Adding Player Bounties and KO Bonuses

If you're looking for a way to add a little something extra to your tournaments, you may want to consider adding bonuses for knocking out players (aka, bounties). Many professional tournaments do variations of this, including the World Poker Tour's Shooting Star tournaments (where player's get an instant $5,000 for knocking out one of the pre-selected poker pros). Since your own games probably don't have any big name pros or celebrities, the best bet is to probably just give a bonus for all players you knock out.

So how should the KO bonuses work? Well, the easiest way would be to just have everybody throw in an extra few bucks on top of the regular buy in so that the extra cash goes towards knockouts. In the league I'm in, we are probably going to make the knockout bonus 10% of the buy-in. So if your buy-in is $20, each player should throw in an extra $2. Each time a player is knocked out, the person who knocked them out will get $2. Obviously you can adjust the amount of the bonuses depending on what you think is best for your league.
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5 Great Ways to Increase Poker Participation

Let's face it, most home poker games are face with a dwindling player count from time to time. Whether your home game is just starting out and is in need of a good core group or your veteran game is slowly losing players each week, below are five tips that should help you boost your poker player participation.

  1. Pick the Right Group
    Sometimes some players just won't fit well with your regular poker group. Some players may be looking for a very strict, serious game while others look for a more relaxed, casual game. You may also have some people that just plain don't get along with others in the group. You may have to "cut the fat" and sacrifice the few for the sake of the many. Don't be rude about it, but next time you invite people, maybe you "forget" to invite a player so that everybody else is happier.

  2. Find a Hospitable Host
    Choosing the right places to hold your home games is definitely one of the more important decisions you'll have to make. You'll want to factor in the distance the location is for potential players, the accomodations, and availability. If you hold it at a player's home, you'll also want to make sure it doesn't put them out too much. If possible, you may want to rotate locations so that it's fair for everyone.

  3. Upgrade to a League
    As mentioned in a previous post, by structuring your home poker games into a full blown poker league, you can add incentive to help keep existing players coming back while enticing new blood to give it a shot. Players will love seeing where they stand and will know that missing a game means missing out on an opportunity for some league points.

  4. Supplies, Supplies, Supplies
    Remember, not all poker chips are created equal! It's amazing how much of a difference quality poker chips and a passable felt poker table can make in your home games. If you're still playing with plastic poker chips, it's time for you to get a grown up set.

  5. Awards and Prizes
    Once you have a league set up, you can add fun poker awards and prizes that will give players something to shoot for. Sometimes fighting for the top spot in a league isn't enough incentive, throw in a cool trophy or maybe even some extra cash and players will do their best to make every game.

Of course, the biggest key is to make sure everybody is having fun. Once they are, word of mouth will spread and you'll have players asking if they can bring more and more people each week. If you hit most of the major points above, you should be well on your way to a thriving home poker game.

Take Your League to the Next Level with Awards and Prizes

Poker TrophyWinning money is obviously the main draw to a home poker game, but you can add extra incentive by throwing in some awards and prizes for various achievements. By using free web software like Home Poker System you can track all sorts of stats like points, players eliminated, and more. If you structure your league to have seasons you can give out specific awards and prizes at the end for various accomplishments.
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Add Spice to Your Home Games - Create a League

Looking for a way to add some spice to your home poker games? Maybe turning your home games into your very own poker league is just what you need. Sound like a lot of work? Fear not! There's plenty of free software out there that'll help you create and manage your poker league.

For instance, Home Poker System is a free website that allows you to track your league online quickly and easily. Ok, so I actually created that site myself, but it really is 100% free so you have nothing to lose trying it out for yourself.

After creating your league, you're able to create seasons, schedule games, add players, and report results. The system will track everone's progress for you while providing detailed stats such as wins, losses, placing, money earned/lost, points, players eliminated, and much more.

By tracking your home games in a league format (with a leaderboard, detailed stats, and game history), you'll add more fun and excitement to your home poker games. When players are playing for points and a #1 standing along with the money, you'll give players much more to brag about while also giving everybody much more incentive to not miss any games. When people can see a history of past games and comment on the results, every win and loss will mean that much more to people.

Leagues may not be the best route for all home games, but why not register and find out if it works for you. You really have nothing to lose.

