Where to Play Online Poker with Friends - for Free or Real Cash

Want to know where to play online poker with friends but can’t find a suitable venue? Given the amount of lockdowns and limited social interaction in 2020 and 2021, poker home games online is the way to go. 

The good news is that some of the best poker sites have private games or private clubs you can create and run games for real cash or play money. So read on for a guide of where and how to play private poker games online. 

Now, it’s important to note that playing poker with friends online isn’t new. In fact, PokerStars has been offering private games for years. However, with traffic surging in 2020 and 2021 under these circumstances, this feature has gained more and more traction. And we often get questions about the best sites to play online poker with friends.

So in this guide, we’ve outlined how to play online poker with friends at some of the top sites. Setting up online home games at our recommended sites below is easy, fast and free. Then you can choose play money or real play options. Just make sure that you and your mates all have an account with the same poker room and that you all have the code to the poker game you set up (which the game creator receives automatically). 

We also chose to talk about Appeak as a free money app that allows you to play Texas Holdem with friends. Note that we have tried other allegedly free apps like Pokerrrr and Poker Heat and cannot recommend them as they fail to deliver what the below options do. So get ready to start up your weekly poker home game online - here’s you all you need to know. 

Best Apps to Play Poker with Friends Online

Home Game Client HowReal PlayFree Play

PokerStars
(Register)
Create your poker club & invite friends for
members-only cash games or tourneys.
.
YESYES

888poker
(Register)
Click ‘play with friends’ on desktop to create
cash games + tourneys.
Then join and play from mobile.
.
YESYES

partypoker
(Register)
You can join real / play money home games
via the ID & password the game creator sends you.
Or create your own Club games and invite others.
.
YESYES

Unibet
(Register)
Send a request form to the community manager
including game details, name & password
min. 48 hours in advance.
Download the private table app from
the Unibet apps page.
.
YESNO

Paddy Power
(Register)
Email [email protected] with your
username/ account details and tournament info
(tourneys only, no cash games)
.
YESNO
Betfair
(Sign up)
Email [email protected] with the game
specifications outlined in this article
.
YESNO
Appeak
(Download)
Download the free app to duel with friends
one on one for free.
.
NOYES

*Note availability of apps depends on legal jurisdictions, including in the US. Aside from Appeak which can be found on Google Play or the AppStore. 

For more info on each poker client’s home games, skip to:

Play Online Poker with Friends at PokerStars

The best way to play online poker with friends is likely the PokerStars app home games area. Pokerstars home games for play money and real money have been available for more than a decade. And, in reality, it set the trend. With that being the case, it’s hardly surprising the software and set-up is more comprehensive than most.

Before we tell you how to play online poker with friends at PokerStars, we have to mention how swift and easy the software is. PokerStars home games mobile is also available - on Android, iPad or any device. And it’s definitely the most complete home game set-up online. Why?

You can create cash games and tournaments with two, six, or nine players at a table. Then, what’s perhaps most impressive, is the fact you can choose any variant. When you play poker online with friends at other sites, Hold’em and Omaha will be your only choices. At PokerStars, you can play Stud, Mixed Games, 6+ / Shortdeck, Badugi, and most other variants you can think of.

Finally, you can adjust the speed of a game, whether there are breaks or not, how many people get paid, late registration, and a whole lot more. Then, on the admin side of things, you can revoke memberships, display real names, schedule multiple events, and have leaderboards. Basically, PokerStars home games app offers the most comprehensive private games set-up online.

But first, create an account (if you don’t already have one) by clicking below:

Then create your Private Club by following these steps:

  1. Click on Home Games and then “create a poker club.”
  2. Enter a club name and set an invitation code (at least eight characters).
PokerStars Home Games - Set up a Private club
Set up a password and name for your PokerStars poker club to start playing poker with friends online

3. In the club window, select “manage games” 

4. Then “create table” for cash games or “create tournament” for MTTs.

PokerStars Private Club - Set up a game to play online poker with friends
PokerStars Private Club Details

Cash games can be any variant, between two and nine players, and be played in USD, EUR, or virtual money. Stakes range from $0.01/$0.02 to $0.50/$1 and players can sit down with between 40bbs and 100bbs.

Tournaments can have any start date and time, be any variant and have between two and nine players at table. You can set the buy-in from $0.11 to $33 and use USD, EUR, CAD, or play money. Finally, you can determine the type of MTT (freezeout, rebuy, shootout etc.), starting stacks, speed, late registration, and payouts.

PokerStars Home Games Review Summary

Pros

  • Can host cash games and tournaments.
  • Can adjust every variable imaginable, more than other private online poker games.
  • Leaderboards so you can set up your own challenges.

Cons

  • There could be more stakes added to cash games set-up.

Click below to play online poker with friends at PokerStars:

Play Online Poker with Friends at 888poker

888poker made their home games available on mobile in June 2020 to accommodate the bigger in demand that came about at the time. There are less variants you can play with friends than you would be able to at PokerStars. However, it’s still a great option to set up and play games. Especially since the software is more beginner friendly (having won our Best for Beginners Award in 2020). Plus it has slightly lower rake on some games than at PokerStars. 

However, one caveat is that you can’t set up the private table games on mobile, you can only join them. So at the very least, the player who sets up the game needs to do so from the desktop client. However, they can later play the home game from their phone too. 

How to Join or Create Private 888 poker Home Games: 

Start by creating your account (if you don’t have one) below:

  1. Login and click on your avatar in the main lobby
  2. Choose  ‘Play with Friends’ 
  3. You will be taken to this screen where you can choose whether to join a game your friends invited you to or create a private game yourself.
888 poker home games online - choose to create a game or join a game
join a private 888 poker home games online
join a private 888poker home game

4. Choose your option

5. Then choose whether to set up a cash game or tournament through the relevant tab

888poker create a cash game
Create a new cash game
Create a private 888poker tournament
Create a private 888poker tournament

6. Fill in your preferences in the relevant boxes and click ‘ Create’ 

How to Invite Friends to Private Games

Once you click ‘Create’, your game will appear in the cash game or tournament lobby. But you’ll still need to invite your friends to join. You can do so either by email or share the link wherever. 

  1. Email - Enter your email on the confirmation page and click ‘Send’ to receive a personalized message with your game details. You can forward this email to your friends or contacts.
  2. Share the link - On social media, direct messages, Skype, Zoom, forums - wherever. Your friends just need to click and join. 

If this is still unclear, you can check out 888 ambassador Chris Moorman’s tutorial here:

Start playing poker with friends online at 888poker:

Play Online Poker with Friends at partypoker

Developed as a reaction to the demand for private poker games in 2020, Partypoker’s “Clubs” are another great way to play with friends. Club Games follow a similar format to those offered by PokerStars, but they have a few defining features.

The first point to make is that you’ll only be able to create private cash games. However, you will be able to play via your desktop and mobile. Rake is the same as it would be in any standard cash game. But - and this is important - all bets qualify for Partypoker’s rakeback offers. This means you can get up to 40% cashback by playing online poker with your friends.

You can create and manage up to five Clubs but participate in as many as you like. To set up an online home game, you first need to create a partypoker account (if you don’t already have one) by clicking below. 

Create your Partypoker home games online like this:

  1. Click on the Club Games tab in the client and click “Create Club.”
  2. Choose a name for the Club and provide a brief description of your game.
  3. Set a password.
  4. Agree to the T&Cs and “Create Club.”
partypoker Private Club to play poker online with friends
Setting up partypoker club private poker table details

You can log into your Club’s home any time and set up a game as follows:

  1. Click on the Game Admin tab and then “Create Game.”
  2. Name the game and choose your variant: NLHE or PLO.
  3. Select the number of seats per table: two, six, or eight.
  4. Select the stakes and ante: $0.01/$0.02 up to $1/$2 (antes can be up to 20% of the BB but only for higher stakes games).
  5. Set the minimum and maximum buy-in (between 10bbs and 200bbs).
  6. Choose how quickly someone has to act: slow (20 seconds), regular (15 seconds), or fast (nine seconds).
  7. Click Create Game and use the “Invite” button to invite your friends.
Creating a partypoker private table game
Insert your partypoker home game structure details

Partypoker Home Games Summary

Is Partypoker the place for you? Here’s a summary of what it does well and where it could improve:

Pros

  • Easy to set up and the software is slick.
  • Earn up to 40% cashback when you play online poker with friends.
  • Very detailed - You can customize lots of variables, like antes and decision times.

