How To Set Up Private Online Poker Games With Friends

Playing poker has never been more accessible than over the last couple of years. If the last year has proven anything, it s that online games is one of the safest ways to have fun.

There is a variety of options out there when it comes to online poker just waiting to be explored. The game has made a lot of progress throughout the past decade, and now we have more games available than we could possibly imagine.

However, all we need sometimes is good, old-fashioned poker with friends.

Sadly, people tend to move to different cities or even different countries. And like with the case of the ongoing pandemic, sometimes we are prevented from leaving the house and meeting our friends.

But, with today's Internet technologies, this doesn't prevent us from playing our favorite game with our favorite people.

In this article, we ll go through all the tips that you might need if you want to set a private online poker game at home and fully enjoy the experience, but if you want a detailed breakdown with examples and poker sites set-up then you should also check our detailed guide on how to play online poker with friends .

Choosing the Best Provider

If you want to get together with your friends over a game of online poker, you should first choose a safe website that offers it.

For example, you might find smaller online poker sites in the Netherlands or similar listing in any other country, but your best bet is to go with known international brands or at least do a quick scan of the website before creating an account.

With sites like PokerStars and 888 Poker, you can easily organize a private tournament with colleagues, friends, or family members.

The number of people who can participate isn't limited, so you can invite whomever you want. Top-rated providers will not only secure fun time with your friends but they are also saving you money without you even realizing it.

With online poker rooms that you can play from home, there won t be any additional expenses like buying a poker table, cards, chips, or snacks.

Download the Software

After choosing the website that you like the most, it s time to get down to business. The next step is to download the software provided by the website that will help you create a private room.

If you are a returning player, you can skip this part. But for first-timers, this is necessary to set up an account.

Most of the gambling websites offer special promotions and bonuses for new players, so make sure not to miss out on those if there are any.

Create a Poker Room

Although it varies from one provider to the next, the shortcut that will lead you to the step where you create your poker room is usually on the main page.

In PokerStars' example, all you need to do is click on the option More in the lobby. Here you will find the option to create a poker club.

You will need to provide a name for your poker club and an invitation code. Try to be as imaginative as possible. Use an internal joke that will make your friends laugh and make them want to play even more.

Also, remember that the invitation code and the club ID that will be assigned to you are important. Save them somewhere or write them down for later.

Customize the Room

As an admin of the poker room, you have the privilege to run your online poker club as you wish. This means giving and taking admin privileges to people but also allowing or denying access to players.

Moreover, you can choose between different colors and images for the club and customize it to create the best possible experience for everyone involved so that they even enjoy the time between poker hands .

Choosing the Game

As we have already mentioned, different providers have different options. However, PokerStars has made things a lot easier with their Home Games.

With this feature, they have enabled players to bring their home games online.

All the games can be fully customized, meaning that it s up to you to decide what game and variation you are going to play, how many players can participate, how players are paid out, what the starting stacks will be, and much more.

Let Your Friends Know

Now it s time to send an invitation to your friends. Remember the invitation code and club ID. Well, your friends need those to have access to your poker room.

Instruct the players to visit the same website where you made the poker room. Once there, they can use the specific invitation codes and club IDs to join you.

If you are using PokerStars, all they need to do is click on the Join a Poker Club button. On 888Poker, this is the Play With Friends option and the guests will need the game name and the game password.

Organize a Tournament

Organizing a tournament is as easy as if you were doing it live, if not easier. All you need to do is notify as many people as possible to make it interesting.

This can even be a fun activity where people from work can get to know each other better. As a poker club admin, you can set a specific time and date of the game.

With 888 Poker, you will receive an e-mail notifying you that you have created the tournament. Therefore, you can simply forward that e-mail to anyone who you think might be interested in participating.

However, there's nothing wrong with the good-old telephone call or a text message to add that personal touch.


Online poker rooms have never been more useful and needed than over the past few months. Now anyone can organize a game with their usual crew in an easy and convenient way without having to leave the house.

With only a few clicks, you can start playing online poker against people that you know, share some poker tips and tricks, and have a lot of fun in the process.

This can even serve as an opportunity to re-connect to people you haven't seen in a while or old friends who used to be your poker buddies.

How to Play Various Poker Games

In hold'em, players receive two down cards as their personal hand (holecards), after which there is a round of betting. Three board cards are turned simultaneously (called the flop) and another round of betting occurs. The next two board cards are turned one at a time, with a round of betting after each card. The board cards are community cards, and a player can use any five-card combination from among the board and personal cards. A player can even use all of the board cards and no personal cards to form a hand ("play the board"). A dealer button is used. The usual structure is to use two blinds, but it is possible to play the game with one blind, multiple blinds, an ante, or combination of blinds plus an ante.

    Opening deal - Each player is dealt two cards face down, which are known as hole cards or pocket cards.

    These rules deal only with irregularities. See Button and Blind use for rules on that subject.

See Explanations, discussion #2 , for more information on this rule.

See Explanations, discussion #2 , for more information on this rule.


Omaha is similar to hold'em in using a three-card flop on the board, a fourth board card, and then a fifth board card. Each player is dealt four hole cards (instead of two) at the start. To make a hand, a player must use precisely two hole cards with three board cards. The betting is the same as in hold'em. At the showdown, the entire four-card hand should be shown to receive the pot.

The best possible five-card poker hand, using exactly two hole cards and three community cards, wins the pot.

