Hosting a poker game requires you to own a bunch of supplies, some more important than the others.
In part one of this series we looked at the space you need, now we’re going to look at what you need to fill that space.
If you went through to buy everything on this list at once, your homegame is going to get very expensive in a hurry. Ideally you can spread the cost out among your friends, but regardless of how you do it there are some things you absolutely need if you want to run a homegame.
Poker Playing Cards
Not all cards are alike. If you have a deck of paper Bicycles kicking around in your junk drawer, throw them out. Often overlooked, the cards you play with make a quantitative difference to the quality of your homegame. A couple decks of premium cards are going to be expensive, but in the long run they will end up saving you money. Premium cards are made from 100% plastic. They last longer, don’t get beaten up easily, can be washed, and are easier to handle and deal.
You may have noticed I said you need a couple decks. It’s absolutely crucial you have two decks of cards, with clearly different backs, for your homegame. One of the biggest leaks in any poker game is the speed of play. Having two decks allows the player who just dealt to gather the cards and shuffle the deck while the player on his left concurrently deals the next hand.
Note: Most homegames seem to do this backwards. You want to shuffle the deck AFTER you have dealt it. Shuffling ‘behind’ has two advantages over shuffling ‘ahead’: it helps keep the old cards out of the way of the dealer, and it makes cheating more difficult.
When buying cards there are only two brands to consider:
KEM – KEM cards are the official cards of the World Poker Tour, and have been the standard in casino and bridge cards for decades.
Copag – Copag cards are the official cards of the World Series of Poker.
Both brands only sell their cards in sets of two decks. It’s important to be aware that there are many counterfeit KEMs for sale out there. While I prefer KEM cards to play with, I’ve been burned buying imitations before. For this reason I suggest you pick up Copags.
As for quality between the two, they’re basically dead-on-even. Some players will prefer one over the other, but they’re both fantastic. I suggest getting poker sized and regular index.
You can’t play poker without poker chips. You’re going to spend more time touching and playing with your chips than anything else during the night. So you’re going to want to get some decent quality chips. Those thin plastic things you can get at a dollar store are a waste of your dollar.
What to look for in poker chips:
- Weight: ideally you want 14 grams.
- Material: Clay Composite is what you want, unless you’re going to grab casino quality plastic.
- Design: only get chips without denominations.
- Quantity: Don’t buy less than 500.
All of the above are important, especially the design. Not having denominations on your chips gives you the freedom to spread any type of poker game, at any denominations. You don’t want to be in a situation where you find yourself having to say “Okay guys, the $5 are 25¢, the $25 are $1, and the $100’s are $5.”
Avoid confusing your players and stick to chips without denominations.
If you want to get really baller you can have a custom set of chips made just for your game. It’s expensive, but it’s actually pretty sweet to have your own casino chips.
For us regular people I suggest a set of chips like this: Ace King Suited, 500 Chips with Aluminum case.
Dealer Button and Cut Card
You can technically use anything that stands out on the table as a dealer button. But you might as well just get a dealer button. Most sets of chips (like the one linked above) include one.
A cut-card is used to stop anyone from seeing the bottom card on the deck as someone deals. Grab a few the same size as the cards you ordered. The Copags I linked earlier include some cut cards.
Easily the most expensive and difficult part of hosting a homegame. A real poker table is far more important than you may think. The two crucial elements of a poker table are the felt (with padding below it) and the rail.
The felt of a poker table serves three important functions:
- It allows you to easily peel your cards off the table to see what you were dealt. It’s actually against the rules to take your cards off the table, making the felt required not to break this rule.
- It helps with dealing. Cards won’t slide endlessly, and you won’t scratch up your cards sliding them around.
- It keeps things quiter. Clay chips being thrown onto a hard table top makes more noise than you think.
The rail of a poker table stops things from falling off the table, like all of your chips. The main purpose of a rail is as a backstop for the cards when dealing. Instead of cards flying off the table when pitched with any speed, they hit the rail and stop in front of the player. This allows you to deal properly and quickly.
There are three types of poker table you can get. In order of most to least desireable:
- A purpose-built professional table is ideal (one without a dealer tray is best). You can build your own or buy one pre-made, but not everyone has that kind of money to spend, or space to store it.
- A folding poker table is a decent option.
- Finally you can get away with a poker table topper, which sits on top of your regular table.
I want to warn you away from getting a topper. The problem is they just kind of suck. If it’s smaller than your table, some players have awkward reaches or ledges in their way. If it’s bigger than your table it’s going to get pushed around, or even tipped as someone leans forward against the rail. A topper should be your last resort.
Once you have everything you need for your homegame, all that’s left is figuring out how to play.
Read the other parts of this series: