Casino poker rooms usually run lots of promotions to get people at their tables and away from those of their competitors. They help to spice up the game and give the players a chance to win a little extra money. One common promotion that is easy to add to a home game is a high hand jackpot.
What is a high hand jackpot?
A high hand jackpot is merely a jackpot awarded to a player for going to the showdown with the highest hand within a defined period. In a busy casino, the jackpot might be paid out as often as once per hour. In a home game with only one table running, you will probably want to award the jackpot at the end of the night as your players are cashing in their chips.
In the casino, the purpose of the jackpot is to get people in the door, so the money is being paid out of the casino’s marketing budget. While your players will think it’s very generous of you if you give them free money to play at your place, you probably don’t want to do that. Instead, you can collect an extra amount from each player when they buy in (it is best to make participation optional; players who do not contribute simply can’t win the jackpot). Set chips equal to this amount of money aside. Keep track of who has the highest hand as the night progresses. When it is time for the jackpot to be awarded, give the chips in the jackpot to the player to cash in with their winnings. It’s that simple!
Well, not exactly. There are still some details to iron out. How much should each player’s contribution to the jackpot be? Will wild cards count? (We recommend that hands with wild cards be treated as their natural values for the purposes of the high hand jackpot, since it’s easy to create ludicrously high hands with wild cards.) What happens if two players tie—does the first player to get the hand get the entire jackpot, or is it split? What happens if a player holding high hand leaves before they get a chance to collect? As host, it’s your responsibility to come up with a fair set of rules for all of these situations. Put it in writing so there’s no question as to fairness later. (You should probably consult with your players as you write the rules, so they have a hand in deciding what works best for your group.)
Don’t forget the law
Before starting a high hand jackpot for your home game (and before starting a home game, really), check your local laws to make sure that it is legal. Running a jackpot like this may cause your house to be legally considered a casino, and chances are it’s not licensed as one. Adding bells and whistles to your home game isn’t worth it if the next game you get dealt into is behind bars.