    The dealer deals each player four cards face down (hole cards or pocket cards)

  • All the rules of hold'em apply to Omaha except the rule on playing the board, which is not possible in Omaha (because you must use two cards from your hand and three cards from the board).

Omaha is often played high-low split, 8-or-better. The player can use any combination of two hole cards and three board cards for the high hand and another (or the same) combination of two hole cards and three board cards for the low hand.

  • All the rules of Omaha apply to Omaha high-low split except as below.
  • A qualifier of 8-or-better for low applies to all high-low split games, unless a specific posting to the contrary is displayed. If there is no qualifying hand for low, the best high hand wins the whole pot.

Seven-Card Stud

Seven-card stud is played with two downcards and one upcard dealt before the first betting round, followed by three more upcards (with a betting round after each card) and one more downcard. After the last downcard is dealt, there is a final round of betting. The best five-card poker hand wins the pot. In all fixed-limit games, the smaller bet is wagered on the first two betting rounds, and the larger bet is wagered after the betting rounds on the fifth, sixth, and seventh cards. If there is an open pair on the fourth card, any player has the option of making the smaller or larger bet. Deliberately changing the order of your upcards in a stud game is improper because it unfairly misleads the other players.

Betting Rounds

OBJECT: The best five-card poker hand, out of seven cards, wins the pot.

  • Each player must place an ante into the pot.
  • Each player is dealt two cards face down (hole cards) and one card face up (door card)

Rules of Seven Card Stud

  • The first round of betting starts with a forced bet by the lowest upcard by suit. On subsequent betting rounds, the high hand on board initiates the action. (A tie is broken by position, with the player who received cards first acting first.)
  • The player with the forced bet has the option of opening for a full bet.
  • Increasing the amount wagered by the opening forced bet up to a full bet does not count as a raise, but merely as a completion of the bet. For example: In $15-$30 stud, the lowcard opens for $5. If the next player increases the bet to $15 (completes the bet), up to three raises are then allowed when using a three-raise limit.
  • In all fixed-limit games, when an open pair is showing on fourth street (second upcard), any player has the option of betting either the lower or the upper limit. For example: In a $5-$10 game, if you have a pair showing and are the high hand, you can bet either $5 or $10. If you bet $5, any player then has the option to call $5, raise $5, or raise $10. If a $10 raise is made, then all other raises must be in increments of $10. If the player high with the open pair on fourth street checks, then subsequent players have the same options that were given to the player who was high.
  • If your first or second holecard is accidentally turned up by the dealer, then your third card is dealt down. If both hole cards are dealt up, you have a dead hand and receive your ante back. If the first card dealt faceup would have been the lowcard, action starts with the first hand to that player's left. That player may fold, open for the forced bet, or open for a full bet. (In tournament play, if a downcard is dealt face up, a misdeal is called.)
  • If you are not present at the table when it is your turn to act on your hand, you forfeit your ante and your forced bet, if any. If you have not returned to the table in time to act, the hand is killed when the betting reaches your seat.
  • If a hand is folded even though there is no wager, that seat continues to receive cards until the hand is killed as a result of a bet.
  • If you are all in for the ante and have the lowcard, the player to your left acts first. That player can fold, open for the forced bet, or open for a full bet.
  • If the wrong person is designated as low and that person bets, the action is corrected to the true low card if the next player has not yet acted. The incorrect low card takes back the wager and the true low card must bet. If the next hand has acted after the incorrect low card wager, the wager stands, action continues from there, and the true low card has no obligations.
  • If you pick up your upcards without calling when facing a wager, this is a fold and your hand is dead. However, this act has no significance at the showdown because betting is over; the hand is live until discarded.
  • A card dealt off the table must play and it is treated as an exposed card.
  • In all games, the dealer announces the lowcard, the high hand, all raises, and all pairs. Dealers do not announce possible straights or flushes (except for specified low-stakes games).
  • If the dealer burns two cards for one round or fails to burn a card, the cards are corrected, if at all possible, to their proper positions. If this should happen on a final downcard, and either a card intermingles with a player's other holecards or a player looks at the card, the player must accept that card.
  • If the dealer burns and deals one or more cards before a round of betting has been completed, the cards must be eliminated from play. After the betting for that round is completed, an additional card for each remaining player still active in the hand is also eliminated from play (to later deal the same cards to the players who would have received them without the error). After that round of betting has concluded, the dealer burns a card and play resumes. The removed cards are held off to the side in the event the dealer runs out of cards. If the prematurely dealt card is the final downcard and has been looked at or intermingled with the player's other holecards, the player must keep the card, and on sixth street betting may not bet or raise (because the player now has all seven cards), but can call.
  • If there are not enough cards left in the deck for all players, all the cards are dealt except the last card, which is mixed with the burn cards (and any cards removed from the deck, as in the previous rule). The dealer then scrambles and cuts these cards, burns again, and delivers the remaining downcards, using the last card if necessary. If there are not as many cards as players remaining without a card, the dealer does not burn, so that each player can receive a fresh card. If the dealer determines that there will not be enough fresh cards for all of the remaining players, then the dealer announces to the table that a common card will be used. The dealer burns a card and turns one card face up in the center of the table as a common card that plays in everyone's hand. The player who is now high using the common card initiates the action for the last round.
  • An all-in player should receive hole cards dealt facedown, but if the final hole card to such a player is dealt face up, the card must be kept, and the other players receive their normal cards.
  • If the dealer turns the last card faceup to any player, the hand now high on the board using all the upcards will start the action. The following rules apply to the dealing of cards:

Mississippi Stud


  • Ante, then deal two cards down and one up: Low card must bet in limit-betting games, high card must bet or fold in big-bet games.
  • Deal each active player two more upcards; bet from highest hand.
  • Deal each player a fourth upcard: bet from highest hand.
  • Deal each player a fifth upcard: bet from highest hand, followed by a showdown.

