My absolute favorite party to throw is a poker party. It’s such an awesome night. You can mix social circles that would ordinarily make for an awkward party, put them at a poker table together and suddenly everyone is best friends for life. By making it a tournament, you’re teaching those new to the game how to play in a tournament in case they ever have any interest in playing in a casino, you’re donating $10.00 to one of your friends (or yourself!), and your giving people an opportunity to gamble $100,000 (in chips of course!). It’s also an incredibly frugal party, My budget for poker parties is $50.00, but I normally spend much less than that.
Here’s how I make it work:
1. Know the Law!
If you don’t check beforehand, it’s unlikely that the local SWAT team will raid your house (and if they did, you up your party reputation significantly). However, being the law abiding citizens that you are, just call down to your local police department and ensure that a poker party is ok as long as “the house” (you), doesn’t make a profit. That’s the law in most places (including here). If you want to get really fancy, the house can count lodging, food, drinks and entertainment provided for free against the profit. So technically, you could make a profit as long as you can prove that you spent more than you made.
2. Pick your Guest List:
Ultimately, you want to have a group of 5 to 10 players. Choose 10-12 friends to invite and let them know the details. Make sure to tell them the time (normally after dinner, about 7 or 8pm), the date, the place, the buy in (we do $10.00), what the buy in gets you ($100,000 in chips) and if it’s winner take all or tiered winnings. Winner takes all means that whoever is the last man standing, gets everyone’s money. Tiered winnings means that the last 3 people standing get some money. If you have 10 friends, with a $10.00 buy in, you have a total of $100.00. With tiered winning, the 1st place winner would get $50.00, the second place winner would get $30.00, and the third place winner would get $20.00. Since we keep our buy in so low, we just go for winner take all. When you send out your invites (by invites I mean text messages, this isn’t really formal), also let them know that if they don’t know how to play, there will be a tutorial before the game.
3. Count your Chairs:
You can have up to 10 people at one table, but make sure you have enough chairs in the house to seat everyone. If you only have 8 chairs in the house, just adjust your invite list to 8.
4. Buy Drinks:
You have two options, alcohol or no alcohol. I don’t drink, but Jon does. If we do something non- alcoholic, we mention that it’s BYOB. I grab a case of Dr. Pepper and a case of Coke in a 2 for $5.00 deal and we call it a night. If you end up doing alcohol, I suggest just picking a signature mixed drink to make. It’s cheaper, easier, and you won’t spend the next day picking up beer bottles. Since I don’t know a margarita from a martini, I won’t try to advise you on a good signature drink.
Total Cost: $5.00
5. Buy Snacks:
Think simple, easy, and not too messy! You’re looking for snacks that people can get up, grab quickly, take back to the table and enjoy without having to juggle with their cards. I found these on pinterest (for the original post… Click here) and fell in love! I went to Party City and bought tiny plastic disposable shot glasses for about $2.00. I don’t remember how many came in a pack, but I’ve used them for 2 parties and still have some left. Bonus points because they come with tops, and you can use the extras in your lunch box to add dips and sauces.
I bought a bag of baby carrots ($1.29), a bottle of ranch dressing ($1.29), a bottle of blue cheese dressing (1.29), a can of honey roasted peanuts ($5.00), and a bag of pretzel sticks ($1.00). Squirt ranch or blue cheese in the bottom of the shot cups, add carrots on top. Separate the peanuts into the cups, separate the pretzels into the cups, add peanut butter to some of the pretzel cups. Have a plate of cookies available (if you don’t have time to go all Betty Crocker- buy a mix for about $1.50).
Total Cost: $14.00
Buy Poker Chips:
You’re only buying this once, so get a decent set that will last you a long time. You need 35-50 chips per person. Unless you have a lot of chairs and multiple dining room tables, its unlikely you’ll ever have more than 10 people, so aim for 500 chips. We got ours at Walmart (frugal capital of the world). A similar set can be seen by clicking here for $39.99. I don’t count this into my $50.00 budget, because we already had a set, and you’ll only need to buy it for the initial party. This set also comes with 2 decks of cards (almost all chip sets do). We keep using the same decks of cards, but if you have a friend that always seems to be “that guy”, invest the extra $2.00 in a new deck for each party so he can’t say your cheating.
