Poker nights in your pub or hotel

Times are hard in the hospitality but we firmly believe that good times will return again. Creative landlords and hoteliers will find new ways to bring in new customers and guests will be on the lookout for new ways to enjoy themselves.

With social distancing and reduced capacities likely to be the norm for a while to come, an opportunity exists to maximise the ‘off-peak’ periods, with punters looking to avoid busy Friday and Saturday nights. And one way to bring them in could be through arranging a poker night.

Poker in the pub is a grey area for many landlords, and for good reason. Indeed the Gambling Commission itself, “recommends you take legal advice before you run a tournament or league.”

But there is some guidance from the Gambling Commission and simple poker nights should not provide any worries. As the commission’s website advises: “There is a maximum value to both the amount that can be staked and the prize that an be offered when playing poker in a pub.

“The maximum stake per player is £5 per game, and the combined stakes for your premises must not exceed £100 per day.

“The maximum prize is £100 per game. This maximum includes money, payments in-kind, vouchers, goods, donated items, goody-bags, buy-ins at other poker tournaments and other items which have a value.

“Additionally, you cannot charge a participation fee, including for example by having entrants pay a compulsory charge for a meal.

“It is irrelevant whether the charge is said to be voluntary or compulsory, particularly if customers are prevented from playing if they do not
make the ‘voluntary’ donation, or there is strong peer pressure
to make the donation.”

So at a basic level, you can run a poker tournament for 20 players each paying £5 into the pot. That leads to prize pool of £100 to be divided among the winner, for example £50 to the winner, £30 to second and £20 to third. On this model, you wouldn’t be able to offer a free drink to the winner, or holder of the best hand, and you certainly wouldn’t be able to take a rake, or commission.

And if a player wants to come along and play without buying as much as a drink, then there is nothing to stop them.

So, on the surface, a poker night makes little sense to a publican or hotelier, but in reality it might just be a winner.

Why? Well a poker night is a great way to get footfall into your establishment, and while there is no obligation for punters to spend a penny, you’d certainly hope that enticing a couple of tables of poker players to your venue will bring some value to your boozer.

One of the most common ways to run a poker night is to make it a ‘self deal’ competition, where the venue supplies the equipment (typically cards, chips and tables) and the players deal the cards and run the game themselves. This works well with experienced players, but for novices it can still be intimidating.

A solution to this is to provide professional dealers from a fun casino company. These croupiers can teach rookies how to play, deal the cards and manage the game. Having a dedicated dealer makes the playing experience so much more enjoyable, and lets your guests have an even better night.

Checking the legalities

As we already mentioned, the law on gambling in pubs is relatively clear with no loopholes. The Gambling Commission website gives guidance on the Gambling Act 2005, and has even has a poker in the pub toolkit section, which you can find here. If in doubt, it is always worth checking with your local licensing authority in the first instance.

Bring in the professionals

If you’re thinking of running a poker night, a fun casino company like ours will be able to supply all you need to create a brilliant evening for your guests including cards, chips, tables and dealers.

Done properly, a pub poker night can be an attraction like a cabaret or karaoke night and one which can be worth investing time and money in.