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Make Your Home Tournament Exciting

How to turn that boring home game into an exciting tournament...

Most home games consist of a ring (or cash) game style. Players buy in with say $20 and they receive $20 in chips and play until they have had enough and cash out any remaining chips for money. Players can often leave when ever they want or re-buy as many times as they feel fit. But turning that boring old cash game into a tournament style freeze-out is easier than you may think.

The first thing to consider when planning a tournament style home game is how many players you can accommodate. Let’s say you can have 3 tables. One in the kitchen, one in the family room and one more in the garage. You want to place no more than 9 players at each table unless you have larger casino style poker table but never more than 10. Let’s say you have 3 table with 9 people each. Now you can seat 27 people. You better have enough of the same chips for all 27 people. Never mix and match chips. Keep them all consistent.

Next you need to determine the amount that is expected to buy in and if you will offer a re-buy. Most home tournaments go ok with one re-buy but more than one adds to much confusion unless you have a dedicated person to be the tournament director and handle all the money. You need to figure out what amount all players will be happy with and allows for a decent payday. No one wants to sit through 4 hours of poker to beat out 26 other people and only win $100. Find the happy medium there. Say you start at $50 with no re-buys. Now you have to have a certain amount for the pot and a small amount for the house. Yes you should keep some money for hosting it but this should be upfront and every-one should know exactly how much you are taking off the top. Also it’s good practice to use that money to purchase beverages and pizza or something.

Ok! Now you’ve got a $50 buy in and say $5 from each player goes to the house and food and beverages. So the pot becomes $45 X 27. For a $1,215 total pot. The house now gets $135 and you need to find a way to pay for pizza in there. Let everyone bring their own beer but have some chips, sodas and pizza. All and all you can still pocket a free $50. Your buy in to the tournament…

Ok so the players are settled and the pizza has been ordered. What now? Keep good track of players. When they pay write their name down and have little paper seat cards ready to give out so no one fights for a seat. You can even just cut up some construction paper and write “Table 1, Seat 4 and so on… It’s a good way to keep friends form sitting next to each other too because you will have shuffled up the seat cards.

Figuring out the blind levels and amounts.

Have pre counted chips in front of every position before players arrive. IMPORTANT! Be sure to have a portable time that others can see to track down the levels. Keep the levels at about 20 minutes for home games.

Here is a basic home structure and you can deviate as you feel fit.

Starting Chips:

4 – 500
14 – 100
16 – 50
20 – 25
20 – 10
20 – 5

This is a good way to start. Print out a simple sheet to set at the tables telling them what the chips are worth. Say Green - $25, Blue - $50 and so on. Make sure everyone understands all that is going on or you are liable to upset some one. When money is on the line cover your ass…

Like I said, 20 minute rounds are the best bet for home games. Start out Like so:

Round Blinds Time
1 Small -$10 – Big $15 20 minutes
2 Small $15 – Big $30 20 minutes
3 Small $30 – Big $60 20 minutes
4 Small $50 – Big $100 20 minutes
5 Small $50 – Big $100 with $25 Antes 20 minutes
6 Small $75 – Big $150 With $25 Antes 20 minutes
7 Small $100 – Big $200 with $50 antes 20 minutes
8 Small $200 – Big $400 with $100 antes 20 minutes
9 Small $300 – Big $600 with $100 antes 20 minutes
Now just double everything every 20 minutes

This should carry on for about 3-4 hours or longer and you will be on your way to a great final table.
Now you need to look at pay out structure. 1st place should always get the biggest percentage. A good break down with 27 people is like this.
5th place = 5%
4th + 10%
3rd = 20%
2nd = 25%
1st = 40%

Be sure to pay people right away. People get made when money is involved. Let them know, on that sheet you wrote the chip amounts on, what percentage you are giving to what places. They better know up front.

This should get you rolling on your home game tournaments. Just remember to be honest and upfront with everything and pretty soon you can have a hundred people playing at your house for $5,000…Good Luck!

Side note: When people get knocked out be sure to have a TV area or something where they hang out to wait for friends. Just keep players happy so they will come back for your next tournament.

     Don P -


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