Half-pot, pot-limit and no-limit betting. In big-bet (that is, non-limit) games, all forms of stud require an ante from each player, with the highest card or hand acting first in all rounds of play. In the first round, the high card must either bet or fold. In later rounds, the high hand can either bet or check. The initial bet size is at the discretion of the opener and can usually be as small as one ante, or up to the maximum bet size allowed in the form used, that is, half the total antes in half-pot, the total antes in full-pot and as much as you wish in no-limit.

Limit Betting Structures

There is an ante, a compulsory bring-in from the low card, and bets typically double for the last two rounds, though this can be varied according to player's tastes. The bets are usually capped at three per round, except in head-to-head pots.

  • Low ante games: Ante, one unit; bring-in, two units, complete, 10 units. The maximum bet for the first two rounds is 10 units. Bets double to 20 units for the third and fourth rounds.
  • High ante: Ante, four units; bring-in, five units; raise, 10 units. Bets double to 20 units for the third and fourth rounds.

Seven-Card Stud High-Low

Seven-card stud high-low split is a stud game that is played both high and low. A qualifier of 8-or-better for low applies to all high-low split games, unless a specific posting to the contrary is displayed. The low card initiates the action on the first round, with an ace counting as a high card for this purpose. On subsequent rounds, the high hand initiates the action. If the high hand is tied, the first player clockwise from the dealer acts first. Fixed-limit games use the lower limit on third and fourth street and the upper limit on subsequent betting rounds, and an open pair does not affect the limit. Aces can be used for high or low. Straights and flushes do not affect the low value of a hand. A player can use any five cards to make the best high hand, and the same or any other grouping of five cards to make the best low hand.

Rules of Seven-Card Stud High-Low

  • All rules for seven-card stud apply to seven-card stud high-low split, except as otherwise noted.
  • A qualifier of 8-or-better for low applies to all high-low split games, unless a specific posting to the contrary is displayed. If there is no qualifying hand for low, the best high hand wins the whole pot.
  • A player can use any five cards to make the best high hand and any five cards, whether the same as the high hand or not, to make the best low hand.
  • The low card by suit (clubs, diamonds, hearts, spades) initiates the action on the first round, with an ace counting as a high card for this purpose.
  • An ace can be used for high or low.
  • Straights and flushes do not affect the value of a low hand.
  • Fixed-limit games use the lower limit on third and fourth streets and the upper limit on subsequent rounds. An open pair on fourth street does not affect the limit.
  • Splitting pots is determined only by the cards and not by agreement among players.
  • When there is an odd chip in a pot, the chip goes to the high hand. If two players split the pot by tying for both the high and the low, the pot shall be split as evenly as possible, and the player with the highest card by suit receives the odd chip. When making this determination, all cards are used, not just the five cards used for the final hand played.
  • When there is one odd chip in the high portion of the pot and two or more high hands split all or half the pot, the odd chip goes to the player with the high card by suit. When two or more low hands split half the pot, the odd chip goes to the player with the low card by suit.

The lowest hand wins the pot. The format is similar to seven-card stud high, except the high card (aces are low) is required to make the forced bet on the first round, and the low hand acts first on all subsequent rounds. Straights and flushes have no ranking, so the best possible hand is 5-4-3-2-A (a wheel). An open pair does not affect the betting limit.

Rules of Razz

  • All seven-card stud rules apply in razz except as otherwise noted.
  • The lowest hand wins the pot. Aces are low, and straights and flushes have no effect on the low value of a hand. The best possible hand is 5-4-3-2-A.
  • The highest card by suit starts the action with a forced bet. The low hand acts first on all subsequent rounds. If the low hand is tied, the first player clockwise from the dealer starts the action.
  • Fixed-limit games use the lower limit on third and fourth streets and the upper limit on subsequent streets. An open pair does not affect the limit.
  • The dealer announces all pairs the first time they occur, except pairs of face cards, which are never announced.


Lowball is draw poker with the lowest hand winning the pot. Each player is dealt five cards face down, after which there is a betting round. Players are required to open with a bet or fold. The players who remain in the pot after the first betting round now have an option to improve their hands by replacing cards in their hands with new ones. This is the draw. The game is normally played with one or more blinds, sometimes with an ante added. Some betting structures allow the big blind to be called; other structures require the minimum open to be double the big blind. In limit poker, the usual structure has the limit double after the draw (Northern California is an exception.) The most popular forms of lowball are ace-to-five lowball (also known as California lowball), and deuce-to-seven lowball (also known as Kansas City lowball). Ace-to-five lowball gets its name because the best hand at that form is 5-4-3-2-A. Deuce-to-seven lowball gets its name because the best hand at that form is 7-5-4-3-2 (not of the same suit). For a further description of the forms of lowball, see the individual section for each game. All rules governing kill pots are listed in Kill Pots.

Rules of Lowball

    The rules governing misdeals for hold'em and other button games are used for lowball.

