How to Play Online Poker With Your Friends

By Alex Smith, Last updated Nov 3, 2022

Thanks to state-of-the-art technology, hosting your own online poker game has never been easier. If you’re looking to play online poker with friends, it’s easy to set up your own online poker games, which we’ll show you.

If you want to play private poker games online with your friends, you may wonder where exactly to start. In this post, we will take you by the hand and show you exactly how to set up your poker games, where to play them – and how to make your online poker experience as enjoyable as possible.

Step 1: Choose Where To Host Your Game & Format

Before anything else, you first need to determine which type of online poker home game you want to run – and where to run it. Generally speaking, two major reputable online poker sites let you easily and effortlessly set up private poker games online: 888Poker and PokerStars. Both of these sites have a pretty good reputation for poker.

However, before looking at the platforms and how to set up your poker games, you need to decide what type of poker you want to play. There are two main options available to you, both of which we’ll look at below.

Option 1: Tournaments

In our opinion, tournaments are the most fun way to play poker – especially with your friends. While all forms of playing poker will bring out your competitive side, tournaments can really up the ante. After all, there’s nothing more satisfying than busting your best friend out with a river suck-out!

The main benefit of tournaments is that the cost to enter tends to be lower than the main alternative – cash games. You can also choose whether to allow re-buys or not, so you don’t necessarily have to structure the tournaments so that anyone who busts out is out for good.

When hosting private online poker games, a tournament also tends to make things fairer. Not all of your friends will be on the same budget, so a tournament with a fixed entry price can help even the field and ensure all of your friends play within their means.

However, online poker tournaments are fast-paced, so you should expect people to bust out quickly due to the nature of tournament gameplay. This could be problematic if you don’t enable re-buys. Unless you’ve got a second tournament played later in the evening, your friends may get bored; not the atmosphere you want when hosting your own private poker game!

Option 2: Cash Games

Cash games are also an excellent choice for home games. The most significant benefit of cash games when you play online poker is that you don’t have to worry about you or your friends busting out. If they run out of money, they can re-buy in for whatever amount of money they can afford.

Of course, a cash game does come with some downsides, too. Unless you’re playing for fun (without real money) or at relatively low stakes, a player can quickly go on tilt – re-buying endlessly and losing a lot of money. While the goal of online poker games is clearly to make as much money as you can, this isn’t really what you want from your friends.

One solution to this would be to set a maximum cap per person – and once they’ve reached that cap, they can no longer buy in. Still, even this could cause some tension – because when people have lost money, they want to have the chance to try and win it back.

Whether you play poker online in tournament format or cash game format, you should speak with your friends before setting everything up to ensure everyone’s on the same page. You can always modify your online home games – it just takes a few clicks – so you don’t have to stress out too much. Make sure you and your friends are upfront about what you want and what you can all afford if you’re playing for real money in your private poker game.

Step 2: Create Your Online Poker Game

Once you and your friends have decided whether you’d like to play cash games or tournaments, the next step is to determine which platform you’d like to use to play online poker. As mentioned earlier, there are two main sites – both of which we’ll look at below.

Option 1: PokerStars

PokerStars is undoubtedly the market leader in the online poker industry, and it holds the largest share of the market by a country mile. Naturally, this also makes them the most suitable option for hosting private poker games. Thankfully, getting started with PokerStars is straightforward. Here’s how to get started:

  1. You and your friends need to make sure you have signed up for a PokerStars account. Doing so is pretty straightforward, and it’s completely free of charge; head to the PokerStars website and click the ‘register’ button. If you’re in the UK, you will need to verify your ID before making any deposits and withdrawals or playing poker.
  2. Once you and your friends have created your accounts, it’s time to set up your private poker game. Navigate to the “Home Games” tab in the PokerStars client and create what’s called your poker club.
  3. Once you’ve done so, you’ll want to head to the “Manage Games” section. Once inside here, you’ll be presented with a wide variety of options to set up your private poker game. You can also customize all aspects of your game here.
  4. Once you’ve created your game, it’s time for you to invite your friends to join! Once you’ve set up casino games or tournaments this way, you’ll be given a unique ID, which you’ll give to those you want to join the game with!

