How to Host a Poker Tournament

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Hosting a poker tournament at your house is a fun and easy way to have a get together with friends. But before you start inviting your friends, you will want think about a few things. You will want to plan the tournament structure, make sure you have all the necessary tools and have some rules. These things are fairly easy, and I will show you how to do each one.

Tournament Structure

Before you get very far into things, you need to think about your tournament structure. You will want to set the binds to increase in such a way that the tournament doesn’t go on forever, or end to soon. A great tool for this is the poker blind timer from that has ready made templates you can use and adjust. This free tool will simplify the entire process, and display the tournament information for the players to see while playing.

You will also have to determine a payout structure. This will also depend on how many players you end up with in your tournament. The poker clock will allow you to input payout percentages and take care of the math.

Another part of tournament structure is seating. Poker rooms tend to have 10-11 player tables due to space constraints. Many home game tournaments are 6-8 seated because players have to cram around a kitchen table. You will have to be sure you have tables an chairs to accommodate all your players. You must ask yourself: How many players will I have? How many tables?. Remember, if you have more then one table you will need a process for combining and closing tables.

Chips and Cards

Obviously you can not have a poker game without cards. I would strongly advise you to get plastic cards such as Kem or Copag. You will want a minimum of one deck per game, plus a backup deck. If you are using paper cards, you will want two per table and more if there will be a final table.

Poker chips are quit reasonable priced, and I would suggest getting plenty of high quality ones. You will need a denomination small enough to be used for the blinds the first round. If you are going to have a multi-table tournament, you will want consider using a higher denomination chip for the final table.

Tournament Rules

It is important to have clear rules, before the tournament starts. The last thing you want is for the tournament to well underway, and realize a rule has not been decided. The way I have always gotten around this is by picking up a rules sheet from my local cardroom, and simply using their rules.

Using the rules of an established cardroom for your home game is a simple step to having a set of house rules. The next step would be to go through the rules and change any that do not apply. Many home tournaments do not have a professional dealer and tournament director, and this should be addressed in your rules.


Depending on who you are inviting, and how big your tournament will be, you need to also consider chip and money security. You will need to establish a process for assuring left over, or brought in chips are not introduced into the tournament by unscrupulous players. You will also want to create a procedure for handling the buy-in money, that will become the prize pool, in a secure way.

If you are hosting a small intimate tournament among friends, security can be minimal. But if you are hosting a tournament that grows to a hundred people, you best have security protocols.

Final Thoughts

Home poker tournament are a lot of fun, but do involve some work to run. It is very important to have a preplanned way to handle things. Also, it is important to note, where I live hosting a home poker tournament is completely legal as long as I do not collect a fee. You need to check your local laws, as not all jurisdictions have the same laws. I know for a fact some places have made it illegal to host a home poker tournament, so it you live in one of these places do not host a tournament.

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