Lowball poker

Lowball is a general term for a category of poker variants that turn the typical rank of poker hands on its head—instead of the best poker hand winning, the worst one does! A royal flush in a lowball game would be beaten by any other hand. Any poker variant can be played with lowball rules, and some games split the pot between the best conventional (high) hand and the best low hand. However, there are a few different ways that the lowest hand can be reckoned, which need to be established before you start playing.

Ace-to-five lowball

Ace-to-five lowball, or California lowball, is probably the simplest way of determining the low hand, and the one most commonly used, including in casinos. In this variant of the game, straights and flushes are ignored for the purposes of determining hand ranking. Aces are considered low. Therefore, the lowest (and therefore best) possible hand is A-2-3-4-5, which is also called the wheel or bicycle. (Because the bicycle is also a straight, it may well take both the high and low halves of the pot in split-pot games.) Note that pairs, three-of-a-kinds, and so forth do still count as hands, and will therefore be ranked higher (and therefore worse) than unpaired hands, even if they contain high cards.

Deuce-to-seven lowball

Deuce-to-seven lowball, also known as Kansas City lowball, takes straights and flushes into consideration when ranking hands, and aces count high. Thus, the lowest possible hand is 2-3-4-5-7 (because 2-3-4-5-6 forms a straight).

Ace-to-six lowball

Ace-to-six lowball is the least commonly-used variation, serving as sort of a middle ground between the two variants listed above. It is essentially deuce-to-seven lowball, except aces are low, so the lowest possible hand is A-2-3-4-6.

General considerations

Lowball hands are often quoted as their highest card. 8-7-5-3-2 may be called simply “an eight”. If there are multiple hands in play with the same highest card, they can be further disambiguated by the second-highest card, e.g. “an 8-7”.

Some split-pot games involving low hands may stipulate that a hand must contain cards below a certain rank. For instance, if a low hand is required to be “8 or better”, as in Omaha Hi-Lo 8 or Better, all of the cards within the low hand must be an 8 or lower. In such games, if the lowest hand possible among the active players does not meet the requirements, the pot is simply not split, with the entirety being awarded to the player that won with the highest hand.

To determine which hand is lowest and therefore best, start with the highest card. Whichever hand has the lowest high card will win. If there are ties, the next-highest card is compared, and so on until the tie is broken. If you get all the way down to the lowest card without being able to break the tie, the pot is simply split.

Wild cards, usually jokers, can be included in the game, especially ace-to-five lowball. Wild cards generally become the lowest card possible without forming a pair. For example, 7-5-4-★-2 will count the joker as a 3 because counting it as a 2 would form a pair.

In split-pot games, if the pot cannot be split evenly, it is customary to award the odd amount to the winner of the high hand.

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Baduci

Baduci, also spelled “Badeucey“, is a variant of Badugi that adds some more poker elements to the game. Players compete to put together the best hand incorporating not only the best Badugi hand, but also the best lowball poker hand. Baduci is often played as an alternate to Badugi to keep the game fresh.

Object of Baduci

The object of Baduci is to create the best possible hand that includes both a) a four-card hand with the lowest cards possible, without duplicating either ranks or suits, and b) a five-card deuce-to-seven lowball poker hand.

Setup

Baduci uses one standard 52-card deck of playing cards. You should know by now that Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards are the way to go.

All players ante or post blinds, if necessary (see “Blinds and antes“). Shuffle and deal five cards to each player. Place the deck stub in the center of the table, where it becomes the stock.

Game play

Rank of hands

In Baduci, there are two ways that a hand is evaluated—as a Badugi hand, and as a poker hand. In both cases, aces rank high and therefore are not very valuable.

The Badugi hand uses a subset of the hand and is evaluated the same way that a hand in basic Badugi is evaluated. A Badugi hand cannot duplicate ranks or suits; any duplicates are disregarded, meaning that the Badugi hand can include as many as four cards (such a hand is called a badugi) or as few as one. Badugis outrank three-card hands, which outrank two-card hands. If two hands with the same number of cards are compared, the lowest card in the hand breaks the tie. If the lowest card of each hand is the same, then the next-lowest card would be compared, and so on. If two hands have exactly the same composition in number of cards and ranks, then they tie.

The poker hand is a deuce-to-seven lowball hand. This means that the lowest poker hand as conventionally ranked is considered the best; the “deuce-to-seven” part means that because aces are high, the best possible hand is 2-3-4-5-7 (since 2-3-4-5-6 would form a straight).

Play of the hand

Other than the addition of the lowball hand, the game proceeds exactly as Badugi does. After the hands have been dealt, the game proceeds to the first betting round, which follows the same rules as normal betting in poker. After that, each player may, in turn, discard any number of cards from their hand and be dealt new ones from the stock.

After getting a chance to exchange cards, there is another betting round. This repeats until a total of four betting rounds and three drawing rounds have occurred. The active players then proceed to the showdown, where hands are evaluated. The player with the best Badugi hand takes half the pot, with the other half going to the player with the best lowball hand. If one player has the best hand in both categories, they take the entire pot; if two players tie for best in one of the categories, that half of the pot is split between the two of them (each receiving a quarter of the original pot).

