Here’s how to throw the best poker night
31 Dec 2021
Poker night. It’s the ultimate in guys’ nights. It’s right up there with tailgating before a big game, watching a fight or playing sports in a rec league. If you’re hosting a poker night, it’s the kind of thing you want to do right.
In the classic romcom ‘How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003)’, Kate Hudson’s character does her best to ruin her boyfriend’s poker night. She knows, like we all do, that poker nights are basically sacred and should be treated with respect.
Here are some top tips for planning the ultimate poker night with friends:
Food and drinks
Two of the most important parts of any party are the food and drinks. Wings and pizza might be classic delivery options, but they aren’t necessarily the best to eat while you’re playing poker. Sauce and grease can damage playing cards.
Even if they don’t ruin the cards, they can ruin the game. If everyone knows that the ace of clubs has a spot of blue cheese dressing on the top left corner, for example, good luck bluffing or hiding what your hand might be. Better to keep the messy foods for another occasion.
If you need the greasy fast food, consider eating before the cards come out, or taking a break part way through the night to eat instead of eating while you’re playing.
If you’re having a late-night poker night, snacks might be all that you need. You can keep it simple with chips and dips, popcorn, pretzels and other crunchy classics. Throw in some sweet snacks to balance out all the savory.
While sitcom stereotypes dictate that guys’ nights have to be pizza and potato chips only affairs, if you want to serve nice appetizers and crudités or offer the guys a cheese platter with wine pairings, then do it! What matters is that everyone is enjoying themselves.
Drinks are another important consideration. You want everyone to have a good time and relax, but you also don’t want to encourage anyone to drink so much that they start making bad decisions or can’t play anymore. If you’re mixing drinks, don’t make them overpoweringly strong.
Consider replacing the usual case of Molson with a 12-pack of local craft beer instead. It’s more expensive, but it’s also usually more interesting, stronger and worth savoring. Buying from local breweries is also a great way to support small businesses and build your community.
It’s also nice to be able to offer your guests some nonalcoholic options. These could just be mixers served in the same type of glasses as the alcoholic drinks. This takes the pressure off of any guest who might not want to drink for whatever reason and saves them from having to explain why if they don’t want to.
Having a great playlist is key to setting the right vibe. Picking music that isn’t too distracting is the main guideline. If everyone is waiting for the bass to drop then they aren’t really that focused on the game. Instrumental music can be found in most genres and can be great for setting a background mood.
If you aren’t sure what to play, you can always turn to the experts — or at least the expertise of the internet. Streaming services like Spotify have curated playlists for every occasion. You can even find playlists of music played in casinos if you want a real Vegas feel to your night.
If you’re having a themed poker night, picking music that fits is essential. Consider mixing things up a bit by throwing a Rat Pack-themed poker night. Everyone can come dressed to kill and be greeted by Frank Sinatra classics playing.
Another classic theme is a wild west Texas Hold‘em night. Who passes up a chance to wear a cowboy hat and pretend to be Lee Van Cleef? Nothing sets the mood better than the ethereal wailing of Ennio Morricone’s The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (1966) soundtrack.
Have an ace up your sleeve
Not literally! You will definitely not improve your poker night by cheating. Secretly practicing to improve your skills, however, is a great little surprise. You obviously don’t want to take advantage of your friends, but whipping out your new and improved skills after a hand or two won’t hurt.
One of the best ways to practice, without any of your usual poker buddies knowing, is to play at an online casino. You can play against people with a range of different skill levels and learn some new tricks. It is also helpful to play against people you don’t know so that you can learn to read people better.
Keep it friendly
Being competitive is great but being competitive to the point that you ruin someone else’s night isn’t worth it. It can hurt your friendships and make you look bad. Hosting a good poker night means keeping an eye on how everyone is doing and making sure nothing gets too heated.
A good way to avoid tempers flaring is to clearly outline the rules beforehand so that everyone is on the same page. Some people aren’t going to want to admit that they don’t know how to play, so it’s better to just lay out the basics before you get started.
While betting big money has its place, a friendly poker night isn’t it. Money is one of the biggest reasons friendships fall apart. Just using chips instead of cash or playing with pennies and other small coins is a better option. The thrill of winning is still there, but without any of the consequences.
Playing for actual money can exclude friends who aren’t as financially comfortable. It could also pressure people to play with money they can’t afford to lose. Of course, everyone is an adult and allowed to make their own choices, but as the host, you should be willing to look out for your friends.
Last but not least, don’t forget the cards!
As the host, you’ll need to make sure you have everything you need to play. It’s usually a good idea to have more than one deck of cards. You’ll also need plenty of chips – the number will depend on how many people are playing and what, if any, limits you set.
You can play poker on any table that has enough space for all of your players. However, suppose you’re feeling fancy and plan on poker nights becoming a regular thing, you might want to consider investing in a poker table or even a table topper – which will turn any table into a poker table.