Last updated 14 December 2022
Players learn poker in many locations these days: online, while watching on TV, or perhaps by watching an expert streamer. But sooner or later, you’re going to sit down and play a home game too, either around a pal’s kitchen table, or after receiving an invitation to a PokerStars Home Game.
And the perfect time for that is over the upcoming holidays.
Here’s a run down of everything we have published about home games and Home Games — i.e., guides to playing with friends either in someone’s actual home or in a virtual PokerStars card club.
It’s easy to set up either — and tons of fun. Here’s a complete guide to playing Home Game poker.
Yes, you absolutely can — and PokerStars Home Games are super easy to set up and great fun to host and play. While PokerStars is obviously a great place to play poker against hundreds of thousands of people around the world, poker is often also a brilliant way to catch up with your existing mates.
Here’s our most recent guide to setting up a Home Game on PokerStars. It begins with how to set up a PokerStars account, how to learn the rules, and then how to start your own poker club. Unfortunately it doesn’t necessarily cover how to make any friends, but once you have a poker game running, you do tend to attract people eager to join.
Here’s another guide to setting up your PokerStars Home Game, including sections on both cash games and tournaments. Pay attention to that last section in particular, because there are details about how get your blind levels right and ensure a tournament doesn’t either a) go on all night, when everyone has to get up for work, or b) get wrapped up before the pizza has even arrived.
The structures have been designed by some of PokerStars’ own card-room staff, who have formulas, drawn from thousands of games played online, that ensure just the right amount of play depending on how many people you expect to play.
For some people it’s an advantage, for others a definite drawback, but one of the ways live poker differs from online poker is that you often cannot see your opponents’ faces. (And they often cannot see yours.) This might be a good thing if you think you give away too many tells, or if you like to do other things as well while playing poker, but it also reduces the social side of the game.
However, one of PokerStars Home Games’ most recent innovations is the chance to add video chat to the experience. So even if your friends are many hundreds of miles away, you can still get to see them crack as they attempt to bluff you out of a tournament-defining pot.
Video chat with friends is one of the latest PokerStars Home Games features, so why not give it a go.
One of the best things about playing home games is that they allow you to practice many of the required poker skills without feeling the pressure of a casino or card club environment. If you’re only playing against your friends, everyone is likely to give one another a bit more leeway than if you’re up against strangers.
You can brush up on your ABCs while playing with people of similar abilities and experience, and you will likely all grow your games alongside one another. Many top-level poker players have graduated alongside their friends from modest home games, learning and developing together.
Here are some more reasons why home games are the perfect way to learn poker.
The COVID-19 pandemic stopped pretty much all social interaction for the best part of two years, but poker home games endured. That’s thanks to the world of online poker, with plenty of people shifting games they used to host in their actual homes to their virtual poker clubs.
Those hosts included several high-profile writers, who explained the way their home games changed during the worst times of the pandemic to publications including Esquire, The Los Angeles Times, and The Times of Northwest Indiana.
Read about how a number of Hollywood actors and writers managed to keep their poker home games going.
For obvious reasons, we’re big champions of online poker. But we all know that there’s no match for actually getting your friends around your house and playing poker with them face to face.
This guide was first published as Christmas approached, and gave the perfect overview of how to run a poker game during the holiday season. But the advice is evergreen: get the right gear, invite the right people and play the right games. And, most importantly, enjoy it!
Another real attraction of poker home games is the freedom they give you to experiment. When you’re hosting the game, and all the players are friends, there’s nothing stopping you trying out any game you might have just come up with: six flops, three hole cards, hands tied behind backs, etc.
People have been experimenting with new variants at home games for many years, so why not take a look at four unique poker games to try at your next home game: Anaconda, Vanunu, Death Wheel and Simultaneous (aka Holdemaha).
There are plenty more out there, so look around…
Chances are, you’ll want to drink a few drinks while hosting your home games, and your guests are going to really appreciate it if you lay on some food as well. While most of us will probably open an app and order in some pizzas, you could try to get yourself in the good books by doing some cooking. At the very least, it will allow you to get in the spirit of things before your guests arrive.
Here are some delicious recipes for your poker night, including crispy chicken wings, chilli con carne and halloumi fries.
OTHER HOME GAMES COVERAGE:
The three things that make a great home game
Five topics to discuss at the poker table (and three to avoid)
Top tips for beating your friends at poker
MTT or cash: what’s best for a home game?
How to step up from home games to PokerStars MTTs