“They say poker is a zero-sum game. It must be, because every time I play my sum ends up zero.”
People often ask me what they need to play Texas Hold'em, and if I'm in a skittish mood my responses will include "Big Balls", "Patience and Discipline" and of course "The ability to say 'nice hand' when someone calls your all-in with a gutshot and spikes it on the River". In more practical terms though, and perhaps a little more helpful, here's a list of all the necessary little 'accoutrements of poker' that will make your home games go with a swing.
- A table
- A good quality poker cloth
- Some chairs
- Poker Chips
- Playing Cards
- Cut cards
- A 'button'
- A timer (if you're holding a tournament)
- A blinds structure (if you're holding a tournament)
- A calculator
- Some people to play with
- Food and Drink
- Mood Music
- That's it.
Well lah-de-dah. If you're one of those people with one of these please send me an application form to be your New Best Friend. If, however, you're like the rest of us, you'll be happy sitting round a regular wooden job that you only eat at when the in-laws come round and there's nowt on the telly. If you want to buy one these (they're a bargain!) go here.
The best cloth I've found is a dark-green professional poker canvas - cards just glide across it! It's much more hard-wearing than billiard cloth and baize and it doesn't have the 'bobble' effect of cheaper woollen cloths. The same stuff they used in the WPT - get it here.
One per player is the accepted norm. On occasion She Who Must Be Obeyed likes to perch herself on my knee during a game but as yet no other players have chosen to follow her example. Six to ten chairs is typical, but if you don't have that many just ask some of the players it's 'BYOFC', and post any amusing responses you receive in the 7-2offsuit forum...
The chips I favour at the moment are the ones made by Nevada Jacks in the USA. These are professional quality (read 'bloody expensive') real clay poker chips very much like the ones used in casinos in the US of A and I have approximately $1,500,000 worth of the buggers on hand in denominations from $1-$5000.
"I won't see that money again"
Most hosts have their own set of chips which include Suited Chips and Numbered Fan-of-Cards chips. We also have a large quantity (over 3,000) Dice chips which belong to the group and are available to regular players who wish to host their own tournaments or home games.
We tend to play with either KEM, FOURNIER or COPAG plastic playing cards, which are generally acknowledged to be among the best around. We keep 2 decks in play whilst the table is running, so as one deck is being used by the dealer, another player is shuffling the other deck and another player cuts prior to the next deal. This speeds up the game, and reduces the time players have to wait between hands. Marvellous.
Kem Arrow - rarer than Rocking Horse shit
Maybe we've seen 'Rounders' one too many times (or two, or three...) but to prevent unfair advantage being gained by - erm -'unscrupulous' players we make use of cut cards (also called 'postillions', usually by posh folk). This prevents people from catching an 'accidental' glimpse of the card at the bottom of the deck and also makes it more difficult for people (like me) attempting to base-deal.
Available in a variety of attractive colours and sizes...
A button is a small round disc (not unlike an oversize extra strong mint) which moves clockwise round the table after each hand. Players can take their turn to deal but very often a dealer is elected (more often than not Andy T!) and the button simply denotes which player would be the dealer if the deal were advanced from player to player. Being 'on the button' is the most advantageous position in Holdem.
Keeps your breath minty fresh too...
Tournament blinds increase at fixed intervals, and unless you've got someone responsible at the table with an expensive watch, a timer is essential to keep track of the time between each level. In a pinch an egg-timer or an alarm clock will suffice, but as a good quality timer with an alarm can be had for under a fiver these days, I recommend shelling out for something that does the job properly so you can concentrate on playing all those marginal hands...
AND it tells you when the chicken's ready...
As mentioned above a good tournament has a good structure, one in which the blinds increase at regular (and not too steep) intervals. Our No Limit tournament structure is based on those on Tex Morgan's TEARS site (Tournament Evaluation And Rating System). A copy is available for download from our Yahoo! group or you can of course go to the Tournament Game section of this site to view a copy there. God I'm professional.
Come the end of the night (when everyone's trying to cash in) typically we all reach for our mobiles and frantically attept to navigate the menuing system to find the onboard calculator thereon, a calulator which invariably chucks out a figure slightly higher than the National Debt of Brazil for 3 green chips. Either that or we end up 'phoning a premium rate chat line by mistake. Much better (and less costly) to have a normal (i.e. not solar-powered) calculator to hand for all those tricky sums that we really ought to be able to do in our heads. I still have the Casio scientific job that I did my 'O' levels with (like GCSEs, but meaningful), which more than does the job.
It plays Space Invaders too.
Novel concept. Think 'Heads Up' play sucks? Just try playing on your own.
The inspiration for this website came from my never having enough players to get a full table going at my home game in Cold, Wet, Miserable Acton. Now we have literally scores of registered players just champing at the bit to come round to your house and play, so getting bums on seats (assuming of course you have some seats) should really not be a problem.
Mugging up to the Hole Card Cam...
Unless of course you also live in Cold, Wet Miserable Acton. My games are still always empty. Maybe it's my aftershave...
Have you got the nuts? Poker players are very much like babies in that you need to constantly make sure they have enough food and drink inside them to avoid any tantrums being thrown, and you seem to spend forever clearing up after them. That and if you don't pay attention to what they're doing you'll end up in all kinds of trouble. Most hosts provide munchies like crisps, sarnies, sausage rolls and the like. If the buggers want paté de fois gras they can bloody well bring it themselves.
Burts - probably the best crisps in the World
Soft drinks (Dandelion & Burdock, Tizer, etc) are also normally laid on by the host but again, anything stronger your guests should be bringing along themselves. Our games are billed as BYOE (Bring Your Own Everything) events and most players do just that, and then some. Be prepared to live on a week-long diet of Walker's crisps and Stella after most home games...
As the nun said to the drycleaner, "it's a filthy habit", but poker players smoke, and (let's face it) smoking is cool and makes you look good in front of the laydees. I've always provided an ashtray at my games but have nonetheless noticed that some people tend to confuse the ashtray with my floor or the Wife's best crockery. Buy them some ashtrays. You know it makes sense...
Ever tried playing poker in a library? It's just plain intimidating. Not because of all those books on all those shelves with all those long words, and not because of the schoolmarmish old bird in the sensible cardigan, horn-rimmed specs and man's shoes hovering round with a mouth like a cat's bum and tut-tutting every few minutes - a noiseless vacuum is not really conducive to a good night's poker.
Vlasta Redl & Hradišťan anyone?
Whether you like Bangra, Gabba Trance or The Beach Boys, anything's better than the clack-clack-clack of Vincent's riffling and the Sound of bloody Silence. Hello darkness my old friend? Bollocks.
Isn't that enough? I hope the above is of some help to you. If not, I've just wasted an afternoon which I could have easily spent watching pirated DVDs. Ho hum. The only other things you should keep in mind when running your game are that if you're ever playing with me I only go all-in with Aces or The Hammer. If we're involved in a hand and I go all-in at any stage by all means fold, unless of course I *wink* at you, in which case you should obviously call without hesitation. Eye thankew. See you at the tables.
- "Behold the power of the Beer Hand!" -