Playing poker with friends: a complete guide

poker with friends
Posted on: January 05, 2023 08:00 PST

Playing poker with friends is a great way to pass the time. With some cold ones in the fridge and your custom poker chips on the table, a home poker game is an excellent opportunity to socialize while playing competitively against your buddies.

But how do you set up the perfect poker game with your friends? Which poker rules should you follow? And how do you emerge victorious? Read on to find out how to put on the perfect night.

Setting up a home game of poker with friends 

When planning a poker night with friends, one of the most important things is to get the setup spot on.

Your first job is to think about the location of the game. Pick a spot in your home that is comfortable and without distractions – as much as we all love our pets, they're not necessarily welcome additions to the poker table, at least for some guests.

The sitting or dining room is a good option for a poker game, or you could use an outbuilding if you have one. If you're planning to show a game of football live while playing poker, a TV hookup is important, but some players prefer zero distractions, so bear this in mind.

You also need to have a big enough space around the table to ensure that your friends aren't tightly packed – prying eyes can lead to big accusations around a poker table, so spacing is crucial. 

Next, you must gather the necessary supplies to host a quality poker game. Pick up a quality set of poker cards and some decent chips as a bare minimum. If you plan to host poker games for your buddies throughout the year, you might even invest in a premium poker table to crank things up a notch. 

One of the most important things to think about when hosting a poker game at home is the environment you create. After all, you're playing with your buddies, so you want to be welcoming. Lay on some snacks – think chips and dips, nachos, fajitas, etc. - and have a drinks counter for your friends to pour a libation before sitting at the table.

The final thing on your to-do list is to set a schedule and invite your friends over. Decide on a date and time to get things underway and send out your invites. Remember to advise those who aren't used to poker that it might be a long night, depending on the format of the game that you play.

Establishing the rules of the game

As you will be aware, there are several variations of poker that you can play at home with your friends, including Texas Hold'em, Omaha, and Seven Card Stud.

Unless you and your buddies are poker experts, we'd recommend sticking to Hold'em, particularly if you have some newbies around the table. The last thing you want is to exclude some of your friends due to the complexity of the rules. 

When you've settled on the format of the game, you need to think about stakes and buy-ins. Now, you don't need to go crazy – you're playing with your friends, remember.

For a simple, low-stakes home game of poker, you could set a sit-and-go buy-in at $50 or a small-stakes cash game with blinds at $0.25/$0.50. However, you don't have to play for money if you don't want to. You could settle for bragging rights or a case of beer to the winner at the night's end.

The key here is that nobody at the table will go broke after a night at your home, and you should keep things fun and light-hearted.

Of course, you also need to consider whether you opt for a cash game or follow the one-table knockout (sit and go) format. If you play down to a last-man-standing winner, some of your friends will face a long night of doing nothing, particularly if there's no live football game or soccer on to watch.

So, think about the best way to set up your poker game to keep your friends involved for as long as possible.

Watching for friendly tells 

poker with friends, watch for tells

The best poker players know how to read people, but beginner poker players are like a rabbit in the headlights – they have no idea what to look for and don't know how to bluff their way to winning a nice pot.

So, when you're hosting poker with friends, here are some friendly tells that you can look out for to improve your chances of winning on the night: 

  • Strong eye contact with another person is most commonly associated with a weaker hand, as it can be seen as a method of trying to fool or bluff another player at the table. 
  • If you notice that a player at the table suddenly – and seemingly subconsciously – improves their posture, it's possibly a sign that they're keen to continue and may have a good hand up their sleeve. 
  • Should a talkative player suddenly go quiet, it's indicative that they've probably got a big hand that they're trying to work out how to play. 
  • When a player aggressively places chips into the pot, it's usually a sign that they've got a weak hand. Players who place chips smoothly into the middle are hoping not to draw attention to the fact that they have a good hand. 

Of course, everyone is different, but you can use these friendly tells to try and gain an advantage over some beginner players around you at the poker table.

Etiquette of playing poker with friends 

Playing poker with friends should be a fun and memorable experience for the right reasons. While we all want to win, you need to ensure that you're a good host and do what you can to ensure that your friends have a great time.

Here are some of the etiquette tips you should follow when inviting your buddies over for a game of poker at your place:

  • Treat the game as a social activity instead of a professional tournament. The point of the game is to bring your buddies together for a fun night, not to clear out their bank accounts! 
  • Enjoy the game’s competitive nature and be a gracious winner or loser. Congratulate the winner, and don't throw a tantrum if you go out early. 
  • Keep all players supplied with food and drink and play the role of the host well. 
  • Make sure everyone knows how to shuffle and how to deal, resolving arguments and disagreements as quickly as possible – falling out with your buddies is not the goal here. 

Playing poker with friends online 

You can always arrange a game online if you want to play poker with your friends but are not in the same location. PokerStars is one of the best platforms to use, and you can effortlessly set up a game for you and your friends to join.

Here, you can keep track of your wins and losses from your online game and settle up with your buddies at the end. Although online poker isn't as sociable as real-life games, various online platforms offer you the chance to play poker with your friends. 

Recap: How to play poker with friends 

To play poker with friends, you must have the right mindset and prepare well. If you follow the tips listed in this article, you can host a fantastic night of poker with your buddies and hopefully win yourself some money in the process.