Friendly competition and fine spirits: helping men enjoy one another’s company since time immemorial. And poker is an excellent way to have both. Yet, most poker games are just as apt to end in fisticuffs as a friendly shake of hands. Host a better poker night by remembering these eight dos and don’ts.
Do: Provide a bottle of whiskey. The key to a good poker night starts (and frequently ends) with the bottle of whiskey. Bourbon for a saloon-esque feel (we like Michter’s 10). Or opt for a more stiff-collared route with a bottle of Macallan 18.
Don’t: Let your guests drink on an empty stomach. Keep the snacks simple and clean, like hummus and vegetables or chips and guac. No matter how good that pizza is, you don’t want any saucy fingerprints on the Queen of Hearts.
Do: Allow players to buy back in. Nobody wants to sit in the corner and drink whiskey all night after getting burned by the river card on the first hand. Allowing players to buy back in will keep even the unfortunate at the table.
Don’t: Allow players to buy back in more than once. You want everyone to get in on the action, but you don’t want the pot to be dictated by the one guy who can afford to buy back until he runs into Lady Luck.
Do: Set a hard time limit. Nobody wants to be embattled in an agonizing heads-up grind before they can go home, especially if they have work/brunch plans in the morning. Sound financial planning usually starts with going to work on-time and sober, not on that gut-shot flush draw at 1:00 a.m.
Don’t: Set the buy-in out of reach. The buy-in should be about the same as the price of the whiskey bottle you provide, whether it’s a mid-shelf bourbon or a top-shelf scotch. And try to accommodate the most frugal of your friends. Those dying to high-roll can buy a ticket to Atlantic City.
Do: Change up the games. Playing Texas Hold ‘Em into the night is tried and true, but you can add a little kick by switching to Seven-Card Stud, Five-Card Draw or even Three-Card Knock.
Don’t: Bluff with that king-high again. I know what you’re trying to do here, Jim, and I’ll call to keep you honest. Just you try me.