You have watched poker on television, perhaps played online, or even in a casino or a friend’s home game. Now you are ready to host your own poker tournament. Playing in a well-run live tournament is much more satisfying than online. The conversation, the poker faces, the feel of the cards in your hand, and the sound of the chips shuffling are all part of the live poker tournament experience. Best of all may be the feeling of accomplishment when you take down a win or make a great play and get the immediate recognition of other players. You just can’t match that in an online game. Of course, a poorly run live tournament can be a nightmare. So make sure yours is run right.
To run a successful home poker tournament you need a poker table or other suitable playing surface, some quality playing cards, poker chips, some kind of blinds timer, and a plan. Sure you can play on the floor with some cheap cards and pennies, but our goal here was to make this an enjoyable game.
A poker table makes for a much more enjoyable game but will likely also be your biggest investment. If you do not have a poker table and do not have the budget for one you can still make a successful game. The important part is to keep the game play in mind. If you decide to play on a kitchen table, it will be more difficult to handle the chips and to deal. Cards will fly across (and sometimes off) the table. If you cannot afford a poker table, consider some other options such as a portable table topper or just purchase some poker table speed cloth and cover your kitchen table with it. If your handy, consider building your own poker table; it is not that difficult.
Quality playing cards are essential for a good poker game. If you buy a two-dollar deck of cards, they will become dirty, sticky, and unintentionally marked quickly. It is well worth the money to invest in some quality 100% plastic playing cards. They will play better and last much longer. You can even wash them if they become soiled. You will need two decks of cards for each table. This allows one player to be shuffling while one is dealing which helps prevent the action from becoming slow as players wait for shuffling between each hand. You should also get at least one cut card for each table to help prevent the bottom card of the deck from being exposed.
Poker chips are also necessary to have for a serious game. There are wide varieties of poker chips on the market ranging in cost from pennies per chip to well over a dollar per chip. You do not have to have the expensive chips to have a good game. Chips also come with or without denominations on them. Poker chips with denominations can be very convenient, but are not necessary. Chips without denominations can be more flexible as you can assign any value to them. If you choose to use chips without denominations just post a chart of what each color is worth in a very visible place. The amount of chips you need depends on the number of players. Get enough that each player can start with a decent stack (20-30 chips is a good target) and make bets without frequently needing change. You will also want some larger denomination chips to color up in later rounds.
There are many options for blinds timers. You can use a simple egg-timer although this presents a hassle as someone has to reset it for each round and it can be difficult to see. The Poker Genie is a good option, or there are many programs you can get that will run on a laptop strategically placed near the action. You can also purchase dealer buttons with built in timers.
Finally, you need a plan. You should know in advance what your buy in amount will be, whether you will allow rebuys, what your payouts will be, and what your blind structure will be. Your buy in and rebuys should be communicated when you invite people. No one wants to show up with $20 in their pocket to find out you are having a $30 buy in game. Payouts need to be decided and announced before play starts. Posting your blind structure in advance will help prevent disagreements about the speed at which blind should escalate.
When setting up your blind structure consider how long you would like the game to last. Typically, you can estimate this by assuming the last blind reached will be about one-tenth of the total chips in play. Have a couple rounds listed after this just in case. A common mistake when setting up blinds is simply doubling blinds every round. This may be okay in early rounds, but as blinds get bigger this may create too big of a jump unless you are looking for a fast tournament. When deciding on time for each round consider how long you want the game to last, but typically 10-minute rounds are pretty quick and 30 minutes are pretty long. Usually 15 or 20 minutes is a good rule of thumb. Here is an example of a good blind structure:
Round 1: 100-200
Round 2: 200-400
Round 3: 300-600
Round 4: 500-1000
Round 5: 700-1400
Round 6: 1000-2000
Round 7: 1500-3000
Round 8: 2000-4000
Round 9: 3000-6000
Round 10: 5000-8000
Round 11: 7000-14,000
Round 12: 10,000-20,000
Round 13: 20,000-40,000
It is also a good idea to go over some ground rules and declare a moderator to make rulings if necessary as well as a backup moderator for when the first one is involved in the hand in question. Take your time to set up a good plan, gather the poker supplies you need and shuffle up and deal. Have fun and good luck.