Speed Up Your Game By Doubling Your Decks

Sometimes you may feel your home game dragging along. This may be due to slow shuffling and dealing as amateur card players are generally not very quick dealers.

If you want to speed up your play without dealing with (pardon the pun) a card shuffler, you can add a second deck to your game. Use the player to the left of the dealer to shuffle the cards of the previous hand. When the hand is over, the person shuffling should be done (unless it was a very short hand) and should be ready to deal right away. Continue to pass the used cards to the left of the dealer and you should consistently have a deck ready to deal each time a hand is completed.

Table Talk Dos and Don'ts

One of the great things about home poker games is the trash talk that often makes its way to the poker table. When playing against friends, table talk is all part of the game, but there's still a few do's and don'ts that you should keep in mind. Most tournaments and casino cash play often have rules against talking in certain situations and restrict what you can and can't say during a game. Of course, at your home poker games, you set the rules, though the casino rules are usually in place for a good reason so you may want to follow their lead.

A common guideline is that players should probably not talk about a hand unless they are involved in it. If you're nervously bluffing a player, you don't want somebody who's not in the hand to call you out. It's not always a rule, but it's almost always considered poor sportsmanship to affect a player's hand when you're not in it.

Teaming up is incredibly frowned upon and often against the rules. You can joke around about having to take out a player or to watch out for a person's bluffs, but during a hand, you shouldn't be talking to your fellow players about strategy or ways to beat another player. A common example is when a person goes all in and two players call. Generally the two calling players will check the entire hand to increase their odds of eliminated the all-in player. This is an acceptable unspoken strategy but it becomes poor sportsmanship (and usually against the rules) to tell your fellow player to just check it down during the hand.

You can talk about your hand all you want, as long as you don't say exactly what you have. This is rule that most people don't know. Most casino games have a hardset rule that you cannot tell people the specifics of what you're holding while you're playing. You can be vague and give possibilities, but you can't flatout say "I've got poket aces". Once people lay down their cards you can show them and brag all you want, but you usually aren't allowed to say exactly what you have while the game is being played. Since this rule is often forgotten, it's really up to you whether or not to enforce it.

Verbal bets are binding - at least at the casinos. Movies have shown some bad poker, thus giving new players some bad examples to follow, such as the "I call you're bet and I raise you all-in." It's up to you to determine how to handle verbal bets, but you really should make verbal bets binding a rule since it's unfair to the recipient of a misspoken verbal bet. If a person announces raise, they must raise. If they say fold, they must fold - there shouldn't be any exceptions.

In the end, keep in mind that it's a home poker game and to not take things too seriously - especially in the beginning. Get a feel for your fellow players. If there are many new players, you're going to want to ease them into rules like verbal betting. If most of your home poker game is comprised of poker regulars, you'll probably want to mimic casino rules so that your games will be as professional as possible. Remember that the key is to have fun. Don't be afraid to liven up your home game with some trash talking - just make sure it's all fair and in good fun.

Don't Lose and Leave, Stay and Support

When playing a home poker tournament, some people are bound to get knocked out early. If you're one of those people, you may feel like packing up and heading home, but out of respect for your fellow players and especially your host, you should probably stick around.

Leaving not only makes you look like a poor sport, it also removes you from the other perks of a home game - enjoying the company of others while improving your game. Even if you're not playing, you can join in on the trash talking and poker cheers. You can also take that chance to study your opponents, finding weaknesses that you may be able to exploit next time.

Another thing you can do is try and set up a cash game with fellow eliminated players. This way you'll be able to continue to play some poker and perhaps win back some of that money you just lost. The great thing about cash games is that you can quit at any time so there's no pressure of having to finish when the tournament is over.

Obviously there's exceptions with legitimate reasons for leaving, such as living very far away, needing a good night's sleep for whatever reason, etc. However, if you continually leave right after you're knocked out when everybody else stays, you may quickly find yourself not being invited back (or at least being talked about behind your back). So do your friends and yourself a favor and stick around next time you're eliminated.

8 Snack Ideas that are Surefire Home Game Hits

Home poker games are great excuses to pig out on junk food, but not all snacks are suitable for poker play. I've picked out 8 surefire snacks that will help keep the players playing and not using hunger as an excuse to leave. The key to the list below is that the food is generally mess free and is easy to snack on before, during, and after poker hands.

