Most poker chip sets you buy at stores like Walmart and Costco come with 205 – 500 pieces. If your having any more than a handful of guys, you’re going to need more chips. We recommend a 1000 chip set or multiple 1000 chip sets. This set is great if you lend it out to other hosts or have multiple homes you host games at. Click here to get yours.

14-gram Heavyweight Poker Chips – Set of 1000 in Acrylic Display Case – $129

Poker chips are graded based on their weight. Most professional poker players prefer a heavier clay chip, although really, cheap plastic ones are fine. This is the set I use, and I highly recommend it. It’s basically a box, so it’s easy to store but it’s perfect for home tournaments because you can stack cases on top of each other in a corner and bring out however many chips you require. Click here to get a set. If you prefer a less expensive case, consider this one for just $47.

Playing Cards – $11

Playing cards are a must and at a minimum, you should have two sealed decks for each table. The more, the merrier. Of course a factory sealed deck is best for games with strangers but with friends you can use an existing deck especially if you use quality plastic cards.  Click here to get a Copag Jumbo Size plastic card deck.

An automatic card shuffler is a great tool to have

An automatic card shuffler is a great tool to have

Six Deck Card Shuffler – $9

Not everyone at the table will be an expert shuffler, and unless you have a hired dealer, you’ll be circling the dealer chip around the table as you play. Because of this, the use of a card shuffler is highly recommended. Make sure the cards fit, and get regular size cards if you go with a shuffler. Otherwise, jumbo cards are nicer. Fortunately, they’re not very expensive, and you can get this six-deck shuffler for under $10. Click here to get a shuffler to get one.

Mini Keg Draft Beer Dispenser – $197

If you have a beer you plan to feature, why not invest in a mini keg dispenser. Not only are these neat to use, but they pour the beer at the perfect temperature every time, and you can pour a little or pour a lot. Click here to buy one.

Air Purifier & Deodorizer for Smoke – $84

If you do plan to permit smoking in the house, consider investing in an air purifier that will rid the room of smoke and smell. There are many on the market, but this one is under $100 and has great reviews. Click here to buy it.

Communal Cigar Ashtray – $10

An ashtray is a must when smoking a cigar, but the typical cigarette ashtray is almost useless for cigars. Instead, for $10, invest in this cigar ashtray that you can rest up to four cigars in as you smoke. Click here to get it.

Buffet Tray Warmer – $49

You may need a few of these, but if you plan to serve hot appetizers, these will keep them warm, so you don’t have to stand over an oven all night. Click here to buy it.

Poker Tournament Timer – $29

You really can use just an egg timer or the timer on your microwave or phone, but an actual poker tournament timer keeps track of everything you need to know for the game including the blinds and how long you have left for the re-buy. At $30 it’s well worth the investment. Just make sure you have one for each table or start the tables at the same time. Click here to buy one.


Hosting a poker tournament doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, the simpler the evening, the better the results. Cash games can be fun, but you run the risk of attracting a smaller crowd due to budgets. Often, it’s the guy with the biggest bankroll that can run the game. That’s why we recommend a set buy-in and re-buy with everyone receiving equal chips. The game remains fair and everyone leaves knowing they had a chance to win with no hard feelings. The most basic poker game doesn’t need to cost any more than $100 to host. Even if you only host one once a year, it will be an event all of your friends will look forward to.

What tips do you have for hosting a friendly poker night?

Article Name
How to Host a Poker Night
The ultimate guide to hosting a poker game or tournament with tips, food suggestions and drink pairings.
4 replies
  1. J Miguel Enciso says:

    Love the article, Im planning a poker night right now.
    I really like the level of detail you offer such as the different options for different pocket depths.

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