Private Poker Games: How to Get In, What to Expect and What to Look for

By Leo Song
May 10, 2023

A private poker game is an invite-only game held at a secret location. These are raked, real money cash games, not supported by your local government’s gambling authority. For some, the skirting of the law associated with playing them is reason enough to stay away. For others, perhaps even folks who’ve just learned how to play poker, the feeling of doing something a little naughty and getting away with it just adds to the list of reasons to get on the list.

private poker game

Private poker game hosts will provide several perks and incentives to attract players and keep them. If you attend you can expect at least some of the following:

  • Free food and booze
  • Fun, action-packed lineups
  • Higher stakes than your local card room may offer
  • Ability to play on credit if your liquidity is low
  • $1 per minute table massages (half the casino price!)
  • A nice, safe environment like a new high-rise or penthouse suite

This combination of benefits can be enough to make up for the associated risks of playing a private game. And it is a risky business.

How to Get Invited to a Private Poker Game

Since the best private games have been around for a while, there are usually no open seats. There is a redundancy list if one happens to be available. Thus, getting a seat in one of these matured games can be tough. However, there are nights when the stars align. Despite all invitations to the regulars, one seat remains open. That means some luckbox, on the fringe of the inner circle, is going to get in. This is the poker profession’s equivalent of entertainment’s callback. How do you audition? Better yet, how do you get the part?

Like acting, it is part skill, part art. There is performance involved. Not that you should “Dance, Monkey! Dance!” But your demeanor, spirit and table presence should be enjoyable in a social environment such as a poker table. A little jest and a little sportsmanship will go a long way in getting an invite. The game is on the lookout for action players so you might want to add those bottom of range VPIPs into your opens. Yes, the GTO chart may say ATo is a fold UTG but what does the heart say? Headphones, hoodies, and a general unapproachability will keep you where you are. Outside the game.

It really is quite simple as this: If you want to get into a good private poker game, be good for the game.

More Rake is Better? For the Host!

Remember, running a game is supposed to be a profitable venture. That profit needs to come from somewhere. The host has to cover their operating costs plus some, commensurate with the risks they are taking on. In many cases, this can mean the house rake makes a game unbeatable in the long term, deterring serious members of the poker community. For example, at a $2/5 casino poker game, you might find the game is raked as high as $12 per hand after you include the bad beat or high hand drop.

A private game will usually rake even higher than the casino. There are $2/5 private games being raked as high as $25 per hand! When in doubt, you can avoid these “rake-traps” by asking how much they charge before deciding to attend. But never do that via texting!

Private Poker Games: Other Risks

A newer game with an inexperienced host, who is eager to run, may take anybody to fill their seats. This can include a lineup of unsavory characters you might otherwise steer clear from. It is easy for a game to be mismanaged with credit, increasing the risk of not getting paid quickly and sometimes, ever. It is not that uncommon for a well-meaning VIP or regular with a good track record to go full degen and get stuck more than they are able to pay.

If this is the case, you may be waiting to get paid out for some time or have to come back and play with money on the books. Understanding these risks can make private games unattractive to some. However, not all games are created equal. There do exist trustworthy, professional, fun, action games.

What Makes A Good Private Poker Game?

A good private game will be long running, held in safe locations and offer reasonable security. If it is new, it will be hosted by someone respected in the community. They will have a large enough float to cover losses ensuring players can be paid out. The lineups in these games will be vetted. The right lineup and format can make a high-raked game still very beatable. This usually means deeper stacked play with action players.

Moreover, some of the best run games may charge very reasonable rake. For example, there are big $5/10 games that charge up to $15 a hand while providing all other amenities. Not the worst! Even despite the high rake, private poker games can be the most profitable ones in town, which is why many professionals choose to play them. If you are a winning player and get a seat in one of these games, make sure to play your cards right because this could be your newfound watering hole.



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Leo Song
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Leo Song

Leo is a poker writer and student of the game based in Canada. A keen traveler-for-poker, he can be found at live stops in the US and Europe, taking shots at MTT glory. When he’s not on the road, he is six-tabling online MTTs on his laptop, studying sims and doing everything he can to […]

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