Cons

  • You can only create cash games.
  • Would be nice to see other variants beyond NLHE and PLO.

Click below to play online poker with friends at partypoker:

Play Online Poker with Friends at Unibet

For a slightly different set-up, you can head over to the always casual Unibet Poker. Since leaving the Microgaming Poker Network (MPN) in 2013 and doing its own thing, Unibet Poker has championed the fun side of poker. Yes, there are some higher stakes cash games and MTTs. However, the goal has been to create a site where casual players, newbies, and novices can enjoy the game.

In line with this, the site introduced home games during the first lockdown of 2020. Seeing the demand for online entertainment, Unibet came up with its own way of online poker you can play with friends. Unlike its peers, Unibet does things on a request-only basis. This is possible because it has a close-knit community and an active poker manager.

To set up private poker games at Unibet, you need to send a message to the poker team via email or Twitter. At the time of writing, David Lappin (@dklappin) was the man in charge and the go-to contact. Ping him a message and request a home game and he’ll do his best to sort it. Unibet Poker only offers private MTTs (Hold’em and Omaha) but each one is password protected so it will only be you and anyone you wish to invite.

Unibet Poker Private Games Summary

Here’s what Unibet  does well and where it could improve to help you decide if it’s the right place for online poker to play with friends at a private table.

Pros

  • Password-protected.
  • Unibet does all the hard work of setting up a game.
  • Ideal for beginners and novices.

Cons

  • No private cash games.
  • Can be some lag in requesting a game and it being available.

Click below to play poker with friends online at Unibet from the UK:

Play Poker With Friends Online at Paddy Power

You can play poker with friends at Paddy Power, but the process may be slightly different to what you’ve seen at other sites. They’re known as Club Games on this site and you can set up one by sending an email to [email protected]. That email needs to include details about the private game you want to create (see how-to steps below). 

It’s important to note that Paddy Power’s home game feature can only handle tournaments. What’s more, you need to allow at least two working days for the table to go live. However, because games are created on a case-by-case basis, you’ve got more flexibility than you’d get at other sites with regards to stakes, blinds, starting stacks, and so on. 

How to Set up:

  1. Click PLAY below to join Paddy Power and download the app if you haven’t already.
  2. Send an email to [email protected] and include your username/account details. 
  3. Provide the following details so that someone can create your private tournament: 
    1. The start time and date for the tournament (two working days notice required).
    2. A tournament name and password (eight characters).
    3. The buy-in.
    4. If rebuys/add-ons are required. 
    5. The blind speed.
    6. The size of the starting stacks.

*Your tournament will be available within two working days. 

Paddy Power Private Games Summary

Pros:

  • You can dictate the in-game dynamics. 
  • Someone else does the hard work for you.
  • No limit to the number of games you can create.

Cons:

  • You can’t create games automatically via the Paddy Power app.
  • Can take up to two days for tables to be ready.

Click below to play poker with friends online at Paddy Power from the UK:

Play Online Home Games at Betfair

If you want to play with friends, you can send a request to the Betfair team. Within the request you need to outline the type of game you want and they’ll do the rest. Although other sites allow you to create private poker rooms directly through the game client, Betfair’s system is still pretty slick. And, moreover, it ensures everything is created to your exact specifications. 

To create a private home game, all you need to do is email [email protected] and specify the following:

  • Date and time
  • Name of game
  • Cash game or tournament
  • Password (alphanumeric up to 8 characters)
  • Min/Max entries
  • Seats per table
  • Game Type
  • Buy-In
  • Blind Levels
  • Rebuys and Add-ons (if required)

The team will create your game and it should appear inside the lobby within 48 hours.

How to Play Free Private Poker Games Online

We can’t tackle the question of how to play online poker with friends and not reference the play money apps out there. Although the following picks won’t allow you to win a bit of cash, they do allow you to compete for bragging rights with a select group of people.

Appeak Poker

Appeak is a great option if you want to play free poker online with friends. Like its counterparts, this app uses virtual credits instead of real cash. That makes it ideal for novices. In fact, the developers say explicitly that their intention is to engage beginners. In line with this, there are 40+ cartoon avatars to choose from, in-game chat boxes, and games are labelled in a quirky way (example, “tiny” stakes). 

