We’ve all been there.
You’re three hours into a friend’s home game, but everyone still has 200 big blinds. The idea was to play two or three quick tournaments, but it’ll be a miracle if you get through one. The only person out (aces cracked in the first level) has already been for beer twice, and pizza, has watched one-and-a-half movies and is now bored of harassing the cat. He’s going home unless he can play some poker again very soon.In short, someone messed up the structure. You’re basically trying to play an EPT Main Event in the course of one evening, and the cat is never going to let you live it down.
Although not many people have been going round to friends’ houses for the past few months, online poker home games have been a salvation for thousands of people during this unprecedented period of disruption and self-isolation. It’s been a real relief to be able to keep in touch with friends across a virtual poker table, playing for any stakes you choose.
But the structure issue remains a problem. How do you set up a Home Game on PokerStars to make sure it lasts the right amount of time?
OVERVIEW | 3 THINGS THAT MAKE A HOME GAME GREAT
KEEPING HOME GAMES GOING | STEP UP TO MTTs
With the help of some of our friends in the card-room team, here’s your complete guide to setting up a Home Game that should work no matter how many people you expect to play and how long you want it to last.
We’ll first go through the basic steps to set up the Home Game, then share some charts that should give you control over the length of the game. It doesn’t matter if you just want to play among your closest unit, or if you’re a Twitch streamer with hundreds of followers and you want them all to play.
SETTING UP YOUR HOME GAME
PokerStars Home Games are incredibly easy to set up, and the process is largely self-explanatory. But here’s a step-by-step guide regardless.
First, look for the Home Games icon at the bottom of the list of options on the right-hand side of your PokerStars client. Clicking that takes you into the Home Games lobby, where you can either “Create a Poker Club” or “Join a Poker Club”. Hit “Create a Poker Club”.
This makes you the manager of your Poker Club and puts you in charge of its lobby. From here you can invite your friends to join (via the “Manage Club” tab); make announcements on the club whiteboard (via the Club Home” tab), and set up your games (via the “Manage Games” tab). Here’s also where you’ll also be able to access previous results and current league standings of players in your club.
Head over to the “Manage Games” section. This is where you can open up cash tables for your club members to play, or organise and schedule tournaments. The cash-game section in the top half of the window, the tournaments are below.
A NOTE ABOUT CASH GAMES
If you click “Create a Table” in the cash-game section, you’ll be shown a pop-up window where you can select the parameters of your game. Give it a name, select the variant (there are 19 games to choose from), and select the betting limits.
You can also select the number of players permitted at the table (heads-up, six-max or nine-max) and then the currency you want to use.
It’s via this final drop down that you can opt to set up a “Play Money” table, which is especially useful if you just want to practice your skills, or to play against players from different jurisdictions where, perhaps, real money play is not permitted.
You then highlight your preferred stakes for the game in the panel below, and you’re good to go. Don’t forget, you can click the “Add to Favorite Tables” tab and save the options you have selected so that you can access it quickly again in the future.
Finally, click “Share Table” to send details of the game to your friends.
Click “Create a Tournament” and you’ll be presented with a pop-up list of options for your tournament. You can give it a name, set the starting date and time, and add any notes for participants. All very straightforward.The next bit is where you have control over all the parameters of the tournament — the game variant, the betting, the number of players per table, the currency, the buy-in, the format (including whether to allow re-buys or not; whether to play it straight, or with bounties, etc.), whether re-entries are permitted, the starting stack, the speed of levels, the length of late registration, and whether to include breaks.
All of these things combine with one other crucial factor to determine how long your tournament lasts. That other factor is how many people you expect to play. As manager of the club, all of this is controlled by you.
The following charts should really help you in preparing a tournament that suits your demands. These charts show how a tournament length alters dependent on participants, starting stacks, length of level and how many players are seated at each table. The options correspond with the options you have as Card Room Manager.
There are four speeds, with levels lasting anything from three minutes to 15:
Slow — 15 minutes
Regular — 10 minutes
Turbo — 5 minutes
Hyper — 3 minutes
There are also three options for size of starting stacks: 3,000, 5,000 and 10,000 chips.
Players per table:
You can select whether the tournament is played heads up (ie., two to a table), six-max or nine-max.
The following charts show the approximate time a tournament will take, in minutes, for the approximate number of players. So if, for instance, you want to play 10-minute blind levels, with 27 players, and are going to play nine-max, with a 5K starting stack, you can expect the tournament to last 180 minutes, or three hours.
It stands to reason that the more players you have, the longer it takes. Similarly, longer blind levels or bigger starting stacks will result in a longer tournament. However, it may not have been immediately obvious that playing with smaller tables increases the time too, so think about playing nine-handed if you want things to go slightly more quickly.
A COUPLE OF OTHER NOTES
— The times listed are for playing time only. They do not take into account scheduled breaks. If you opt to include tournament breaks, they will take place for five minutes at 55 minutes past the hour, so a three-hour tournament will actually take 15 minutes (3×5 minutes) longer. The timings are only approximate, of course, so this shouldn’t have too dramatic an affect.
— Late registration and multiple re-entries can make tournaments last significantly longer. As a general tip, the fewer participants you have, the more inconvenient both can be as late reg and re-entries mean tables break into awkward short-handed play. As such, instead of setting, say, a nine-player tournament with late registration and re-entries, use re-buys instead.
(With thanks to Roman Ivanov, Dave Humphreys and Luke Staudenmaier.)