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Home Poker Tournaments

     Poker nights have had a place in our hearts for many years, and with the explosion in the popularity of texas holdem it's no wonder that many people are hosting their own texas holdem tournaments at home. I've been hosting several tournaments a week for some time now, and put together this guide to answer some of the questions that arise from people beginning to host tournaments on thier own.

     On the right you can see a list of topics covered, so if you have a question about something specific, simply click on the the appropriate page. You'll find pages on everything from what kinds of chips to buy if you're just starting to how to break down tables in a multi-table environment.

     I don't recommend mimicking the online card rooms when hosting a tournament. The online game is so fast compared to the live game, where you have to manually shuffle cards between hands, that using their blind schedules will rush the game along too quickly. And the software doesn't always capture the gameplay correctly. Several times online after a player has busted out, I've had my blind skipped. In the world of face-to-face poker no one escapes the big blind.

     When it comes to things like attracting players to the game or where to host the game, every person would need a different answer. The same is true for the question of whether or not it is legal to host a game in your area. For that reason I won't be answering questions of that nature.

     Basic equiptment for our tournaments includes snacks and drinks, a posted chip value chart and blind schedule, the cards and chips themselves, and a cheap digital alarm clock for keeping track of the blind increases. We never really took to setting an alarm because we have more than our share of players who live to yell out "Blinds up, next hand!", which is a good thing.

     For the sake of simplicity, our next hand is always next dealer to touch the cards. If a dealer has cards in their hand, riffled through or not when the declaration is made, the blinds increase when the next dealer touches the cards. I have no desire to hear quibbles over whether or not the cards had been riffled before the blind increase was announced, and this procedure takes care of that.

     For seating players at a single table, we draw cards. If there are 8 players, we take 8 cards, Ace through 8, shuffle them, and place them face down on a table. Players choose a card and take a seat accordingly. Ace sits at the head of the table, deuce to his left and so on.

     We do the same thing for multi-table tournaments but use different suits for each table. If it is a three table event, we take an old garbage deck and actually mark the seat with an old card. So, if a player draws the two of clubs from the "seat draw" pile, he looks for a chair with the two of clubs on the table in front of it. That's his chair. Once everyone is seated the tourney director recovers the garbage cards and the "seat draw" cards, and hands the dealer a fresh deck to begin play with.

     For determining dealer, whoever sits in the Ace chair deals each player a card face up. High card of the round, or first Ace wins the deal. In our tourneys the final table may have a designated dealer, but up until that point the players deal for themselves. If we have a total newbie that isn't comfortable shuffling and dealing, someone else may actually deal the cards but the blinds and dealer button move along normally. And we still give the player to the left of the dealer button gets the chance to cut.

     We burn a card before the flop, the turn and the river. If you've only ever played online, burning a card is simply taking the top card and putting it into the muck pile. Then you deal the card(s) for the flop, or the turn, or the river, whatever the case may be.

     Speaking of the muck pile, it's poison. Any cards placed there cannot be retrieved. If a player places his cards in the muck, they are dead. I've seen winner place their cards in the muck pile because they forgot about side pots being contested. Those cards cannot be retrieved. They're dead. If you'd like to allow retrieval of "easily identifiable" cards, that's fine, but in our games that had provided more conflict than I wished to continue to endure. Hence, the poisonous muck pile.

     For any circumstances not pointed out here or in the home tournament pages, refer to our copy of Robert's Rules of poker under the Home Poker section.

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