The chips are out, and the invitations have been sent. It’s BYOB, and the pizzas are on the way. Poker night is a rite of passage among many men, but for women, that’s not often the case. And many men tend to make it solely a guy’s night out.

Only about 4 to 8 per cent of any given poker tournament are women. And as the poker world tries to bring more people into poker, maybe getting more women involved in those home games might help. Many men grew up with the game, often learning how to play in their father or grandfather’s home games.

Many women may want to get in on the action, but don’t quite know how to get poker night up and running with their friends. Beyond just the play on the felt, knowing the nuts and bolts of how to run a fun poker night with friends certainly helps.

Here’s a practical guide on how to get your game started and make it a fun night. This doesn’t just apply to women. Guys out there looking to get into poker and host some buddies, this is for you too.

Table of Contents

Out with the Chips & Cards

Obviously, these are very important for poker night. Since the poker boom of the 2000s, poker chips are much easier to acquire – and much less expensive. A quick scan on Amazon will find numerous sets available from $30 – $70, depending on the style and preference. Some sets even come with cards.

Want to take your game to the next level? Some websites even offer customised poker chips where you can select colours, graphics, chip denominations numbers, and more. Players who have built up some player points can even grab a set in the 888poker Shop.

There are numerous options for cards as well. Wanting to simply test the waters and see how that first poker night goes? Paper cards are pretty inexpensive and can be picked up at any retail store. But don’t forget to take out those jokers, unless your friends enjoy some wild card games.

If poker night becomes a regular event, it might be nice to invest in high-quality plastic cards that don’t bend and can last for years. A few names in the industry include Copag, KEM, Faded Spade, and others. The 888 Shop also offers a quality set of poker cards.

Getting the Table Setting Right

For that first-ever poker night at your place, the kitchen table is fine. Many poker players have gotten their start at the same table where they may have put away some PB&Js. However, if you’re worried about the table, it might be good to at least buy a cheap poker table top felt. Not only does it make it easy to slide chips and cards and shuffle but will protect your tabletop from those chips frequently splashing the pot.

A plain table top felt is pretty inexpensive, as little as $15, but sleeker options with cup holders and chip slots can go for even more. But there’s just something about playing on a nice green felt that makes for a cool Vegas feel.

If you’re ready to splurge for a table, there is a wide variety of types and price ranges. A simple Texas Hold’em-style table can start at around $100 and run into the thousands for more high-end tables. Round tables are also popular, and nicer ones often have another wooden tabletop so that it can double as a real table when not in use for cards.

A Few Extras

One biggie – don’t forget chairs! If you have six friends coming over and don’t have enough chairs, one player may already be in the red. When in doubt, ask friends who have a few folding chairs. Also, if you’re playing games with blinds, such as Texas Hold’em, a dealer button is nice. Many come with chipsets but can also be had for just a few bucks online.

Don’t have one? A silver dollar will work or anything else similar – a hockey puck, TV remote, different-coloured casino chip, roll of duct tape, bicycle tire … okay, maybe not that last one.

Players and Stakes

poker hands ranking


Many ladies may want to play poker with some other women to get a start in the game, but not sure how to get a poker night going. Ladies (and men) who play – step up and take the bull by the horns. Ask those friends over – send out emails, texts, and find a day that works. For those who are inexperienced, make it a low-stakes night to help everyone learn. Have a listing of the hand ranks at the table to help out.


If we want to bring more women into poker, players have to be willing to teach and lead. A low-stakes tournament is also an excellent way to introduce less-experienced players to poker. This is a great opportunity because those attending have a pretty good idea of how much to budget.

Make sure everyone knows the stakes before poker night gets started. Also, as the host make sure you have enough currency denominations to pay out. If you are playing low stakes, have plenty of one dollar bills to pay everyone out their winnings.

Food & Booze

Poker night can be BYOB for those who wish to imbibe – BYOW (wine), BYOL (liquor), etc. A tasty meal is always nice as well. Think simple to keep the night focused on poker – sandwiches, pizza, or tacos are always pretty easy. Chilli during the fall or winter can be nice.

For some snacks, think shared food – mixed nuts, chips and dip, pretzels, or beef jerky. The health-conscious may want a cheese platter or veggie option. Poker night is a social endeavour: fun, fellowship, and food.

Games & Mechanics

So, your poker night has come together. The table and chairs are set up, and the food is planned. There are numerous games to choose from, but here’s an example of a game of Texas Hold’em and how to run things.

  • Getting started – Determine who starts as the dealer by dealing the cards or everyone drawing a card in the middle of the table. The highest card gets the button.
  • Dealing – The button rotates clockwise around the table after each hand. If a player isn’t comfortable dealing, someone else can always serve as a fill-in. It’s a good idea to play with two decks, with the player behind the dealer shuffling the unused deck so that it will be ready after the current hand.
  • Blinds – Remember the small blind is left of the button and the big blind left of the small blind. The blinds can be whatever stakes you have agreed to with the other players: $0.25/$0.50, $1/$2, $2/$5, whatever works for your poker crew.
  • Banking the game – Players usually buy into a cash game with money set aside in “the bank,” which is used to pay players back their winnings at the end of the night.
  • Table stakes – In a home cash game, buying chips among players is usually allowed, but any cash must stay on the table and is included in a player’s chip stack. Players may also buy more chips with money going into the bank.
  • Split pots – If a player is all-in and other players still have chips with more cards to see, remember that they will be betting into a side pot. The all-in player can win the main pot, and the other two players can win the side pot and the main pot.
  • Paying out – After the night’s winners and losers are determined, pay out the winners from the funds in the bank. Everyone is paid out using those initial buy-in funds.
  • Tournaments – A tournament can also be a fun night for some poker with friends. Check out some of the options online to help you organise chips values and stacks and determine blind levels. Payouts depend on the number of players and your group. For newbies, it might be a nice idea to pay out more places so that more players leave on a positive note. But hey, it’s poker and your friends. Hopefully, everyone has a great time no matter what.

Want to make that tournament a little more fun? Add in a winner’s prize or purchase a small trophy. There are numerous options, but why not give it a fun, big-time feel?

So, there you have it. Hopefully, that’s everything you need to organise a great poker night with friends. Good luck!


About the Author
Sean Chaffin is a poker writer who appears in numerous websites and publications. He is also the host of the True Gambling Stories podcast