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

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How To Seat Poker Players

Seating poker players

Seating your players will depend on the size of your poker tables and the total number of players. Players should be distributed as evenly as possible between all tables. Most full-size oval poker tables can comfortably seat 10 players and most round or octagonal poker tables can comfortably seat 6 or 8 players. Eight, 9, or 10 players per table is optimal from a play of poker perspective. Five players is barely acceptable and six-handed is considered a short-handed table. Eleven players is sometimes used and the maximum that I have ever heard of is 13 players at a hold'em poker table. Keep in mind that a dedicated dealer (rather than a dealer/player) will take up one seat at your poker table.

More than one table

If you have more than one table in play, you must decide how you will combine tables as players are eliminated. The easiest method to combine tables is at preset times. For example - you will go from 3 tables down to 2 tables when there are 20 players remaining in the tournament and you will go down from 2 tables to 1 table when there are 10 players remaining.

You will have to seat your players according to the size and shape of your poker tables but this is how you should attempt to seat your players ...

Less than 10 players should play at one table
10 players should play at 1 table.
11 players should play at 1 table or a (table of 6 and a table of 5).
12 players should play at 1 table or a (table of 6 and a table of 6).
13 players should play at a table of 6 and a table of 7.
14 players should play at a table of 7 and a table of 7.
15 players should play at a table of 8 and a table of 7.
16 players should play at a table of 8 and a table of 8.
17 players should play at a table of 9 and a table of 8.
18 players should play at a table of 9 and a table of 9.
19 players should play at a table of 10 and a table of 9.
20 players should play at a table of 10 and a table of 10.
21 players should play at a (table of 11 and a table of 10) or 3 tables of 7.
22 players should play at a (table of 11 and a table of 11) or (2 tables of 7 and a table of 8).
23 players should play at a (table of 12 and a table of 11) or (2 tables of 8 and a table of 7).
24 players should play at (2 tables of 12) or (3 tables of 8).
25 players should play at (2 tables of 8 and a table of 9).

Assigning seats to players

Prepare a deck of cards consisting of one card for each seat at each table. For example, if you have two tables of 8 players and one table of 9 players, use a deck consisting of the A-8 of spades (Table1), the A-8 of hearts (Table2), and the A-9 of clubs (Table3). When the tourney begins, or when a new table or tables are formed, each player draws a single card. The ace is seated at the button, the 2 is seated at the small blind, the 3 is seated at the big blind, then each player is seated in proper card order around the table. Card suit is used to determine which table a player is seated at - for example, all spades sit at Table1, all hearts sit at Table2, and all clubs sit at Table3.

If you have more than four tables of players, or cannot use a deck of cards to assign seats, use a seat number written on a piece of paper instead. Assign a letter of the alphabet to each table (Table A, Table B, Table C, etc.,). Give each player a piece of paper with a seat assignment written on it - A5 or C7 or D1, etc.. Seat A1 is the first seat (and the button) at Table A, Seat A2 is the small blind at Table A, Seat C3 is the big blind at Table C, Seat B4 sits one seat to the left of the big blind at Table B, etc..

Assigning seats to dealers

You will probably have a dealer/player in your game rather than a dedicated dealer. You want the dealer/player to sit in the middle of the table to make it easier to handle the chips in the pot and to make it easier for all players to see the community cards.

If you want three dealers to each sit at three different tables, you first divide your prepared deck of cards into three stacks - one stack of spades, one stack of hearts, and one stack of clubs. Each dealer then randomly draws one card from a different stack and sits in the middle seat at the appropriate table. You then combine all the remaining cards together for the non-dealers to draw from. Each player draws a card and then sits, in proper card order, around the dealer. In other words, the dealer chooses his card first and sits in the middle of the table, all the other players then choose their cards and sit in proper order around the dealer.

Assigning a seat to the Tournament Director

The Tournament Director will constantly have to issue rebuys, move players, and perform other duties that will make it necessary to leave his seat and move about the room. As the host of the tournament, I sit in a seat “Reserved for the Tournament Director”. I choose a seat that makes it easy to get up from the table to perform various hosting duties - you don’t want to be blocked in and force other players to move each time you need to get up from the table. Place a sign or marker on the seat that you want to reserve for the Tournament Director. This special seating will not be any advantage to the Tournament Director since all the other players will be randomly seated around this reserved seat.

Poker seating example:

3 poker tables of 8 players each

Table1      Table2      Table3
  x           x           x
x   x       x   x       x   x
x   x       x   x       x   x
x   x       x   x       x   x
  x           x           x

Tournament Director (T) wants to sit in the end seat of Table2

Table1      Table2      Table3
  x           x           x
x   x       x   x       x   x
x   x       x   x       x   x
x   x       x   x       x   x
  x           T           x

A dealer/player (D) must sit in the middle of each table

Table1      Table2      Table3
  x           x           x
x   x       x   x       x   x
x   D       x   D       x   D
x   x       x   x       x   x
  x           T           x

Prepare the playing cards for seating
Prepare a deck of playing cards with 23 cards (one card for each player minus the TD). For our example the cards should be the ace-8 of hearts (Table1), ace-7 of clubs (Table2), and ace-8 of diamonds (Table3).

Seat the dealers
Separate the 23 cards into three piles - one pile of hearts, one pile of clubs, and one pile of diamonds. Each dealer/player chooses one card from a separate pile. For our example - one dealer randomly picked the 3 of hearts, another dealer picked the 5 of clubs, and the third dealer picked the ace of diamonds.

Table1      Table2      Table3
Hearts      Clubs      Diamonds

  x           x           x
x   x       x   x       x   x
x   D3      x   D5      x   Da
x   x       x   x       x   x
  x           T           x

Seat all the other players around the dealer/player
Combine the three piles of cards back into one pile. The other players now randomly pick their cards and are seated around the dealer/player's card. The seat occupied by the Tournament Director is ignored. The player(s) who picked the ace (a) is the button for the first hand dealt.

Table1      Table2      Table3
Hearts      Clubs      Diamonds
  a           3           7
8   2       2   4       6   8
7   D3      a   D5      5   Da
6   4       7   6       4   2
  5           T           3

Moving players between tables

Your tables might become imbalanced as players are eliminated from your tournament. See my Moving Poker Players page for information on how to move players between tables and how to seat the final table.

How to Use Playing Cards to Seat Poker Players

One of the quickest, and easiest, methods to seat players at poker tables is to have each player choose a card from a specially prepared deck of playing cards. This method will work fine for up to four tables of players, one for each suit of cards in a deck.

  1. There are four suits - spades, hearts, diamonds, and clubs in a deck of cards. Assign one suit to each table - all spades will sit at Table1, all hearts will sit at Table2, all diamonds will sit at Table3, and all clubs will sit at Table4.
  2. Use one playing card, beginning with the ace, for each seat at each table. If you have 10 seats at Table1 - use the ace to ten of spades. If you have 8 seats at TableB - use the ace to 8 of hearts. Set aside one card for each seat at each table. Combine all the cards together.
  3. Each player randomly chooses one playing card and sits in the appropriate seat. The ace is considered to be the first button (dealer) and chooses any seat at the table. The player with the 2 playing card is the small blind and sits one seat to the left of the ace (the button). The player with the 3 playing card is the big blind and sits one seat to the left of the 2 (the small blind). The player with the 4 playing card sits one seat to the left of the 3 (the big blind). Every other player is seated in proper order until the player with the highest playing card is seated to the right of the ace (the button).

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