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How to host a no-limit Texas Hold'em poker tournament in your home

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Poker Tournament Buyin

How much should your buyin be? As many dollars as most of your guests would feel comfortable losing! If most guests wouldn't mind losing $25 for a night of poker, make your buyin $25. If most of your guests wouldn't mind losing $100 for a night of poker, make your buyin $100. You might, however, want to lower your buyin amount if you are also going to offer rebuys and add-ons.

You can issue as many starting chips as you want no matter what your buyin value. You can issue 1000 chips for a $25 buyin or you can issue 25,000 chips for the same $25 buyin ... just make sure every player gets the same amount of chips. The Chips Needed page contains a Chip Value & Buyin chart showing how to distribute chips for a 1000 chip buyin tournament (T1000). The Misc Blinds page contains suggested chip breakdowns for a 100, 300, 500, 2000, and 10,000 chip buyin tournament.

Count out the starting chips for each player and place them in a jar (ziploc bag, paper or plastic bag) before the tourney begins. Prepare extra jars for any possible rebuys. Keep any excess chips in a secure place, you don't want players handling them.

Give each player their starting chips as they hand you their buyin money (place the money into a coffee can). Hang a poster on the wall showing how many chips each player should receive at buyin. There are several printable posters on the Downloads page. You can also have each player draw a card at this time if you are going to randomly assign seats using a deck of cards ... the players get their chips and their seat assignment.

Seat the players and announce your payout structure ... first place will receive 50%, 2nd place will receive 25%, etc.. Quickly go over the rules ... players will split the payout if they bust out on the same hand, check-raise is okay, raises must be at least equal to the previous bet or raise, show one - show all, etc.. Make any little announcements that need to be made ... bathrooms, breaks, no smoking, no abuse, etc.. Wish everyone good luck and ... shuffle up and deal!


As host of the tourney, it's a real drag to see your guests bust out early and just sit there with that puppy-dog look on their face while everyone else continues to play. A rebuy period will allow a player to buy more chips to continue playing. Most rebuy periods last for an hour or two and players don't necessarily have to go broke to rebuy. For example, you might allow rebuys when a player drops below 200 chips.

There are two schools of thought concerning rebuys - some players prefer a high buyin with few rebuys, others prefer a low buyin with abundant rebuys. The play of your game will be affected by whichever method you use. Players will play conservatively (tight) if they know that they cannot rebuy and will play riskier (loose) if they know that they can rebuy if they go broke.

An added benefit of allowing rebuys is that a greater amount of money will eventually be won by the better players in the game. Many inexperienced/bad players will bust out early and often. Let them rebuy, it gets more money in the purse. Some players will bust out numerous times and have fun doing it! They don't care about the money - they are playing for the fun of it! Let them rebuy. The more experienced, tight players will tend to bust out less often. They will try to not rebuy while continually sucking away chips from the players who do rebuy.

The dollar and chip amount of your rebuy may vary. You might allow a rebuy of $20/1000 chips for the first hour, a rebuy of $20/1500 chips for the second hour, and a rebuy of $20/2000 for the third hour. The reason for the increasing chip amounts is because the remaining players will have a larger number of chips on the table, say 3000-4000, and a rebuy of only 1000 chips would hardly be worth it. Also, if the blinds are fairly high, say 300-600, a rebuy of only 1000 chips won't get you too far.

When issuing players their rebuy chips, do not give them low denomination chips. Issue your rebuys a stack of Black (100) chips and ask them to make change from another player if necessary.

Some tourneys allow add-ons. An add-on is similar to a rebuy except you don't have to be broke (or nearly broke) to purchase an add-on. For example, you might allow an add-on of $10 for an extra 500 chips at the end of the first hour of play, regardless of the number of chips a player holds.

Try to keep your first home tourneys as simple as possible ... leave the massive rebuy/add-on tourneys for later. As you get more experience under your belt, you can 'loosen up' your games by allowing more rebuys and add-ons.

I allow a three or four level rebuy period. You must have busted-out to rebuy and only one rebuy is allowed per player, per tourney. I make the rebuy amount the same as the initial buyin, $25 for 1000 chips.

As players bust out of your tourney, set up a side table where players can play dealer’s choice games. Try to provide this table with different cards and chips than what you are using for your tourney. Do not be responsible for anything at the side table, they are on their own. All your attention should be directed towards your tourney tables.

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