The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and efforts to mitigate the virus’ spread have not only required the closure of all Pennsylvania casinos. The situation has also more or less eliminated the possibility of continuing weekly or monthly home games as well.
On Wednesday night, Governor Tom Wolf and Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine instituted a “stay-at-home” order for all Pennsylvanians, extending the previous order to all 67 counties. The order lasts until the end of April and limits residents to “essential travel.” Click here for a list of allowable activities under the latest stay-at-home order.
Home poker games might seem “essential” to some, but they don’t really qualify as such according to the guidelines. However, Pennsylvania poker players do have a ready option to keep their games going — the Home Games on PokerStars PA.
A classic online poker feature, now available in PA
PokerStars first introduced Home Games on its global site way back in January 2011 as a neat way to set up private games on the site among friends.
Americans who were playing on PokerStars back then might vaguely recall Home Games, having gotten a chance to try them out for a few months before “Black Friday” came and PokerStars left.
Those same Home Games are available on the PokerStars PA client, functioning exactly as they do on the global site. Players playing within Pennsylvania can set up real-money cash games or tournaments with others in the state.
Or if you want to play with players outside of Pennsylvania, you can do that as well but for play money.
PokerStars Home Games are very easy to set up and play, as shown by the following quick guide.
Setting Up a Home Game on PokerStars PA
Setting up a Home Game on PokerStars PA is especially easy to do. Once you’ve logged into your account, look over on the right-hand side of the client where there are shortcuts to “Challenges,” “Leader Boards,” “Settings,” and so on.
At the bottom are three dots indicating “More” choices. Click that and you’ll see “Home Games” as one of those choices, which you’ll want to select.
Having opened up Home Games, the steps from here are fairly straightforward:
- Create a “Poker Club”
- Invite players to join your Home Game
- Create cash games or tournaments
1. Create a “Poker Club”
After clicking the option to create your club, you’ll need to come up with a Club Name and an Invitation Code.
The Club Name can be anything you like. Feel free to be creative, although know that your Club Name will have to be approved before it can be used.
Meanwhile the Invitation Code is simply a password that will be provided to other players later when you invite them to join your Home Game. Make that as simple or difficult as you like — whatever is appropriate.
Enter those two items, tick the box saying you agree with the terms and conditions, and you’ll see a congratulatory pop-up.
2. Invite players to join your Home Game
Once your club has been created, you can then invite other players to join. You’ll need to give them two pieces of information for them to be able to join.
- the Club ID number (a seven-digit number)
- the Invitation Code (the password you created)
That’s it. They will then find Home Games, click “Join a Poker Club,” and enter that information to join. As the Club Manager, you have to approve their request to join your Home Game.
As you’ll see, all of this “administrative” work is handled under the “Manage Club” tab on the Home Games page.
3. Create cash games or tournaments
As Club Manager you also are the only one able to set up cash games or tournaments. Click the “Manage Games” tab and choose either “Create a Table” or “Create a Tournament.”
Creating a table means starting a cash game. You can choose the game and variant, set the stakes, and choose how many seats are at the table. If you aren’t in Pennsylvania (or if you are inviting players to participate who aren’t in PA), you will want to set the currency to “Play Money.”
Creating a tournament works similarly, only there you’ll be able to set up all sorts of parameters to create the tournament’s structure. That includes choosing the starting stacks, selecting the game speed and blind intervals, deciding what percentage of players cash, and even how often to have breaks.
With tourneys you can also set the buy-in (with play money again an option), the number of seats per table, the format (e.g., regular, rebuy, knockout, etc.). You also will want to pick a date and time, and you even get to name the tournament.
When you create a cash game or tournament, players in your club all automatically get an email letting them know. You don’t even have to send that regular email to the group — PokerStars Home Game handles it for you.
Introducing New Twists to the Old Home Game
There are other fun features available to those playing Home Games on the site, including being able to play all the different poker variants that are available.
Sure, you can just play no-limit hold’em. But you can also play Omaha hi-lo, Badugi, 2-7 Triple Draw, the 8-game mix… you name it.
If your regular home game never ventured too far beyond the no-limit hold’em margins, playing Home Games on PokerStars PA might be your chance to introduce a bit more variety — and you don’t even have to endure the headache of counting out split pots, monitoring a timer to know when to change levels, or even having to deal hands at all.
There’s more to Home Games as well, including the ability to publish announcements, keep track of results, set up regular tournament series with leaderboards, and more.
The best part, though, is being able to stay in touch (as it were) with your poker-playing friends during this time when by necessity we are having to remain apart.