  • The first or second card of the hand has been dealt faceup or exposed through dealer error.
  • Two or more cards have been exposed by the dealer.
  • Two or more extra cards have been dealt in the starting hands of a game.
  • An incorrect number of cards has been dealt to a player, except the button can receive one more card to complete a starting hand.
  • The button was out of position.
  • The first card was dealt to the wrong position.
  • Cards have been dealt out of the proper sequence.
  • Cards have been dealt to an empty seat or a player not entitled to a hand.
  • A player has been dealt out who is entitled to a hand. This player must be present at the table or have posted a blind or ante."
  • Wait for the big blind.
  • Kill the pot for double the amount of the big blind.
  • No card has been dealt off the deck in response to his request (including the burncard).
  • No player has acted, in either the betting or indicating the number of cards to be drawn, based on the number of cards the player has requested.

  • If a joker is used, it becomes the lowest card not present in the hand. The joker is assumed to be in use unless the contrary is posted.
  • In limit play, check-raise is not permitted (unless the players are alerted that it is allowed).
  • In limit ace-to-five lowball, before the draw, an exposed card of 7 or under must be taken, and an exposed card higher than a 7 must be replaced after the deal has been completed. This first exposed card is used as the burn card.

In deuce-to-seven lowball (sometimes known as Kansas City lowball), in most respects, the worst conventional poker hand wins. Straights and flushes count against a player, crippling the value of a hand. The ace is used only as a high card. Therefore, the best hand is 7-5-4-3-2, not all of the same suit. The hand 5-4-3-2-A is not considered to be a straight, but an A-5 high, so it beats other ace-high hands and pairs, but loses to king-high. A pair of aces is the highest pair, so it loses to any other pair. The rules for deuce-to-seven lowball are the same as those for ace-to-five lowball, except for the following differences:

  • The best hand is 7-5-4-3-2 of at least two different suits. Straights and flushes count against a player, and aces are considered high only.
  • Before the draw, an exposed card of 7, 5, 4, 3, or, 2 must be taken. Any other exposed card must be replaced (including a 6).
  • Check-raise is allowed on any hand after the draw, and a 7 or better is not required to bet.
  • All the rules for no-limit and pot-limit poker apply to no-limit and pot-limit lowball. All other lowball rules apply, except as noted.
  • A player is not entitled to know that an opponent cannot hold the best possible hand, so these rules for exposed cards before the draw apply:
    • In ace-to-five lowball, a player must take an exposed card of A, 2, 3, 4, or 5, and any other card must be replaced.
    • In deuce-to-seven lowball, the player must take an exposed card of 2, 3, 4, 5, or 7, and any other card including a 6 must be replaced.

    Draw High

    There are two betting rounds, one before the draw and one after the draw. The game is played with a button and an ante. Players in turn can check, open for the minimum, or open with a raise. After the first betting round, players have the opportunity to draw new cards to replace the ones they discard. Action after the draw starts with the opener, or next player proceeding clockwise if the opener has folded. The betting limit after the draw is twice the amount of the betting limit before the draw. Some draw high games allow a player to open with any holding; others require the opener to have a pair of jacks or better.

    Rules of Draw High

      A maximum of one bet and four raises is permitted in multihanded pots.

    • No cards have been dealt off the deck in response to your request (including the burncard).
    • No player has acted, in either the betting or indicating the number of cards to be drawn, based on the number of cards you have requested.

    Draw Jacks or Better

    There are two betting rounds, one before the draw and one after the draw. The game is played with a button and an ante. Players in turn can check, open for the minimum, or open with a raise. After the first betting round the players have the opportunity to draw new cards to replace the ones they discard. Action after the draw starts with the opener, or next player proceeding clockwise if the opener has folded. The betting limit after the draw is twice the amount of the betting limit before the draw.

    • A pair of jacks or better is required to open the pot. If no player opens the pot, the button moves forward and each player must ante again, unless the limit of antes has been reached for that particular game. (Most games allow three consecutive deals before anteing stops.)
    • If the opener should show false openers before the draw, any other active player has the opportunity to declare the pot opened. However, any player who originally passed openers is not eligible to declare the pot open. The false opener has a dead hand and the opening bet stays in the pot. Any other bet placed in the pot by the opener can be withdrawn, provided the action before the draw is not completed. If no other player declares the pot open, all bets are returned except the opener's first bet. The first bet and antes remain in the pot, and all players who were involved in that hand are entitled to play the next hand after anteing again.
    • Any player who has legally declared the pot opened must prove openers in order to win the pot.
    • In all cases, the pot plays (even if the opener shows or declares a fouled hand) if there has been a raise, two or more players call the opening bet, or all action is completed before the draw.
    • Even if you are all in for just the ante (or part of the ante), you can declare the pot open if you have openers. If you are all in and falsely declare the pot open, you lose the ante money and cannot continue to play on any subsequent deals until a winner is determined. Even if you buy in again, you must wait until the pot has been legally opened and someone else has won it before you can resume play.
    • Once action has been completed before the draw, the opener cannot withdraw any bets, whether or not the hand contains openers.
    • An opener may be allowed to retrieve a discarded hand to prove openers, at management's discretion.
    • Any player can request that the opener retain the opening hand and show it after the winner of the pot has been determined.
    • You can split openers, but you must declare that you are splitting and place all discards under a chip to be exposed by the dealer after the completion of the hand. If you declare that you are splitting openers, but it is determined that you could not possibly have had openers when your final hand is compared with your discards, you lose the pot.
    • You are not splitting openers if you retain openers. If you begin with the ace, joker, king, queen of spades, and the ten of clubs, you are not splitting if you throw the ten of clubs away. You are breaking a straight to draw to a royal flush, and in doing so, you have retained openers (ace-joker for two aces).
    • After the draw, if you call the opener's bet and cannot beat openers, you do not get your bet back. (You have received information about opener's hand that is not free.)

