Preparing to Host a Poker Game

A while back, I commented to a friend that I needed to “get home” to prepare for the game that night.  He looked puzzled, and asked “what is there to do to get ready?”  I thought about that and realized most players just show up, take a seat and play.  They sometimes have no idea about what occurs before they arrive.  This is by-no-means a criticism of the players attending, nor is it a complaint about preparing for a game. Hosting a game, and what I do to prepare for it is something that I have chosen to do, and this is just a description of what occurs before a game begins.

Usually a little more than a week prior to a planned game, I email an invitation to the people on my distribution list.  This normally only takes a few minutes, since I usually just use an invitation from a prior game, and change the date.  Handling the RSVPs is a little more time consuming, since I reply to each person that RSVPs.  Usually, within a few minutes after I email the invitation, the responses start coming in.  I have an Excel spreadsheet that I keep updated as I receive responses, so I stay within my limit of 27 players (or, occasionally 28).

Throughout the week, from the time I email the invitation until the day of the tournament, I usually have a few emails each day concerning various topics: can a friend be invited, someone needs to cancel, or someone just saw the invitation and wants to know if there are any seats still available, and so on.

I’ve calculated that it takes me about 3-4 hours to prepare for a game.  The evening before the tournament I spend about an hour setting up two tables.  I store one table top in three pieces (racetrack, center section, and padded rail) underneath a bed, upstairs.  It goes on top of a dining room table, which I open and put a leaf in, and then put a roll of felt on for protection before piecing the table top together, carrying each piece, one-at-a-time downstairs.  Next, I set-up a second table that’s stored in the garage.  This requires setting-up a folding table, and then placing the two pieces (table and rail) on it. 

The day of the game, things get a little hectic.  On the way home, I buy ice.  As soon as I arrive home, I lower the thermostat for the AC, since my wife’s preferred setting would make everyone think they had entered a sauna. :)   After finalizing the attendee list (and I use the term “finalize” loosely, because it rarely ever is), I print off 3 copies.

Then I perform these tasks:

  • Set-up my third table (also stored in 3 pieces under a bed; set-up is the same as the dining room table top, except this one goes in the kitchen)
  • Carry from the garage and set-up 18 folding chairs plus 10 regular chairs at each of the 28 seats (some are set-up the night before)
  • Set-up Tournament Director Software (add new players, etc.)
  • Set-up my drink tables (carrying all 8 downstairs – don’t want drinks spilled on my poker tables)
  • Put drink coasters out (don’t have enough drink tables, and don’t want condensation rings on the wife’s furniture)
  • Carry my poker chips downstairs, both sets – tournament and cash game (I put the tournament chips away already set-up for the next tournament, so it doesn’t take long to place them on the table at each of the 27 seats)
  • Get my cards (2 decks per table, and count them to make sure none are missing), cut cards, dealer buttons, and my card protector
  • Prepare rebuy chips (in the tournament, players are allowed one rebuy and one add-on) I’ve found that using a Ziploc for the chips, one for each table, works well.  I ask one of my regular players for each table to handle the rebuys at their table. And, give them one of the previously mentioned attendee lists and a pen to keep track of the rebuys/add-ons
  • Make notes for announcements – this includes payout percentages, any rules infractions from previous games that need addressed, special announcements like birthdays, new babies, etc.
  • Prepare back deck – I have a few smokers that go out during breaks.  I clean-off the deck and put out an ashtray
  • Make room in the refrigerator for player’s beer and other drinks
  • Clean-up the kitchen and take the trash out (which won’t be the only time of the evening)
  • Make sure the bathrooms have TP and clean towels
  • Eat dinner – if I get a chance
  • I have recorded poker shows like Poker After Dark and High Stakes Poker which I play on the TV to set the tone :)
  • Put my contacts in (sometimes, because I don’t like to play while wearing glasses)
  • If it’s winter and has snowed, although rare but it has happened, I shovel the front porch and sidewalk

While all of this is going on, usually an hour or two before the scheduled start time, the phone starts ringing: “Can I bring anything” – which is often answered with “Yes”, because I forgot the ice ;) ; or “something has come up and I can’t make it” – which is not so welcome.

And, finally the magic hours arrives, and the game begins – I Love Poker!

Oh, by-the-way, after the last game it took me almost exactly 2 hours to clean-up and put everything away.

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