Tony Lawrence was born in 1948 and spent most of his career as a self-employed computer troubleshooter for Unix systems.
I play poker with friends every week. It is low stakes (10 and 20 cent bets) and dealers choice. We play a lot of fun games and I'd like to share the ones I made up. You can try these out at your own games - whether you are playing penny ante or just for chips or even matches!
Some of these involve wild cards. Some people hate wild card games, and will not play them. I agree that just playing something silly like "deuces wild" isn't great, but the games we play are more complicated and more interesting. We like the mental challenge these can offer; you really have to think about your possibilities with some of these games.
What are wild cards?
In our games, we play that a wild card can represent any card and that "five of a kind" beats a straight flush. Some people play that way, but don't allow five of a kind.
Other people allow wild cards only to fill straights and flushes. You could also decide that wild cards can only be used to fill straight flushes.
I have also played in games where five of a kind is allowed, but four of the cards have to be real and in games where five of a kind with two or more wild cards does not beat a "natural" straight flush or a natural four of a kind with no wild cards. These games have some tricky conditions - for example, suppose 2's are wild and you have four 2's and an Ace. Do you have 5 Aces or only five two's? If you are going to have these exceptions, it's best to think about all possibilities and decide ahead of time how to resolve them.
Putting limits on wild cards can sometimes convince someone who "hates wild cards" to try them out, so keep that in mind when suggesting these games.
This is very popular with our group; we often play it several times per night.
It is best with at least seven players and because there's no drawing, can be played with as many as ten. And although I introduced this as a "wild card" game, it can actually be played without any wild cards at all and it's just as much fun.
The dealer deals five cards to each player and announces whether or not there are any wild cards. These would usually be "high red" (in your hand) or "low black". However, as I said, this game is perfectly good without wild cards - I suggest trying it that way first.
The player to the left of the dealer begins by passing one, two or three cards face down to the player on their left. They can also choose not to pass any cards.
If they do pass cards, the player who now has the cards in front of them has a choice. They can either pass the same number of cards to their left and then pick up up the passed cards, or they can just push the cards along to the next player. Note that they cannot change the number of cards passed: if three cards were passed to them, they must pass three cards themselves or just push those cards along to the next person.
The chance to pass proceeds around the table, with each person choosing to pass one, two or three cards. That person bets before the next turn.
Special rule: if a person whose turn it is to pass chooses not to pass any cards, the person to their left gets two chances to pass cards. If there are seven people playing, there will be seven passes of cards, even if all of them are made by the the last person to pass.
Special rule two: if the person who originated the pass gets back their same cards (no one wanted them), then there will be no more passing. The person whose turn it was to pass bets, and the game is over at that point; best hand wins.
When the turn returns to the dealer, they pass their cards and bet, and the game is over, best hand wins. However, if the dealer does not want to pass cards, the person to their left again gets a chance to pass: the total opportunities to pass always equals the number of people playing. Of course if no one wants to pass, then the final bets are placed and the game ends.
With seven players and no wild cards, it's not at all unusual for four of a kind or a straight flush to win the pot. With wild cards, five of a kind is almost always the winner unless there are less than seven players.
Low ball, high in the hole wild
This is also called "razz" with high in the hole wild. This is dealt like 7 card stud, two cards down, one up, round of betting, three more cards face up with betting after each, one card face down and then the final betting round.
The winner is the hand with the best five card "low": A 2 3 4 5 is the best possible hand (called "the wheel") and A 2 3 4 6 would be the next best hand. It can also be played with a split pot, with the high and low hand splitting.
The twist is that the highest card in your face down cards is wild, as are any matches of it. So if you have a King in your down cards, and a King in your face up cards, you have two wild cards to use in making your low.
Remember, straights don't count in this game: 2 3 4 5 6 is a good low.
A variation is to play that there must be a 7 low to win. If not, the pot stays and new cards are dealt.
Lowest of the Low
This is another one of mine. It is dealt like 7 card stud, except that only 6 cards are dealt and the 7th is turned face up as a common card for everyone.
Every player has seven cards to work from - two hidden cards, four "up" cards, and the common card. They obviously either have more "red" cards (diamonds and hearts) or more "black" cards (spades and clubs). Whichever card is the lowest in their lowest color is their wild card (and all like it). If they have all red or all black, then whatever is their their lowest red or black card is wild.
