Over the pandemic period, virtual events have increasingly become the norm. Videoconferencing calls have replaced face-to-face meetings in business life. Outside the 9 to 5, people have been using Zoom to get together for chats, trivia games and even poker nights.
However, while the pandemic is still a factor, increasing awareness of how coronavirus can be combated is seeing people more willing to gather safely in small groups, meaning events like a friendly poker night can be brought back to physical, rather than virtual reality.
If you’re someone looking to host a poker night, you might find these quick pointers for perfect poker helpful.
Set the scene
Think about your guests, and where you’re going to be physically playing. If it’s a group of old friends, you might want to be in the kitchen, close to the beer fridge. If you’re hosting a glitzier gathering (perhaps for work colleagues who you’ve only gotten to know over Zoom, say), turn the lights down low in the living room.
Make sure wherever you’re playing has adequate air circulation and ventilation. Think about how easily accessible snacks, drinks and bathrooms will be from your chosen spot. A fun way of getting the Vegas atmosphere would be to have a Rat Pack or Elvis movie on in the background – Ocean’s 11 or Viva Las Vegas would make obvious choices.
Tools of the trade
Poker equipment isn’t expensive, so it’s worth splashing out a little cash to get good quality gear. Plastic cards are more durable and less likely to stain or bend than vinyl or cardboard. Clay or ceramic chips are pleasingly tactile for playing with and are nice and weighty when pushing in a big stack.
Card shufflers add a touch of class and may dissuade accusations of funny business from a player who’s not having a good night – as the Chicago Tribune notes, a good shuffler can cost as little as US$20 (~18€).
If a dedicated poker table is overkill, consider a felt table topper – toppers come with markings for different card games – most commonly the ubiquitous Texas Hold’em poker variant – and will often have rubber underlay to protect the furniture underneath from being dinged by bottles or stained by spillages.
Hosting a full house
Think carefully about snacks and drinks. Make sure there’s enough real estate on whichever table you’re using to be able to accommodate drinks; guests will want to drink when they’re playing. Some foods are suitable for being at the table – crudites, or crackers and cheese say – and some very much not – anything dripping with sauce has the potential for disaster.
Schaschlik may be a better idea than pizza or chicken wings as the skewers will keep grease away from hands that will be touching cards. It’s also important to remember perhaps not all the guests will be card sharps – as host, study up on the basics of poker so that you can clear up any disputes between players.
Someone may not like that their 3 Aces were just beaten by a 7-high flush, but they are the breaks. It might be an idea to print out a chart showing hand rankings and putting it on a wall, so players can double-check discreetly before making a move.
Keep it friendly
While cards may see some folks instantly unleash their inner Cincinnati Kid, a home game isn’t really the place for it. Set a finish time for the game and stick to it. It’s a good idea to split the pot – say if the buy-in is 20€ – more than one way – so instead of winner take all, you could have prizes for first, second and third. Similarly, let players re-buy in, particularly if they drop out early in the evening; it’s no fun sitting watching others play, particularly if that person is with a partner who’s still playing.
Perhaps set the cost of re-buying in as a bottle of wine or a pack of beer, which adds to the conviviality at the table (and may keep your hosting budget lower!)
As we begin to socialize more, poker nights can provide an excellent opportunity for friends to get together in a small, safe setting. A little bit of advance planning can help make it the most important thing – fun.