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The Clock

Layout of The ClockThe Clock is one of a few solitaire games with the gimmick of having a layout that resembles some real-world object, in this case a clock (Pyramid could also be said to fall in this category). The Clock is entirely based on luck; once the deal is done, the game plays out as it must, and there’s nothing the player can do to influence the outcome. It might be apt to say that you don’t play The Clock, it just happens to you.

Object of The Clock

The object of The Clock is to turn the 48 cards other than kings face-up before the four kings are turned face up.

Setup

The Clock requires the use of one standard 52-card deck of playing cards. While the only one you can impress by using your Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards is you, you might as well use them for something, right?

Shuffle and deal thirteen piles of cards. Arrange twelve of them into a circle, then place the thirteenth pile in the center, as shown in the diagram at right.

Game play

The twelve piles making up the main circle of The Clock’s tableau each represent one of the hours on a typical clock face. The pile at the top of the circle represents the 12, the one to its right the 1, and so on around the circle (clockwise, natch). Each of these piles also has an associated rank of card, with the aces being represented by 1, the jacks by 11, and the queens by twelve, with the twos through tens represented by the same number as their face value. The central pile represents the hands of the clock, as well as the kings. Here is where The Clock’s game play begins.

Draw one of the face-down cards from the king (clock hands) pile and turn it face up. Place that card face-up at the bottom of the pile belonging to that card, and draw the top card of that pile. Then, move that card to its appropriate pile, and so on.

The game is lost if the fourth king is exposed when there are still other face-down cards in play. If the fourth king is the last card revealed, the game is won.

 

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Rank of Poker Hands Poster now available!

Rank of Poker Hands PosterOne of the most frustrating things about poker to new players is learning the hands and the order they rank in. Now, you can help your newer players with our new Rank of Poker Hands Poster! This poster makes an excellent addition to your card room, and is priced at only $5.99. Your players will appreciate it!

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Snap

Snap is a simple children’s game with the distinction of being entirely skill-based, which is fairly unusual among the category. Specialized Snap decks are available for sale, but the game works just as fine with standard playing cards. Snap can be played by two to six players.

Object of Snap

The object of Snap is to gain all 52 cards in play.

Setup

Snap can be played with any deck of cards that has several matching pairs or sets of cards. However, using a standard 52-card deck of cards, such as Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, is most common.

Shuffle and deal the cards out as evenly as they will go. It doesn’t matter too much if some players have one card more or less than the others. Players may not look at the cards; instead, they form them into a face-down pile called the stock.

Game play

The player to the left of the dealer plays first. They simply turn the top card of their stock face-up, grab the card from the far side and flip it up away from oneself, as in games like Egyptian Ratscrew and Slapjack. This is done to prevent the player from getting an early peek at their card. This first card forms the player’s discard pile. The person to the left  plays next, in a similar way, and so on.

If any player (not necessarily the player whose turn it is!) notices that the top cards of any two discard piles match, they call out “Snap!” That player takes both of those discard piles and adds them face-down to the bottom of their stock. (If more than one player calls “Snap”, whoever said it first gets the win—be honest!) Should a player call “Snap” erroneously, that player’s discard pile becomes a snap pool, being moved to the center of the table. This pile can be claimed in much the same way as the others, except players must call “Snap pool!” to gain a snap pool.

If any player’s stock is depleted, they are eliminated from the game. Game play continues until there is only one player remaining; that player is the winner.

 

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Badugi

Badugi is a betting game that became popular in the United States around 2004. Badugi uses the same betting structure as poker, but a good Badugi hand is almost the opposite of a good poker hand. As a result, Badugi has become popular with poker players, and is often used as a brief respite from poker in dealer’s choice games.

Object of Badugi

The object of Badugi is to form a four-card hand with the lowest cards possible, without duplicating either ranks or suits.

Setup

Badugi uses one standard 52-card deck of playing cards. Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards are, in fact, where it’s at.

If playing with blinds, the two players responsible for the small and big blinds post them; otherwise, all players ante (see “Blinds and antes” for more information). Shuffle and deal four cards to each player.

Game play

Rank of hands

The end goal in Badugi is, like in poker, to have the best hand. However, Badugi does not use standard poker hands. Instead, Badugi hands favor variety in suits and ranks.

A Badugi hand cannot include two of the same rank or suit; if it does, one of the duplicates is disregarded, yielding a three- or even two- or one-card hand. A full four-card hand is called a badugi. Badugis outrank three-card hands, which outrank two-card hands.

If two hands with the same number of cards are compared, the lowest card in the hand breaks the tie. If the lowest card of each hand is the same, then the second-lowest card would be compared, and so on. If two hands have exactly the same composition in number of cards and ranks, then they tie, splitting the pot.

Play of the hand

After everyone has received their cards, the first of four betting rounds occurs. Betting follows the standard rules of betting in poker.

After the betting has concluded, players are given the opportunity to draw new cards. The draw works much like that in Five-Card Draw—each player, starting with the player to the dealer’s left and proceeding clockwise, discards any number of cards face-down into the discard pile, and is dealt an equal number of cards face-down in front of them to add to their hand. Players may also decline to exchange any cards, which is known as standing pat.

When all players have had a chance to exchange cards, another betting round follows. This pattern continues until a total of three drawing rounds and four betting rounds have taken place. All remaining players then expose their hands, and the player with the best hand takes the pot.

See also

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