How to Start and Run a Poker League

Poker leagues are springing up all over the world. While they may be small in comparison to the WSOP or WPT, you will find that the people who run smaller home poker leagues are just as serious as those running the bigger poker leagues.

Starting a poker league will take a lot of work to make sure the whole operation runs smoothly. You will want to be prepared for many different situations that may arise and depending on the size; you may miss playing in the games yourself.

We have created a list of things that you need to keep in mind before and during your poker league.

Step 1: Recruit Players

Unless you have hundreds of players anxiously waiting to play, accumulating enough players will be your biggest challenge.

Once you have players that you know are playing “for sure”, then you can create an incentive for them to bring other new players. Incentives may include extra chips on the first game, maybe a separate game for only those players, or a cash bonus on the side.

Whatever you do, be sure to be fair to all players involved. If this is not an option, then just try to invite as many people you know at least 1 month in advance so that there is plenty of time to get the word around.

Be aware that this may take a season or two to accumulate enough players to play on a consistent basis.

Step 2: Get Organized

Once you have enough players committed, you’re ready to fully organize your new poker league. Here is a list of recommendations for what you’ll need to have in place before the league begins.

Select a Central Location

This of course will vary depending on the size of your poker league. The most important thing to keep in mind is consistency.

You don’t want to change the location frequently, as it will make it difficult for others to keep track of.

If possible, try to find a place that you can play at for free or relatively cheap.

Make Sure You Have Enough Equipment

Be sure you have more than enough chairs, tables, chips, and cards to use. Always plan to have more players than you know are coming for sure so not to leave anyone out.

If you are short on any of these things, ask around. Someone is bound to have extra chips and chairs lying around that can be used. Just be sure to mark where everything came from.

Establish the Structure and Rules

You will need to establish rules that are clear for both the house and the games you are playing. The rules for the game you are playing will probably not vary much from what anyone is used to, but be sure to print up several copies anyway.

The house rules do not need to be extensive, but need to be fair and easy to understand.

Be sure to have a structure in place with size of blinds (if applicable), length of blinds, and starting chip count.

If you are running the league on a points system, be sure to have that figured out as well. Everything should be printed up and posted for everyone to see at every game.

Also, be sure to make the prizes (if any) are very clear as well as the percentages used for the payouts.

Step 3: Schedule Your First Game

Once you have the league organized, you’re ready to have your first game. Here are a few things to keep in mind when running your poker league.

  • Rules: Again? Yes, but this time it is about enforcing them and having repercussions for any issues that cannot be resolved. Consequences can include loss of points, game suspension, or starting with fewer chips at the next game. Be sure to be fair to all players and remain completely neutral.
  • Money: Have a designated place for the money to be held. This includes the money for the game at play and if you are having a “kitty” for an end of the season game. Be sure that the person holding the money is trustworthy.
  • Tournament Director: Depending on the size of the tournaments, either you or an appointed Tournament Director will have to run the games and over see the tables. This is especially important when table etiquette or rules come into question. Whoever is taking this task on needs to be completely familiar with the rules of the game as well as the house rules.

The most important thing to do is to have some fun. This should not be stressful and should not be a pain in the neck. The goal is to get everyone together to play some cards.

A few other things to keep in mind would a way to track the winnings for a season. You can do this on a spreadsheet and email it to everyone and even keep a copy posted at every game. That way everyone is up to date on the point standings.

There are even leagues out there that offer cool prizes like trophies, plaques, and even replica bracelets. There are many things you can do to make your poker league an experience no one will forget.

Having said this, it is crucial that you check your local laws first to be sure it is ok to have a poker league. Good luck and have fun!

Poker League Resources

  • Home Poker Tour – Create and manage your home poker tournament league online.
  • PokerDIY – Find home poker games near you or post your own.
  • League Ace – Poker league management software