Now, one of the main reasons we recommend PokerStars is that you have so much customization when playing online poker. For example, you can choose whether to play for free or for real money – and the minimum stakes are incredibly low. For example, when it comes to cash games, you can set the stakes as low as $0.01/$0.02.

You can play both the cash games and tournaments in the private poker section in various formats. For example, you can play Texas Hold’em, Omaha, 7 Card Stud, and more – and you have complete control over everything, including the buy-in, whether re-buys are allowed or not and more.

Unfortunately, the only downside to PokerStars home games (when you create a private poker game, it’s called PokerStars home games) is that it’s not yet available to those on mobile devices. We hope to see PokerStars home games coming to mobile devices soon, but for now, you and your friends will need to access the game through a desktop computer or laptop.

Option 2: 888Poker

888Poker is the other major option for setting up an online private poker game to play with friends. While it’s not as popular or intuitive as PokerStars, it still manages to offer pretty much everything you’d want – and it’s free to set up private poker games. Follow the steps below to get started:

  1. As we saw with PokerStars, the first thing you’ll need to do to use 888Poker is create an account. You and all of your friends need to register an account, and you may be required to pass an identity check before you’re able to make deposits and withdrawals and play poker online.
  2. You will then need to download the 888Poker software client; this is available for Windows and Mac computers and laptops. Once installed, you’ll see an option to “Play with Friends.”
  3. Click on this link and complete the simple instructions. Choose whether you want to play a cash game or tournament, what kind of stakes you want to play at – and customize the settings to your personal preferences.
  4. Once you’ve created your account, you’ll receive information on how to share your private game with your friends. It’s important that you only share this information with people who you want to join the game, as anyone with this link will be able to join your game.

Unlike PokerStars, when you play online poker with your friends at 888Poker, you don’t have to worry about creating a private club. This somewhat speeds up the process. However, the overall user experience on 888Poker isn’t nearly as smooth as that of PokerStars. It’s also not available to those on mobile devices, so you’ll need to use a computer or laptop.

If you’re looking at playing poker casually with some friends – and want to have some fun when you play online poker with your buddies – then 888Poker is a perfectly feasible option. However, if you want more customization and a greater selection of games to choose from, PokerStars is probably a better bet for you.

Alternative Options To Play Poker With Friends

888Poker and PokerStars are renowned, trustworthy brands – and they allow you to play poker in a fully-licensed environment with state-of-the-art software at your fingertips. However, there are occasions when these sites won’t be suitable for you. For example, local restrictions may prevent you from playing at these sites, or some of your friends may not be able to create accounts for whatever reason.

Thankfully, in the past few years, it’s become significantly easier to play online poker – and one of the big focuses for developers has been mobile gambling – neither 888Poker nor PokerStars seem to have kept up with all that well. There are now many mobile-focused sites that allow you to play poker with your buddies. These games are essentially free-to-use; the app doesn’t even use a standard rake model, generating income through alternative revenue streams instead.

While there are many such apps, one of the most well-known for playing poker is PPPoker. It’s available for all iOS and Android devices, and it allows you to begin playing poker within just a few minutes – both for play and real money. Simply install the app on your phone and register an account, and you’ll be able to set up private games or a private poker tournament in a matter of minutes!

As the ‘owner’ of the poker club, you’re in charge of everything, but don’t worry; it’s not really a poker club – that’s just what it’s referred to in the industry. It’s easy to begin playing online poker. These mobile-focused online poker sites work similarly to 888Poker and PokerStars – although they’re generally easier to sign-up to with fewer regulations.

Take Things To The Next Level!

If you really want to amp up your online poker experience, you’ll be pleased to know there are also some ‘extra steps’ you can take to make your experience playing poker even more lifelike and realistic. If you’re willing to put the time and effort into setting it up, you can make your private event more memorable.

While the technology that allows us to play poker online has advanced significantly in recent years, many other technology types have seen changes. There are many software programs like Skype and Zoom that allow you to host virtual meetings, in real-time, with live, HD face-to-face video cameras and audio playing in real-time.

For example, one of the easiest ways you could incorporate this state-of-the-art technology into your experience playing poker would be to have all of your friends on a live Zoom call while you all play! It’s quite a fun way to play private games, and while it takes a little bit of time to set up, it’s relatively straightforward – and you don’t really need to do anything once you’ve created a Zoom room. You may also need to convince your buddies to get onboard with the idea, but it’s almost always worth it in the end.