Example: you have 6 cards, three are red and three are black. The common card is black. Therefore, you have less red cards, so your lowest red is your wild card.
Looking around the table at visible cards can help give you a clue about others possible wild cards. Rarely, you can be certain - for example, if you see that someone has all red showing and the 2 of spades is the common card, their wild card has to be "2"'s (because they have 4 reds showing, their low color is black no matter what they have in their hidden cards). However, if they had one other black showing, you could not be sure of that.
Five cards are dealt to each player, and five community cards are dealt face down. The community cards will be turned over one at a time, with a round of betting after each turn. Each player makes their best five card poker hand using their own cards and the community cards.
You can also play this like Omaha, where three cards are turned up at once, then another and then the final card. This makes the game a little faster.
The "high" card that is turned up from the community cards is a "killer" - that is, if you have it in your cards, your hand is dead. Ace is always high, so if an Ace turns up in the community cards, that is the killer - but, if by chance that Ace pairs (two Aces turn up in the community cards), then the next highest card is the killer.
The "low" card in the community cards is wild. As a "2" is the lowest possible card, that would be the wild card if it turns up, and if you had a pair of two's in your hand, you'd have three wild cards to work with. But once again, if the low card pairs, then the next lowest card becomes the wild card.
It's possible (though unlikely) that the killer and the wild card turn out to be the same card. For example, if the community cards were two Aces, two threes, and a seven, the seven would be both the killer and the wild card. Players without a seven in their cards would only have one wild card to work with, as those who had sevens would have to discard their hands.
It's also possible (though very unlikely) to have no killer and no wild cards: three eights and a pair of sixes in the community cards would accomplish that.
You won't know for sure what will be wild and what will be a killer until the last community card is turned, but certain hands are obviously better than others. For example, if your cards are a 2-6 straight, you have an excellent chance of having a wild card. On the other hand, if you have a 10-A straight, you have a very good chance of being killed by the high card.
This doesn't involve wild cards. This is just a variation on "Jacks to open, trips to win". When there is a winner (when someone has trips or better), the low hand (A-2-3-4-6 not suited being the best low hand) splits the pot with the winner.
This makes the game more interesting and can keep people in when they might otherwise fold on a raise. It also can bring raises from great low hands if they think someone does have trips or better.
A variation would be to allow a perfect low (A-2-3-4-6, not suited) to open and win half the pot, sharing with the best high at that point (trips or not). The other players can't tell if you are betting on a high hand or a low hand.
This is not one I made up, but we enjoy playing it. It's five or seven card stud and every card can be taken as one up or one down from its actual value.
So the 7 of spades can become a 6 or an 8. So if you have 2 eights, a seven, and 2 sixes, you can call that five sevens. An Ace can be a Two or a King and so on.
If you had 6, 7, 8 and 9 of spades and also a Jack of spades, you'd have a Straight Flush (because the Jack can become a Ten) - but note that you MUST have the right suits. Suits don't change.
This is a fun game and can be very exciting as the cards fall.
If you like dealers choice and wild cards, try some of these at your next game. I'm happy to answer any questions about these.
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Jason Menayan from San Francisco on September 10, 2011:
Interesting stuff! When I was a kid and we had swim meets and championships, we used to play cards to escape boredom while we awaited for our events. That's awesome that you have a few different games that you can enjoy playing with friends, that reward your wits with some lunch money. :)
Tony Lawrence (author) from SE MA on September 10, 2011:
A variant of wild card play (and the way I prefer) is that wild cards can only be used for cards not in your hand - that is, they can help you get a full house, a straight or a flush and a straight flush), but there is no "five of a kind".
A further restriction limits wild cards to only straights and flushes - no full houses or five of a kind.
However, the folks I play with prefer :anything goes", so that's how we usually play these games.
Tony Lawrence (author) from SE MA on June 02, 2010:
That's why we play them - to keep our minds sharp. We like complicated.
Here's another page of poker variants: http://www.aidtopia.com/communities/poker/index.ht...
Instgtr from Mesa, Arizona on June 01, 2010:
Too damned complicated for my shallow mind...
You ever played Dr Pepper No Peeky Poker???