Ed. Note: This article was originally published on March 20, 2020, and has now been updated to include the brand new partypoker private home games offering as well as recent updates by PokerStars and 888poker.
During these difficult times of the COVID-19 pandemic, when many people are following orders to practice social distancing, be it out of necessity or as a preventive measure many of our daily routines have been affected. Playing poker with friends online may not be high on the list of priorities but it sure is a good way to pass some time and get away from heavy thoughts for at least a couple of hours.
Since gathering a number of people in a small room is pretty much out of question, you ought to perhaps think about moving your home game online. Thankfully, there are some great options out there to make this happen and with a bit of creativity, you can make it just as fun as if you were all gathered around the actual table.
Setting Up Your First Online Home Game
The good news is that you don’t need any special technical knowledge to get an online poker game with friends set up just the way you like. While there are a few online casino and poker sites out there offering this option, my own personal experience has been limited to PokerStars. They allow anyone to create private cash games and tournaments with many parameters you can tailor to your needs.
To get the ball rolling, you’ll need to follow a few simple steps:
- Download and install the PokerStars client (if you don’t have it already)
- Go to the ‘Home Games’ tab
- Create your Poker Club with unique name and invitation code
- Invite your friends to join using the code
You can set up your private poker club in a matter of minutes and you don’t have to pay anything for it. The Home Game feature is completely free and gives you an opportunity to create games that are open only to the players you invite. No one can join the club unless they have the invitation code so you won’t have to deal with random players jumping in and spoiling the fun.
As far as the options go, you’ll have a lot of flexibility. You can configure MTTs to suit your needs (level durations, starting stacks, etc.), cash game tables, and sit & gos. The best part is, you can configure buy-ins to be in real cash or play money, so your friends don’t need to have any real cash in their accounts. You can play online poker with friends with almost no limitations, from anywhere in the world.
Please play responsibly. pic.twitter.com/9yWNcoCj3s
— PokerStars (@PokerStars) May 8, 2020
In the past, Home Games had only been available on PokerStars’ desktop client, but they’re now available on mobile as well.
If you’re a Home Games player on @PokerStars, or always wanted to set up your own, what follows is going to be of interest to you.
🏠 Our new look Home Games are now live…
— PokerStarsBlog (@PokerStarsBlog) June 16, 2020
Unibet Poker also offers the ability to facilitate online home games, according to a recent Tweet from company ambassador David Lappin. I haven’t tried them yet, but they’re worth looking into as well.
Several people have asked me about HOME GAMES on @UnibetPoker and I am delighted to say that what I can do is organise PRIVATE PASSWORD PROTECTED MTTS for you.
If anybody would like me to do this for them, slide into my DMs. (If I don’t follow you, reply here and I will.) pic.twitter.com/Rx9NAMozQ2
— David K Lappin (@dklappin) March 20, 2020
UPDATE: Seeing the increasing competition in this niche, 888poker and partypoker also recently developed the ability for their players to create private home games online. Below you’ll see the former’s ambassador, Chris Moorman, explain 888poker private games (also available on mobile) while the latter’s ambassador Jaime Staples explains partypoker’s club games.
— partypoker (@partypoker) June 1, 2020
Make It Really Count with Enhanced Online Communication
Most people who run regular home games know that it’s not just about playing poker. It’s also about getting together for some good banter, having a few drinks, and getting rid of some stress. This part can be a bit hard to replicate online but if you put some effort into it, it’s doable.
While most online poker rooms do have inbuilt chat functionality, it probably won’t cut it. Instead, you could all jump into a Zoom meeting (or you can use similar software) so that everyone can see each other while playing and actually talk. It may feel weird at first, especially if you’ve never tried it before, but give it a bit of time. Once you’re a couple of beers in and when things get heated up at the table, it’ll be almost as if you were all in the same room.
It’s Okay to Have Some Fun
Recent events have affected the world at large. We’ve found ourselves in a situation that we aren’t really prepared for and people are uncertain as to what they should and shouldn’t be doing. Even so, rest assured that having some fun and taking your mind off of things for a little while is perfectly fine and very much needed right now.
If you want to play poker with friends online, go for it! You have the tools to do it and (likely) a lot of spare time on your hands. Give it a go and see if it works for you. At the very least, you’ll have a few laughs along the way and maybe come up with ideas on how to make things even better for the next time.