    No Limit Pot Limit

    There are two betting rounds, one before the draw and one after the draw. The game is played with a button and an ante. Players in turn can check, open for the minimum, or open with a raise. After the first betting round the players have the opportunity to draw new cards to replace the ones they discard. Action after the draw starts with the opener, or next player proceeding clockwise if the opener has folded. The betting limit after the draw is twice the amount of the betting limit before the draw.

    Hosting the perfect Poker game at home

    Creating the perfect poker tournament you can play at home takes more than a deck of cards, but you’ll find that with just a little preparation you can enjoy poker games at home even more than you might at a casino or online.

    You’ll need to learn how to set the blinds , levels, starting stacks and payout schedule. And naturally, you’ll want everyone to know how to play tournament poker. But fear not: in this guide to playing poker at home, we'll teach you exactly how to host the perfect home poker tournament.

    Paid by the two players to the left of the dealer button. First-left pays the small blind and the second player pays the big blind - this is double the size of the small blind.

    In limit poker games, there is a limit to how much can be bet. For example, all wagers have to be equal to the big blind.

    The secrets of an awesome
    home poker game explained

    Want to know how to put on the ultimate poker tournament for you and your pals? Get the answers, and more, in our downloadable guide.

    The secrets of an awesome
    home poker game explained

    Want to know how to put on the ultimate poker tournament for you and your pals? Get the answers, and more, in our downloadable guide.

    Before You Start

    Getting Set Up Chip Counts

    Before You Start

    Before you can even begin to think about inviting people over to play a home game, you need to wind back a few steps and cover off the basics. How many chips you need for your poker game, the length of the poker levels and the rest of your game setup are all important, but first of all you need to decide which game you’ll actually be playing.

    Picking Your Variation

    There's more than one way to play these days, but you’ll want to ensure everyone knows how to play the tournament poker you choose. Here are the three most popular rule variations:

    Texas Hold'em

    The most common poker variant, Texas Hold'em tournament rules see players dealt two hole cards each, followed by five community cards placed face up on the table. The winner is the player with the strongest 5-card hand, made up of any combination of hole and community cards. Click to learn how to play Texas Hold’em.

    The five cards turned face up in the middle of the table, which can be used by all players to form the best possible hand.


    In this variation, players receive four hole cards and have to make a hand using two hole cards and three from the board. Betting takes place in rounds, just as with Texas Hold'em, with three community cards being dealt on the flop, followed by one on the turn and a final river. Click to learn how to play Omaha.

    The two cards dealt to each player, which are not revealed until the showdown.

    Seven-Card Stud

    Seven-Card Stud was at one time the most popular poker variation. Players are first dealt three cards, two of which are face down (in the hole). The player with the lowest value up-card is forced to kick off the betting. There are no community cards, and players are dealt seven cards each in total (with rounds of betting in between). In the end, the player with the strongest five-card hand wins. Click to learn how to play Seven-Card Stud.

    Which type of poker you choose to play is entirely down to you, but if you want our recommendation, sticking to Texas Hold'em is probably a wise move. It’s the most widely played and understood poker game, whether you play at home, online or in live card rooms, and if you have a Texas Hold’em poker set it probably came with a handy set of rules and instructions for newer players.

    That's why in this guide we focus our advice on hosting a Texas Hold'em poker tournament at home.


    So, now we've decided on the poker game to play at home, it's time to think about who to invite.

    Around 8-10 players is a good number for a single table tournament. More than 10 and you’ll need to consider a second table, which will also mean another deck of cards and of course enough chips for the additional players.

    It’s a good idea to invite players with a similar level of experience, so people don’t feel outmatched, and important to make sure everyone is happy with the stakes and buy-ins. But don't forget about the social side either: the evening should be a chance to kick back and have fun, so invite people you enjoy hanging out with!

    The Essential Stuff: Cards, Chips, More

    Once your players are locked down you need to get your home game-night-ready. And that means making sure you have the right kit.

    At its most basic level, a deck of cards and a table will just about see you through. But there are a few more things to think about if you want your home poker set up to really deliver the goods.


    Cards are the backbone of any poker game. While you can pretty much get by without most of the other elements, not having a deck to play with will stop your poker game before it's even started.

    Don't bother bringing out the novelty deck you brought home from Tijuana either. You want your fellow players to show you some respect, so invest a few dollars in a plastic laminated deck just like Vegas casinos use. They're easy to wipe clean, don't crease or bend easily, plus they won't absorb grease from any oily chicken wing-covered fingers.

    playing surface

    Although you can be a little more flexible with the playing surface, essentially what you need is something flat, and big enough for each player to sit around comfortably.

    • Pick a table that can accommodate everyone taking part. A dining table usually works well as a DIY poker table, especially if it extends.
    • Invest in a proper green felt playing surface to cover the table. Casino poker tables have this for a reason, it's so the cards slide easily.
    • Don't skimp on the quality of the poker table fabric. You want something that's at least an 80-20% cotton/polyester ratio.

