Take Your Home Poker Game To The Next Level: Holiday Edition

November 21, 2017
Take Your Home Poker Game To The Next Level: Holiday Edition


It’s tough to get people together for a poker game around the holidays, but there is one day when it shouldn’t be a problem: Thanksgiving.

If it’s your turn to host Thanksgiving and you’re worried about a political discussion breaking out in between the food and the football, you might want to consider organizing a home poker game to keep your guests’ minds occupied and prevent a Trump dustup between Uncle Joey and his MAGA hat and your Mother-In-Law with the Bernie 2016 bumper sticker.

Not your typical poker game

Even if you host a regular home game when you’re planning a game for family and close friends you’ll need to make a few adjustments.

You’ll still want to pull out all of your awesome equipment to make sure everyone knows you’re the real deal and a serious poker player that’s not to be trifled with.

But aside from massaging your own poker ego and letting all your relatives know who the best player is, here are some best practices for hosting a good home poker game on the holidays.

Holiday games can be a bit tricky for a number of reasons.

First, holiday poker sessions are usually impromptu, and unless it’s a family tradition, it will require a bit of cajoling to get enough people interested in participating.

Second, most people don’t show up for Thanksgiving flush with cash.

Here are a few other ideas that will make your Thanksgiving poker game a success.

Keep it simple

Unless your last name is Brunson or your invite list is a bunch of 20-something Germans, chances are most of your close friends and relatives only have a cursory understanding of poker.

With that in mind, it’s best to implement the KISS (keep it simple stupid) system for your game.

That means if you’re playing a tournament:

  • Use fewer chip denominations, and even consider making every chip worth the same amount.
  • Use as simple a blind structure as humanly possible.

If you’re playing a cash game, it’s best to play dealer’s choice, and don’t grunt and groan if someone picks Follow The Queen or Nighttime Baseball.

Dealer’s choice accomplishes two things:

  • It keeps the game new and entertaining for all involved. After a half-hour of no-limit hold’em, you’ll start to see a lot of people checking out mentally.
  • It allows each player to have some control over what games are played and choose games they know and like.

The KISS system also extends to the rules, and how strictly you enforce them.

It’s the holidays, so there’s no need to enforce string bets and betting out of turn. A quick explanation after the hand is the easier way to deal with these transgressions. If someone is being a rules stickler just let them know this is a friendly game and as the host, you’ll decide when someone needs to be called out for a violation.

Keep it friendly

Along the same lines, you’ll also want to keep it friendly. Meaning, make the game stakes $5 or $10, or some amount that everyone is comfortable with.

This will not only improve participation, it will keep the game from getting out of hand, and keep everyone’s emotions in check. That is particularly important if a few libations have been poured throughout the day and Uncle Joey decides to start channeling Phil Hellmuth.

Whether it’s a tournament or a cash game, the most important part of hosting a family card game is making sure everyone is still on speaking terms at the end of the night.

Keep it quick

Unless you invited Allen Kessler, I wouldn’t expect your guests to criticize you for a fast structure.

In fact, most casual poker players prefer it.

At the end of the day they just want the game to be enjoyable, and if the cards fall right, maybe they can walk away with a few extra bucks and bragging rights for next year’s holiday card game.

What they don’t want is for the game to drag out for three-plus hours with a whopping $40 on the line.

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