Total Cost: $39.99 for initial party.
Ensure That You Have 2 Decks of Cards:
Make sure that you have two decks of cards. You’re only going to use one (trying to swap and use a second while the first is being shuffled is an invitation to have mixed decks), but you want the second as a back up in case something happens. Keep one deck in its wrapper, ask at the beginning if everyone feels comfortable using the old deck, if anyone wants the wrapped deck- use that one. It’s never happened to us, but in the unlikely event that you end up with lots of opened decks, donate them to the neighborhood kids.
Total Cost: $2.00 if you don’t already have an unopened deck.
Have Change On Hand:
We live in a plastic society. When you tell people to bring $10.00 for the buy in, almost all of your guests will show up with a 20 dollar bill because that’s what the ATM gives them. Stop by your bank on the way home one night that week, and get a bunch of ten dollar bills to make change.
Determine how much you want each chip to be worth. Take one of each colored chip, write the denomination on it and glue it to cardboard (or anything- paper plate, block of wood, whatever). Put it in a place where everyone can see it easily.
We use the following denominations:
Blue – 5,000.00
We distribute a total of $100,000.00 for the buy in to each person.
Find a Bank:
Grab an old mason jar, coffee can, mug, or vase to use as a bank. When people buy in, they put their money in the “bank”. It’s just a nice neutral place to keep the winnings. Plus, it’s kind of cool to be handed a giant jar of cash when you’ve won. If you want to sweeten the deal, stick candies, and other treats in the jar with the money, stick a ribbon around the jar and let them take the jar home as well (bonus points for you since now you’re decluttering while you host!).
Learn The Rules:
Even if you know the rules (or think you do), do a little research. You want to make sure you know what your talking about since you’ll be teaching other people. You can click here for more information about the rules of Texas Hold Em Tournaments.
Have a Practice Round:
Unless everyone is sure they know what they’re doing, have a few slow tutorial rounds, encourage questions and make sure that everyone knows the rules before any money is stuck in the bank.
Increase the Blinds at Allotted Time:
Tournaments can take a while depending on your players, the soonest you’ll be done is 3 hours with 10 people. It can go on much longer though. At the last poker tournament, I was so exhausted that I went all in on a pair of 8’s just to be able to get out. Then I fell asleep on the couch and awoke at 1 am to find the party still in full swing (caution- this is not great hostess behavior). If you increase your blinds at allotted pre-determined times, you can avoid that situation. For example, every half hour, you can increase your blind by three. Start off with a 500.00 blind, at the 30 minute mark, increase to 1,500, then 4,500 and so on.
Have Alternate Entertainment for When You’re Out:
The first person that goes out always becomes the dealer, since there’s no one else for them to mingle with yet. When the second person goes out, we normally have them alternate dealing. After that they move to some alternate form of entertainment. We have a few standby’s: kinect on the xbox, bean bag toss in the back yard, or a “2nd Winners Table” (an optimistic way of saying losers table), where you enter a free tournament for a prize (this can be anything from a real gift, to baked goods to take home, to something silly like a cardboard crown decorated in feathers). Just have something for people to do that requires little direction since (hopefully), you’ll still be in the tournament.
Keep a Low Buy In:
There’s always one guy in every crew, the guy that’s ultra competitive and freaks out over a novice dealing the wrong way or an accidentally flipped over card. There really isn’t anything you can do about “that guy”, but if you keep a low buy in, at least you aren’t fueling that type of behavior. Most people won’t take this very seriously if it’s just $10.00. This is about having fun, and learning a new skill together. As a bonus, one of you will leave with about a hundred dollars.
Total Cost: $10.00
Total Cost for Party: $31.00! (Except for First Party, if you don’t have poker chips, then you’ll need $71.00)