    Of course, if you really want to look the part you could always go the whole hog and shell out on a poker table. Many fold up poker tables are inexpensive, easy to store, and already topped with a felt playing surface, so well worth considering if you enjoy playing poker games at home.

    poker chips

    Want to know how to play poker without chips? It’s not impossible some get by perfectly well just using cash but while that may work well for a cash game, things are trickier for a home poker tournament where the denominations used are usually much higher than the bills in your pocket.

    Plenty of poker chips sets are available online, at a wide variety of price points. If you’re starting out playing poker games at home, you won’t necessarily want to spend a lot of money on a fancy Texas Hold’em poker set. And the good news is, you don’t have to.

    More expensive poker chips feel nicer in the hand, but they all do the same job. Spend a little extra if you want to class up your home game, but the most important thing is have enough chips for the tournament you want to play.


    Even in a friendly home poker tournament, you should set a blind structure and stick to it. That means a timer will be needed to help you keep track of when the blinds go up, as well as when any rebuy period ends.

    • Most smartphones feature an alarm or stopwatch, helping you keep count without having to clock watch.
    • Dealer buttons with built-in timers can be tracked down easily (and cheaply) online to act as the level timer.
    • Some tournament apps for smartphones let you customize and save your blinds levels.

    getting set up

    So, now the essentials are in the bag you're ready to begin thinking about the finer details of your home poker tournament. Let’s take a look at everything you need to keep the tournament moving, from setting blind levels and starting stakes to poker chip distribution and tournament structure.


    Setting stakes in a home poker tournament boils down to how much the players want to play for. Ideally you want a buy-in that players will be comfortable paying for (and if rebuys or add-ons are going to be available, that should also be a factor).

    Setting buy-ins too high may put off some of your invited players who are seeing your poker home game as more of a fun activity than the chance to win some prize money. Likewise, setting the buy-ins too low will probably put off players who are attracted by the opportunity to win some extra cash. It’s a balancing act that depends on the players who will be playing, so bear that in mind and, however much you choose to play for, make sure everyone knows the details in advance.

    It’s a good idea to have a side table that offers a cash game for those who bust out of the tournament just make sure the stakes of the cash game appeal to the same players who came to play the tournament.


    While the World Series of Poker Main Event uses a freeze-out structure that eliminates players once they bust, in our experience a rebuy structure is better for home games. Giving players the option to buy back in when they lose all their chips makes things more exciting and more appealing. You'll also find that players take bigger risks when they know rebuys are allowed.

    Add-ons extra buy-ins available to all players at the end of the rebuy period can also be a great way to help short stacks gain a foothold back in the game, as well as to boost the prize pool.

    Consider the payout structure too. Will one player take the entire prize pool, or will you have first, second and third place prizes? The more players you have, the more spots you should pay out. As you may not know the final number of players until the tournament is ready to begin, this may be something to discuss with your fellow players before starting play.

    PokerTracker 4 Quick Start Guide

    Online poker sites write hand histories to your computer detailing every action in the hand. PokerTracker 4 parses these hand histories and stores statistics and other hand information into a PostgreSQL database for later review.

    This guide is intended to help you quickly and easily install, setup, and configure PokerTracker 4 and PostgreSQL. This guide will also provide you with some of the basic tools so that you can begin using PokerTracker to import hand histories, review imported hands, and view the head-up display (HUD) which displays statistics directly on top of the poker tables that you are playing on.

    Please note that this guide and all of the accompanying guides are applicable for PokerTracker 4 for Microsoft Windows, as well as PokerTracker 4 for Apple's OS X operating system for the Mac.

    To Install PokerTracker 4:

    • Download the latest PokerTracker 4 version from the PokerTracker website.
    • Once the download has completed, run the PT-Install.exe file that was saved to your computer. If you are upgrading from a previous version of PokerTracker 4 then PokerTracker and all of your poker sites must be closed prior to running the installer.
    • Read the license agreement. If you agree, click the I Agree button to continue.
    • Choose the location where you would like to install PokerTracker onto your computer then click Install. We recommend installing to the default location chosen by the installer.
    • The window shown below will only be visible to users running the Windows Vista operating system. Vista users must either have Service Pack 1 (or greater) or an older version of PostgreSQL installed on their computer. If you do not use Windows Vista, simply click Continue Installation
    • PokerTracker 4 has been successfully installed onto your computer! Click Close to exit the installation. If the installation process does not complete, please contact PokerTracker support.

    If this is the first time that you are installing PokerTracker 4 onto your computer then please proceed to Installing the PostgreSQL Database Server section in this guide. If PostgreSQL is already installed on your computer then you can skip ahead to Configuring PostgreSQL in PokerTracker 4.

    PokerTracker 4 stores imported hand histories and statistics into a database called PostgreSQL which must be installed on your computer for PokerTracker 4 to run. PostgreSQL is an open source database server. If you are interested in learning more about PostgreSQL, please visit their website at

    When you run PokerTracker for the first time, if PostgreSQL is not installed on your computer, you will be prompted to install the PostgreSQL database server onto your computer. Click Yes to continue. The next step is to configure PostgreSQL settings.

