Planning a Poker Game Party

Any excuse to get together with friends is a good one, and planning a poker game party for your pals is a great reason to have the gang over and hang out. Worried about décor, food and beverages, logistics or the poker games themselves? These tips can help you plan a great poker party for your friends:

Consider Local Laws
Many states have laws banning or regulating gambling for money, so, in many areas, you cannot host a poker party where you play for cash. Before you discuss stakes, check your local laws and determine whether you can play for money or whether you have to play without stakes. One Web site, State Gambling Law, sums up laws of each state and whether or not social gambling is allowed.

Plan the Guest List and Logistics
Decide how many people you want to have over for your poker party, and plan for tables and seating. Depending on the size of your place and your tables, plan on seating eight people per table. More than eight guests, and you'll want to start a second table. Make sure your tables are big enough and that you have enough chairs. Many party supply stores can rent you tables and chairs for your poker party, so check into rental rates before you go out and stockpile chairs. If you can't get actual card tables, you can cover your tables with a large sheet of green felt from a nearby fabric store, or you can even settle for a green, red or black tablecloth.

If your place can't comfortably accommodate two tables, resist the urge to over-invite, and cut back on your guest list. You want your guests to have fun, and that's less likely to happen if they're crowded into corners or hunched over a tiny table, fighting for elbow space.

Go All-In With Food and Refreshments
Do you want to host a casual night with friends, or a dress-up poker party event? Make sure your food and refreshments agree with the tone of your party. Don't invite everybody over in suits and cocktail dresses and serve them pizza, and don't expect people to show up in jeans and a t-shirt and overwhelm them with a Monte Carlo menu.

For a casual night, pizza, chips, soda and BYOB should suffice. If you're planning a poker party event, and not just a casual get-together, consider going higher-end with your refreshments. Create poker-themed dishes, such as "club" sandwiches, "three of a kind" cheese dip and "chips" or artichoke "hearts" dip. You could also use heart, spade, club and diamond cookie cutters to create unique desserts. The same thing goes for drinks; create poker-themed names for your cocktails to spice up your poker party.

Choose Dress, Décor and Invitations
You can go as simple or as complicated as you want with dress and décor. Give your friends a sense of what's to come by letting your invitations reflect your tone. Choose something funny or irreverent for a casual poker night, or get friends in the mood for your poker party with poker-themed invitations. For a Rat Pack touch, suggest that your guests attend wearing suits and cocktail dresses. And don't forget to let guests know if you will be playing for money or for fun and if there are any limits. The lower the stakes, the less tension will be in the air.

The décor should complement the dress and invitations. Don't bother with anything special if you're aiming for a casual night. For a more poker-themed party, decorate the room with red and black, and incorporate the club, spade heart and diamond into décor elements. You can even shoot for casino-themed plates and napkins by finding matching sets with dice, playing cards or other casino elements. For music, light jazz or blues works, or you can put together a poker party music playlist with greats such as "Luck Be a Lady" by Frank Sinatra, "Money" by Pink Floyd, and whatever else you think would be fun and appropriate.

Choose Cards and Chips
No poker party would be complete without the essentials, so you're going to need cards and chips. Use new decks for easy play and the extra satisfaction of "new deck feel." You'll need 2 decks of cards per table. For chips, you'll want a minimum of 35 chips per player, but 50 to 100 is even better for creating a casino atmosphere. Nothing interrupts the flow of a poker party like running out of chips, and you don't want your guests to have to go begging for chips just to stay in the game.

Let the skill level of your poker party group determine your chip denominations. If you're playing with experienced poker players, use the standard casino denominations of $1 for white, $5 for red, $10 for blue, $25 for green and $100 for black. If you're playing with a mixed group containing novices, try playing with all chips representing $1, or $1 for white and $2 for every other chip color.

Pick Your Poison: Choosing a Poker Game
Texas Hold -Em is the most popular poker game for poker parties, thanks to celebrity and professional poker televised on popular sports channels. If Texas Hold -Em isn't your cup of tea, you could always go with five-card draw, seven-card stud, poker baseball, hi lo or even your own poker party variation.

If you're not sure about experience levels, it's smart to send out cards with the invitations explaining the rules and winning hands for your poker games. Before all of you sit down to play, prepare a quick refresher course so everyone is on the same level, and you're sure to have a good time-and maybe even good luck.

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