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How to host a no-limit Texas Hold'em poker tournament in your home

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Find Poker Players

Here are several web sites to help you find poker players for your game. These sites will also assist you in finding poker games in your area. You can also try posting a message in the HPT Forums List of Home Games and Poker Leagues.

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How to Promote Your Poker Tournament

Here are several suggestions to help you attract players to your poker tournament.

Guaranteed Maximum loss

One of the biggest advantages of a "tournament" style of poker is that you can guarantee the maximum amount of money that a player can possibly lose. Make your buyin $25 with no rebuys or add-ons ... you just guaranteed that the most money any player can possibly lose is $25. Add a couple bucks for beer and food and you've got a cheap night out with the boys! What wife wouldn't allow that? Don't mention anything about side games!

Keep Your Buyin Low

Many people shy away from poker because they have visions of losing hundreds or thousands of dollars in one night. The risk of losing as little as $100 in one sitting is probably enough to keep many of your co-workers and friends from coming to your poker night. Keep your buyin low and you'll be surprised at the number of people who will want to play. Start with a $5 buyin tournament if you must. Give each player 1000 chips and within an hour they'll be whooping it up like they're big-time gamblers in Vegas! After a player busts out, put that sad puppy-dog look on your face and suggest that maybe we should let the eliminated player buy back in for another $5 (and let anyone else do the same for the first hour). There you go ... you've got 'em hooked! They'll be back for more and you can slowly increase the buyin. They won't wanna play for a measly $5 once they think that they're pro's (about 3 tournaments later!). Now you're having fun!

Have Established Rules and Be Organized

Print a poker rule book and refer to it when you start the tournament. You should also print a blinds schedule to hang on the wall. The quickest way to lose players is to be unorganized or unknowledgeable of poker rules. Make an effort right from the start and you will win over most players. If your friends/co-workers rave about how organized your tourney was ... the flood gates will open and you will be swamped with people who are now confident enough in you to risk a little of their hard-earned money at your poker tournament. And remember, running a poker tournament is a bit like playing poker - if you appear experienced and strong from the very beginning, you probably won't be challenged too often. Be polite but firm.

Dealers

It is important to have competent dealers at your poker tournaments because dealer errors will slow down your game and be a huge irritant to your players and the tournament director who will be constantly called upon to make rulings. Ask your most experienced dealers/players to deal for your first couple tournaments - other players will volunteer to deal after they feel a little more comfortable. You can go one step further and impress them with smooth dealing styles from HowToShuffle.com.

What Day of the Week?

I hold my tourneys at 7pm on Wednesday evenings and try to finish up a little after midnight. Wednesday seems to be the easiest night of the week for the guys to get away from their families and jobs. I also do some Monday Night Football dealers choice nights and some Saturday nights tied in with boxing or some other big sporting event on television. The important concept here is to schedule your tourneys on nights when most players will be available to play. A usefull tool to organize players is to set up an online calendar. Google Calendar works extremely well and all your players can input their schedule so you know when everyone is free to play.

The Environment

A little background music, a soothing fan to keep the air flowing, comfortable chairs, bright lights and twenty middle-aged, beer-bellied, belching and swearing poker players. Check out my Poker Decor page for ideas on how to decorate your poker room.

Lighting

Try to position one or more lights directly above the table pointing down at the board cards or both ends of the poker table. Every seat at the table should be equally lit. You should also have lighting from outside the table to assist players in viewing their hole cards. Encourage your players to wear hats and sunglasses to protect from the glare of so much light coming from so many directions.

Use Meetup or Invite Sites to Organize Your Players

You can use sites like Evite.com or Meetifyr.com to email and register the players in your tournament. You can easily send one email to all your prospective players and have them respond as to whether or not they will be attending. All the invited players can view a list of people and whether or not they will be attending. You can also join a poker table on an online casino and play against random users. It's a great oppertunity to meet and connect with other poker players from around the world.

Start an Internet Forum Where Your Players Can Post Messages

Go to the Home Game Forums to start your own poker forum (bulletin board). The forum is password protected so that only you and your players will be able to read or post messages. You can post messages about your tourneys - dates and times for future games, questions about rules, directions to your house, but most importantly ... good-natured teasing about past and future poker games!

Your Tourneys Will Expand in Size (Build it and they will come!)

Even if you only start out with five to eight players for your first tourney or two, the word will get out and your tourneys will increase in size. Once people hear that "It's just like the World Series of Poker!" they'll be calling you to get into your game. Friends of friends will crawl out of the woodwork to join your tourneys. The main reason for this seems to be the "guaranteed maximum loss" of a tourney structure. Many more people seem willing to come out and play poker if they know that there is a limit to how much money they can possibly lose. And then, of course, there's the overwhelming influence of The World Poker Tour and The World Series of Poker ... expect the new players to wear dark sunglasses! Don't tease them... too much!

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