    We highly recommend using the default settings unless you are advanced and know exactly what you are doing. The default values are:

    Server: localhost
    Port: 5432
    Service User: postgres
    Service User Password: svcPASS83
    Database User: postgres
    Database User Password: dbpass

    Windows Configure PostgreSQL Installation

    Mac OS X Configure PostgreSQL Installation

    IMPORTANT: If you change the default passwords, write them down and remember them. PokerTracker support cannot recover your PostgreSQL passwords therefore we recommend using the default passwords provided.

    To install PostgreSQL click Install and PokerTracker will proceed to install PostgreSQL on your computer.

    Once PostgreSQL is installed on your computer, you will be prompted to enter the PostgreSQL server information so that PokerTracker can connect to the database. If PokerTracker 4 installed PostgreSQL for you then the default settings will be pre-populated. Click Connect and PokerTracker will connect to the database server. If this is your first database then please proceed to Creating Your First Database. If you previously created a database then skip ahead to Connecting to an Existing Database.

    Once PokerTracker 4 is connected to the PostgreSQL database server, you will be prompted to create your first PokerTracker 4 database. In the Name field, enter the name that you would like to refer to the database as (or you can leave the default name provided). PokerTracker 4 will provide the default database settings for you. If you changed the default settings during PostgreSQL installation then you should enter them here. Click the Create button and PokerTracker 4 will create your first database. Please skip ahead to The Setup Assistant section of this guide.

    If you have an existing PokerTracker 4 database on your computer then you will need to connect to it. Click the Browse Databases link. Every existing PokerTracker 4 database on your computer will be listed. Select the database that you would like to connect to and click OK. (If no databases are listed then there are no existing PokerTracker 4 databases on your computer and you should go back to the Creating Your First Database section of this guide)

    This database already exists option should be checked if connecting to an existing database.

    The Setup Assistant was designed to help you quickly and easily configure PokerTracker 4 with the poker site(s) that you play on.

    The Setup Assistant consists of four parts which we will go through one by one below. The Setup Assistant can be utilized at three different points in time:

    • To quickly and easily setup PokerTracker 4 the first time that you run the program
    • To configure new sites/themes/databases later on after you have already been using PokerTracker 4
    • To convert Holdem Manager and PokerTracker 3 databases

    If this is the first time that you are running PokerTracker 4 then the Setup Assistant will launch immediately. You can run the Setup Assistant at any time by clicking Tools from the main menu and then Setup Assistant.

    The first step of the Setup Assistant is to configure your currency. PokerTracker 4 automatically converts various currencies into a single currency to make your results easier to understand. From the dropdown menu select the currency you wish to use. Once you've made your selection, click Next continue with the Setup Assistant. If you wish to skip this step, click Skip Currency Conversion.

    The next step of the Setup Assistant will help you configure the sites you play on with PokerTracker 4. Toggle the option to YES for each poker site that you play on and then push Next. If you wish to skip this step, click Skip Configure Sites.

    You will need to configure each poker site that you play on. This configuration is key for proper HUD and import performance. If you need assistance for any site, choose your site(s) from the PokerTracker 4 Poker Site Configuration Guide. Once you have finished configuring each site you can import any existing hand histories.

    PokerTracker 4 will attempt to import any existing hands in your site's hand history folder. From the dropdown menu, choose the database that you wish to import these hands into. It is also recommended that you select YES for both Import Existing Hand Histories and Move Files After Import. Click Next to continue with the Setup Assistant.

    The next step allows you to configure various themes for PokerTracker 4. These deck and replayer themes were created to allow for a customized experience. Preview the themes by clicking the themes along the left and click Make Active once you've made your selection. If you want more themes just click Download New Themes and import any downloaded themes using the Import New Theme option. Once you've made your selection click Next to continue with the Setup Assistant. If you wish to skip this step, click Skip Configure Themes.

    If you are interested in creating a custom theme, click here.

    Congratulations, you're finished! Simply push Finish for PokerTracker 4 to implement all of your options and/or import any hand histories you selected. This process may take some time depending on your system and selections, so please be patient and let PokerTracker 4 finish for optimal results. If you wish to go back and make any changes just click Previous.

    Once PokerTracker 4 is configured with PostgreSQL and each poker site that you play on, you are ready to begin the fun part - using the program! This section will discuss the basics of using PokerTracker 4, including importing hand histories and reviewing poker stats.

    Each time that you begin playing poker, start PokerTracker 4 and navigate to the Play Poker page. From here you have three import options:

    • Get Hands While Playing: This import option allows you to import hand histories and initiate the HUD as you are playing in real-time.
    • Get Hands From Disk: This allows you to manually import hands from your hard disk. You can import individual files or entire folders of hand histories.
    • Get Hands From Email: This is a special-use feature for select poker rooms (e.g. Party Poker's tournament summaries sent via email)

    You can also access any of these import options by right clicking the icon in the bottom right hand corner of PokerTracker 4 and making your selection.

    To begin importing hands in real-time, simply click Get Hands While Playing and PokerTracker 4 will automatically start importing hands. Once importing, you should see information populating below. There are three different view options:

    • View Today's Hands: This allows you to view every hand that you've imported today.
    • View Active Tables: This allows you to see each table you are currently playing on.
    • View Import Status: The import status tells you everything about your current import, including any errors.

    You can further filter the population in the window below by ticking Show Marked Hands Only, showing specifically tagged hands, showing x number of hands, and even showing cash game versus tournament hands. Below is an example of a real-time import using Get Hands While Playing and the View Today's Hands view:

    Once you are done playing, click the Stop Getting Hands button. You can also stop importing by right clicking the bottom right corner of PokerTracker 4 and clicking Stop Getting Hands.

