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The Home Poker Party for ALL Your friends! Texas Hold’em – Tournament Style


Tournament-style Texas Hold’em rocks! It’s so much different than the boring “dealer’s choice” games of yesteryear! I have been to so many home game tournaments since the phenomenon of Texas Hold’em erupted, and there is such a drastic difference between the tournaments that are run well and the ones that aren’t. There are several fundamentals that need to be adopted to enhance tournament play. I will discuss the most crucial.


Blind Schedule & Starting Chips – Everybody seems to butt heads on getting this one right! This is the single most important factor of a tournament. When the blind schedule increases too rapidly, the luck of the cards becomes a heavier factor. If you want your evening to depend on luck, play a different game. Poker is a game of skill; ensure that luck is a small factor in determining the outcome of your tournaments. Setting a chip count at 1500 to 1800 chips and a blind schedule that increases every 20 to 25 minutes seems to be perfect. See the table below for a sample blind schedule:


Round 1


Round 2


Round 3


Round 4


Round 5













Round 6


Round 7


Round 8


Round 9


Round 10












The small blinds would increase 100 chips every subsequent round past the 300-600 blinds. It’s not rocket science; if you want to increase the pace of the game, lower the blind schedules. You should get a good feel for how quickly you will finish a game after the first few tournaments. Keeping to the schedule above, you will typically finish a game of 25-30 people in around 6-7 hours.


Determine your Payouts – This one can bite a host in the ass! If you screw up on the payouts, it could potentially come out of your wallet. Don’t let that happen. Figure everything out before you get the game started. I will show a listing of the best payout breakdown that I have found for a home game:


  • Below 10 buy-ins: 70% - 1st, 30% - 2nd


  • 10 - 15 buy-ins: 60% - 1st, 30% - 2nd, 10% - 3rd


  • 16 - 20 buy-ins: 4th gets money back. Remaining funds are: 60% 1st, 30% - 2nd, 10% - 3rd


  • 21 - 24 buy-ins: 5th gets money back. Remaining funds are: 50% - 1st, 25% - 2nd, 15% - 3rd, 10% - 4th


  • 25 and above buy-ins: 40% - 1st, 25% - 2nd, 15% - 3rd, 10% - 4th, 5% - 5th, 5% - 6th


Table Assignments – When your game graduates to more than one table, you will need to determine what you are going to do about seating assignments. Don’t stress about this one, instead think about the thickness of your wallet when you take out two or three full tables! Making the assumption that you will be playing on octagonal tables, separate 8 cards of as many suits as you have tables. Designate a suit to each table and have the players draw cards. This will also take care of their positions at the table.


During tournament play, keep the number of players at each table even. If you have all 8 players remaining at table 1, and table 2 just had their second bust out, pull a player from table 1 to sit at table 2. This is usually done by grabbing the player that is about to be big blind from table 1. Continue evening out the tables until you are at the final 8 players.


These are three key recommendations that are sure to make your home game look super-professional! After you host a dozen tournaments, and start neglecting every priority in your life to get your weekly tournament fix, I will not be available for further recommendations.


(© 2005 BluffMagazine. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed)

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