We need to note that you can’t play with a whole group at the same table, like you can with the other sites to play online poker with friends. However, you can duel a friend one on one. And since it’s free to play, you can have some fun without any financial pressure.

play free poker online with friends on Appeak free money app

Friendly Tournaments or Cash Games?  

Before you start getting revved up about starting your own home games, decide on whether you’ll be playing tournaments or cash games. We can all agree that tournaments are a load of fun and bring out everyone’s competitive side. It’s not only about the pure skill of the game, but also levelling with your opponents, ICM considerations, and so on. 

However, the downside to running a tournament on poker night is that some of your mates may bust early and have a short run. Unless they’re happy to watch the action from the sidelines (which is not as great as it is live), you should consider rebuy options when you set up the game. 

Alternatively, you could go for a cash game setup which can be more fun for amateurs. Especially since you can’t really ‘bust’ and can top up whenever. It’s up to you and your comrades to decide whether you want to cap how much you can reload to keep it fair for everyone. Or avoid some players getting out of hand with the chips.

Pros and Cons of Private Poker Games Online

The biggest plus side at this point in time is being able to play a fun game and connect with friends despite the physical distance. Plus, the ease that comes with online game organization. Mainly because it’s all set up for you. So you don’t have to worry about having enough chips, who’s dealing in what hand, and keeping track of level time and structures. 

On the downside, it’s tough to get into the true spirit of the game if there’s no stake at play. Let’s face it, it's going to be more exciting if your table plays for real cash. Both cash games and tournaments are available for play money at PokerStars, partypoker and 888poker. So if you go for this, you’ll need to decide among your group on how to settle winnings when the game’s over. 

Finally, there’s always chat in the client (except in some cases on mobile) to keep it friendly and entertaining at the table. But perhaps you can even take your game up a notch. Why not get some video chat or Zoom going for additional banter, live poker tells and so on? 

Improve your skills before your next home game with these articles:

Playing live at home? Check out:

Private Poker Games FAQ

  • Can you play online poker with just your friends?

    Yes. Even before the lockdown of 2020, online home games were popular. However, since COVID made socializing difficult, the market has exploded. Today, you can play poker with friends at a variety of real cash sites, like PokerStars and free money apps, like Appeak.
  • Where can you play online poker with friends?

    To play private poker games with friends, you need to download an app or desktop platform. You can read our online poker reviews or check out the options we list on this page to get an idea of which operators are worth trying for online home games. Once you’ve done that, use our secure sign-up links and any promo codes to start setting up your private cash games and tournaments.
  • How to play online poker with friends for free?

    There are plenty of ways to play poker with your friends online. We’ve picked out some of the best in this article. The choice is yours, but sites like PokerStars and Partypoker have excellent online home games poker software. You will get the option to set up a play money game or a game for real cash, it’s up to you.
  • What is the PokerStars home games rake?

    The PokerStars home games rake is the same as it would be for regular cash games and tournaments. The rake for a tournament is paid on registration and is a percentage of the buy-in - usually between 6%-10%. For cash games, rake is taken for every pot and ranges between 3.5% and 5%. Obviously this depends on the game type, number of players and stake level. For lower stakes, there’s less rake taken. Rake is also taken for play money games, ranging between 5.5% and 9%.
  • Does 888poker have home games?

    Yes, you can find 888 poker home games under your avatar under “Play with Friends”. You get the option to join or create a home game on a PC and join from either desktop or mobile. You can create 888 poker online home games for both tournaments and cash games, for both real money and play money. Just make sure that you and your friends all have an 888poker account. We offer a sign up bonus that’s bigger than most legal poker rooms so register by clicking PLAY HERE on the 888poker banner on this page.
  • Are poker home games legal?

    You can always play on free money apps, but we only recommend legit poker rooms for our players. Poker home games online for real cash are legal if you’re playing at a site which holds valid licenses in your jurisdiction. Like the ones we recommend on this page which have licenses in multiple territories, including some US states. If you can register and deposit on a legit poker client, then it’s legal in your jurisdiction.
  • Does PokerStars home games work on iPad?

    Yes you can create and play online home poker games with friends using the PokerStars client on iPad. As well as Android, or any mobile device and desktop client.

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