    The heads-up display (HUD) is automatically started when you push Get Hands While Playing. Importing by any other method will not initiate the HUD, as Get Hands While Playing is the only import option for real-time play. Once initiated, your HUD should appear on your table after playing a hand or two (if not sooner). This is an example of the default HUD being displayed correctly:

    You will see two little buttons on the top of each table when the HUD is initiated. Clicking the tag button on the left allows you to quickly pull up hand histories and mark them for review.

    Clicking the PokerTracker 4 chip on the right will allow you to pull up a wide variety of options. From here you can unlock the HUD (so that you can move a player's stats to a new location), change how stats are displayed, which HUD profile is used, etc.

    Once you stop importing hands, the HUD will stop displaying on your tables. To personalize your HUD options, read our tutorial on HUD configuration.

    In PokerTracker 4 you can easily change the active player. The active player is the player used in reports, graphs, etc. This makes results and statistical review simple as the active player will be the same on any and all tabs. To change the active player you can simply right-click any area where information is populated and choose Change Active Player. Here are a couple examples:

    You can also manually change the active player from any View Stats tab. Simply click the Player drop-down menu along the left side and choose the appropriate player. If necessary, you can search for a username by clicking Choose New Player from the drop-down menu. Once changed the active player will be the same on each View Stats tab.

    If you play on multiple sites you may want to create an alias. This will allow you to merge all of your usernames, stats, results, etc. into a single name. Players interested in this should read the configuring a PokerTracker 4 alias tutorial.

    After hand histories have been imported into PokerTracker 4, you can view your and your opponents' stats. Simply click View Stats and choose either cash games ($) or tournaments (T). From there, you have five different tabs: Results, Statistics, LeakTracker, My Reports, and Graphs.

    Each tab offers various ways to explore results, hands, leaks, and analyze facets of your game. You may also use different filters to further drill-down in each tab. Along the left side of each tab you will see various filters and drop-down menus so you can customize your analysis as much as possible.

    Along with filters, you can also customize the statistical report on each tab. Simply right-click any area where information is populated and click Configure Report to add, delete, and modify the stats shown on that report.

    Whenever you make a change (configuring a report, modifying a filter, changing the active player, etc.) make sure to refresh the report. You can do this by clicking Refresh in the upper right hand corner.

    PokerTracker 4 offers an enormous number of ways to graph data, find leaks, track results, analyze hands, etc. Explore each tab and report to see everything that PT4 offers, and customize your experience along the way by configuring reports and changing filters. If you ever need clarification on what a report does, click the little TV icon and watch a short video explaining how to use the specific report.

    The definition for each of PokerTracker 4's stats are available at your fingertips.

    Open the Statistics Window by clicking Configure Statistics.

    1. Choose from Cash Games or Tournaments
    2. There are two types of stats categories to chose from
      1. Player Stats record data about the actions that a player takes. Nearly all stats used in the HUD or result reports are Player Stats.
      2. Hand Stats record data about a specific hand, these stats are mostly used in Hand Reports.

      For example, if you want to learn what Float means type Float into the Search box, and a long list of stats will be displayed that contain the word Float. To further isolate the list we will add F so we only display the stats where Floating has occurred on the Flop. Select Float Flop from the Stat Name column on the left hand side of the window, the definition and the formula used to create the stat is listed in the Details Page under Detailed Description.

      PokerTracker has a built in educational tool that compares each of your key statistics against a very large sample of winning players, this tool is designed to help our users learn how to gage what optimal play will look like for the most critical stats available in PT4.

      To use LeakTracker:

      1. Click the LeakTracker button, then select the Leaks Analysis report in the left hand frame.
      2. Choose the Game, Stakes, Table Size, and Bet Type you wish to review. Click Run.
      3. LeakTracker will compare your stats (or the stats of the chosen Active Player) against a massive database of winning players stats, your results will be presented by the black line in each stat's horizontal graph. You can compare your results in LeakTracker by each position, or the overall results of each stat.

      The colors within each horizontal graph stand for the three possible Determinations:

      • Green = Good
      • Light Gray = Needs Improvement
      • Dark Gray = Potential Problem

      Click on the name of any stat you wish to review, a guide to that stat will appear on the right hand frame. The definition for the stat will appear, along with the formula used to create the stat. A determination will allow be show which explains if the value of the stat falls within the range of values considered normal for solid winning players, or if the results are outside of this range.

      Each stat reviewed by LeakTracker has a matching brief Tutorial Video, this video is design to help our users learn how the stat correlates with each other critical stat, and shows the optimal ranges commonly found within the sample of winning players used within LeakTracker. Click Watch the Video on This Stat to review the tutorial.

      There are over 3.5 hours of tutorial videos available to be watched within PokerTracker 4, each video is 3 to 5 minutes in length, and is designed to educate our users on a specific topic.

      To watch a PokerTracker 4 Tutorial Video

      1. Chose the topic you wish to review by viewing that report or window in PokerTracker 4.
      2. Click the green button to open the Tutorial Video for this topic.

      Note: Adobe Flash must be installed to view the video in the Windows OS, please review the Video Tutorial guide for information how to install Adobe Flash if necessary.

      You can review all of the built in PokerTracker 4 tutorial videos in one location on the PokerTracker 4 website by clicking the PT4 Videos link at the bottom of any page on our website, in the footer of the page.

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