Poker has historically been a gentlemen’s game – and one of cultural significance, too. From onboard Mississippi riverboats in the 1860s to the smoky back rooms of 1970s Italian bars – poker has become known as a social pastime for men from all walks of life. Today, the game has evolved into something more accessible, and more glamorized, than ever before – but sometimes you might feel like taking the game back to its roots. Below are some thing to consider before hosting your own old-fashioned home poker game.
The Game Rules
The most popular poker variant today is undoubtedly Texas Hold’Em. It’s also the best variant for beginners, so unless your guests are all skilled players who are comfortable switching between different poker variants, your best bet is to stick with classic Hold’Em. Decide from the beginning the buy-in, re-buy, blinds, ante, chip denominations and starting stack. Other rules, such as shuffling method and breaks, can also be established at the beginning.
As the host, people will be looking to you for clarification on rules. Most probably you’ll want a more relaxed and friendly feeling to the game – but in the unlikely event that all your guests are looking for a serious game where rules are strictly enforced, you can also introduce guidelines concerning table talk, or the ability to call a clock on another player. Don’t forget it’s a home game, however. If you want to play for serious amounts of money in a professional environment, you might as well head to the casino.
It’s easy to forget, in the era of online poker games, that the way you present yourself at the table matters a great deal. Poker is in part a game of psychology, and as the host you have a right to ban sunglasses, hats, hoodies or indeed anything else intended to obscure the player’s facial expressions. The ability to hide your poker face takes away half the fun, after all.
If poker is a true passion, or you simply want to impress guests, then consider investing in a proper poker set. Not only should this include a pack of high quality and durable cards, but at least four different chip types that will feel and look nicer than the flimsy, plastic ones you can buy for cheap. You should also check that the set is comfortable to carry in its case case. A real poker table might also be warranted. If you’ve got a thing for DIY, you could even build your own poker table. Aside from stylish game equipment, you’ll want to use a good pair of speakers and some decent glassware.
For cocktails – stay on theme. Recipes for drinks such as Monte Carlo, The Casino, Hemingway Champagne, Al Capone and Vesper Martini (shaken, not stirred) can be found on mixologist sites such as DrinksMixer. Poker etiquette is to not get overly drunk – or at least to not get more tipsy than anyone else at the table. Not only will other players have an advantage over your compromised gameplay if you drink too much, but they might also find you an annoying opponent. As for snacks – if your game is likely to last a few hours, then it’s probably wise to have something guests can nibble on. Pro tip: opt for something which can be eaten with a fork or toothpick as to avoid transferring crumbs or grease from hands to cards.
Ambient, lounge music is a good choice for a poker game simply because it eases concentration and prevent distractions. You don’t want someone singing along to a karaoke ballad when you’re trying to decide whether to check or fold, after all. Alternatively, look for some upbeat Vegas anthems (think Tom Jones or Elvis). If you frequently host poker games then you should make your own playlist for the occasion, scattered with mood-appropriate tunes and some poker-themed classics.
Hosting the perfect home game is a fine art, so make sure you’re prepared. Of course, you could just crack open a bunch of beers, shuffle and deal – but if you really want to get the atmosphere right, and have your guests feel as if transported back in time to the dim-lit poker rooms of 1950s Manhattan, then follow these unwritten but traditional rules for a true gentleman’s poker game.