In fact, while strange at first, playing this way will make it feel like you’re actually sitting in a land-based casino playing with real casino chips. And some poker clients have even started to offer this service themselves. However, rather than using state-of-the-art software like Zoom, they’re trying to use custom-build software, so it’s quite a way behind the other options available to you right now.

Advantages & Disadvantages of Online Home Games

As with almost anything in life, there’s a wide variety of advantages and disadvantages when you play online – but when you’re playing with friends, there are some very unique pros and cons that come into play. Of course, the major benefit is that you can play with your friends without having to get together in the same place physically. It’s ideal if you and your friends don’t live close together or if you’re all busy living your lives but still want to make time for some poker every now and then.

There’s no denying that playing private games with your friends is also incredibly fun; poker is action-packed, fast-paced, and enjoyable, and when you’re playing with your friends, it’s just really exciting. When you organize private games, you also have a huge amount of control over the games you run; you have control over the stakes, the time limits between blinds in tournaments – you can control pretty much all aspects of the games.

Another major benefit is the fact that it’s just so easy. If you wanted to host a poker game in real life, you’d need to plan well-ahead; you need poker chips, a table, chairs, cards – and someone has to be the dealer each hand which can get pretty messy, especially if you’re all having a few drinks. When you play online, this is all taken care of for you – so it’s perfect for those who want to get set up and running as soon as possible. 

There are also some disadvantages to playing online through poker apps or desktop clients. First of all – not all of your friends may want to play for real money. If you choose to play for free money instead, there’s nothing really on the line – and this means that the game doesn’t have the same feeling to it. People tend to go all-in constantly, taking away from the experience.

If your friends aren’t very tech-savvy, there can also be problems getting everything set up. Thankfully, both 888Poker and PokerStars make it easy to create an account and get started, so the only thing you have to worry about is your internet connection remaining stable.

Conclusion of Private Poker Games

While it can take a little bit of getting used to when you first start to host your own private poker games online, the benefits far outweigh the cons. It’s a fantastic way to play against your friends without having to leave your home.

If you’re new to this, take your time, get familiar with the poker apps you’re going to use, and communicate with your friends so that everyone is on the same page and has the same expectations. Above all else – go and have fun!


How much does it cost to play poker games with my friends?

This depends on the site you choose to play at and the type of game you play. For example, both 888Poker and PokerStars will charge a small rake fee if you play a cash game – while poker players who play a tournament at one of these sites will notice that they pay a small registration fee. However, these fees are very low, and you can start playing poker for less than a dollar (in terms of fees), generally speaking.

Can I play for real money?

Yes. Both 888Poker and PokerStars allow you to play online games with your friends for real money. When you set up private poker rooms and private house games with your friends online, you’ll be able to choose how much you want for the buy-in limits. Whether you want to play No Limit Hold’em or Omaha Hi/Lo, you’ll be able to wager as much money as you want (subject to the site’s terms and conditions), so your own home games can be set up just as you want!

What if we just want to play for fun?

That’s no problem! If you don’t want to risk any of your own cash, you and your friends can also set your online home game up using play money. While you won’t be able to win any real cash from this type of play, it’s a great way of getting you and the boys together for a chilled-out game of cards without worrying about wagering any real money.

However, you should be aware that when you play free poker, it’s quite different from real poker. There is no incentive for players to play ‘tight’ – so you’ll usually end up with players going ‘all in’ quite a lot. Still, it’s better than nothing – and if you choose to play with virtual money, you can still have a great time with your friends.

How many players are required for a private game?

The minimum number of players for cash games is two players. Some tournaments will allow you to play with as few as two players, but this generally isn’t recommended. For a tournament, you should aim to have at least six players – ideally, you get enough people to have two tables, which means 9+ players.

888Poker and PokerStars operate in a wide variety of countries, including many states in the USA. If you head to their website and find yourself able to register an account, then it means you’re able to play – but if you’re ever in doubt, consult with a legal professional in your local area just to be safe!

How Does a Casino Make Money on Poker?

It will come as no surprise to learn that online poker sites and online casinos are in the business of making money; that’s their ultimate goal, and while many of these sites may offer attractive – and lucrative – bonuses and promotions designed to temp in new players, the ultimate goal is to generate as much revenue as possible.

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