  1. Tortilla chips
    Unlike potato chips, tortilla chips are much less greasy and should prove to be a much cleaner snack at the poker table. However, many people like dip with their tortilla chips, and that dip adds a potential messy factor.

  2. Pretzels
    Pretzels are great at the poker table because they're clean, easy to pass around, and don't break apart very easily.

  3. Beef sticks and jerky
    If you're looking for something with a little more meat (pardon the pun), jerky and beef sticks should suit you well. They can be a little greasy depending on the kind you get, but they are clean snacks at the poker table and are often an item people don't expect but instantly appreciate.

  4. Cheese and crackers
    Crackers are generally a clean and tasty poker treat. Add cheese and you've got a fairly fancy spread for your poker buddies. You can add other toppings as you see fit (salami, peanut butter, etc.)

  5. Cookies
    Who says you can't have sweets at the poker table? Cookies are great because they don't leave much of a mess, though depending on the type you get, you can get a lot of crums. Cookies like Oreos or other small, solid cookies work best.

  6. Mini candies
    Large candy bars don't work very well since the chocolate can be quite messy. Candy lovers fear not! The bitesize versions of your favorite candy should keep your poker chips clean and your poker pals coming back for more. You can also put Skittles, Reeses Pieces, or M&Ms in a large bowl and pass those around.

  7. Bagel bites
    If you want a more substantial snack at your poker table, bagel bites may just hit the spot. They require some time in the microwave or oven, but these bitesize pizza snacks leave no mess and are enough to satisfy the hungriest of poker players.

  8. Vegetables
    Ok I, personally, am not a fan of vegetables, but many people are and since they are grease free they make for a perfect snacking alternative to the unhealthy junk foods listed above. You don't want vegetables to be the only option, as eating unhealthy junk food is part of the allure of the home game!

The above list is obviously only a small sampling of the possibilities. If you've got some killer poker snack ideas of your own, post them in the comments below so your fellow poker enthusiasts can try them out at their next home games.

Chip Counts, Starting Stacks, and Chip Denominations

Previously I posted some information detailing the types of poker chips you can buy. Today I'm going to cover how many chips you should buy, how many different colors (and how many of each color), and how many chips you should start people out with.

First, here's a loose breakdown of the chips you'll need depending on the number of players.

  • 200 poker chips for 2-4 players.

  • 300 poker chips for 4-6 players.

  • 400 poker chips for 6-8 players.

  • 500 poker chips for 8-10 players.

You should start seeing a pattern above. For most tournaments, a good starting stack is about 25-50 poker chips for each player. Obviously no two tournaments are the same, so you'll want to consider your blind schedules as well as the style of play you're looking for. Basically, you want people to feel like they have a good amount of chips, but not too many that stacks get too big too soon as players get eliminated. This could mean starting everybody with 100 chips or more or perhaps as low as 20.
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Not All Poker Chips Are Created Equal

One of the best ways to make your home poker games feel a bit more professional is to make sure you're using casino quality poker chips. While casinos all use different chips, you can be sure they aren't using those cheap plastic ones you played with as a kid. Most casinos use clay, composite, or clay composite chips that usually weigh 9 to 11.5 grams. While these chips will cost you more than those discount plastic chips, you'll definitely see and feel the difference.

Clay chips, while hard, often have a soft feel too them that many players will notice and appreciate immediately. This quality will usually cost you as they are generally the most expensive chip.

Composite poker chips are generally cheaper than clay chips, though they are still a huge step up from the cheap plastic chips. The main difference is in the feel of the composite chips as they are generally much smoother than clay chips. This smooth feel often makes the composite chips harder to pick up than the softer feeling clay chips.

Clay Composite
Clay composite chips are usually soft like clay chips yet nearly as inexpensive as composite chips. The quality varies greatly with these chips so you'll want to test them out before buying.

Size Matters
Like I mentioned above, casinos usually use 9 to 11.5 gram poker chips. The general rule is the heavier the chip, the better. You can get 13 gram chips if you really want to splurge, but I, personally, recommend the 11.5 weight.
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