Like anything else, improving your poker game takes practice. And, one of the best ways we know of to sharpen your skills is to set up your own home games and tournaments.

Setting up your own game is not only a great way to relax and socialize with your friends, but it also provides an easy and economical way to get comfortable playing against live opponents. You can set the stakes at whatever you want, play whatever games you want, and play for as little or as long as you want without ever worrying about driving to a card room or casino. And getting started couldn’t be easier.

First of all, you need the basics. Two good sets of cards (preferably plastic) and a good set of chips (look for clay or clay composite weighing 11 grams or more). Remember, the more players you expect to have at your game, the more chips you’ll need. If you’re not sure what you’re looking for, you can find a number of pre-packaged, multicolor chip sets in most retail stores ranging in size from 300 chips to 500 chips.

If you want to give your game a “poker room” feel, you can also purchase a poker tabletop that fits over almost any kitchen or dining table. Again, these are available in many retail stores or are easily available online.

Once you get your supplies together, it’s time to structure your tournament. Start by determining how many players you have and how long you want the tournament to last. The chart below shows how you would go about setting the blinds for a No-Limit Hold ‘em tournament. For example, if you have 20 players and you want the tournament to last two hours, the time limit for each level is 12 minutes. All tournaments start at Level 1 and proceed until one player has all the chips.

We recommend that you start your tournament by giving each player 1,000 worth of chips. In most tournament situations, people start with three stacks of chips valued at 5, 25 and 100. Depending on the number of players you have, you can break down the chip stacks as follows:

* 10 chips worth 5 each (Red)
* 10 Chips worth 25 each (Green)
* 7 chips worth 100 each (Black)

Remember, you’ll also want to buy some sort of timer (anything from an egg timer to an electric timer will work) to keep track of when the blinds go up. Add some snacks and beverages for your guests, and remember to schedule a 10 minute break every hour, and you’re ready to play.

In short, we believe there is no better or faster way to improve your play than by cultivating a group of like-minded poker enthusiasts who love the game. By playing with your friends, and then talking about individual hands and how they were played once your tournament has ended, you’ll develop critical thinking skills that will help you improve your game. Now that you know what to do to host a successful home game, don’t be afraid to shuffle up and deal.