Open-Face Chinese Poker

Dragon_Lantern_Festival_crop Open-Face Chinese Poker (OFCP) is a variant of Chinese Poker where, instead of the players getting all their cards at once, they receive them one at a time and choose which hand to put them in. Additionally, all the cards are played face up, so players can change their strategy based on what their opponents are doing! That means the game has a lot more action, because there’s more strategic play and more players fouling, increasing the amount of money being shuffled around. Because each player receives thirteen cards, it is limited to two to four players, unlike most poker games.

Open-Face Chinese Poker originated in Finland, spreading to Russia shortly thereafter. High-stakes Russian poker players introduced it to the mainstream poker community in 2012, and since then it has spread around the globe, quickly becoming an extremely popular side game for many poker elites.

Object of Open-Face Chinese Poker

The object of Open-Face Chinese Poker is to split the thirteen cards dealt to a player over the course of the game into three hands in such a way that, ideally, each of the hands is stronger than their opponents’ hands.

Setup

Like almost all poker games, Open-Face Chinese Poker is played with the standard 52-card deck. We naturally endorse the use of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards in your game. You’ll also need something to bet with, preferably poker chips.

As in Chinese Poker, hands are compared from player to player, not against all other players at once. Before play begins, the players should establish the value of one unit. All transactions will be conducted in multiples of this unit. Two players may mutually decide that one unit will be a different value for transactions between those two players in particular, while transactions with other opponents will be conducted at the usual rate.

Shuffle and deal five cards, face down, to each player. Place the remaining cards face down in the center of the table, forming the stock.

Game play

Over the course of a hand of Open-Face Chinese Poker, the player will be forming three hands: a three-card hand, called the front hand, a five-card hand stronger than the front hand, called the middle hand, and a five-card hand stronger than the middle and front hands, called the back hand. This act is called setting the hands. Straights and flushes are not counted as such in the three-card front hand. If the hands are not set with the strongest hand as the back hand and the weakest as the front hand (according to the standard rank of poker hands), this is considered a foul and none of the player’s three hands are eligible to win.

The player to the left of the dealer plays first. They turn their five cards face up and split them any way they wish between the three hands. They may place all five cards in either the back or the middle hands, place three in the front hand and one each in the other two hands, or so on. To distinguish which card goes with which hand, they place cards meant for the back hand in a row closest to them, cards for the middle hand above those, and cards for the front hand above those, furthest away from them. After the player has set their first five cards, the turn passes to the left, with that player setting their cards the same way, and so on.

After all players have set their initial five cards, the player to the dealer’s left draws one card from the stock, turns it face up, and adds it to any one of their three hands. They cannot cause any hand to exceed the maximum number of cards in that hand (five cards for the middle and back hands and three for the front hand). The player to their left does the same thing, continuing in turn around the table until each player has a total of thirteen cards, with three complete hands.

After all players have formed their complete hands, the hands are scored. Each player begins by calculating the score of all royalties in their hands, according to the table below:

Hand Front hand Middle hand Back hand
Royal flush 50 25
Straight flush 30 15
Four of a kind 20 10
Full house 12 6
Flush 8 4
Straight 4 2
3 of a kind 20
A-A-x 9
K-K-x 8
Q-Q-x 7
J-J-x 6
10-10-x 5
9-9-x 4
8-8-x 3
7-7-x 2
6-6-x 1

The players then compare hands, one at a time, with each opponent. The players each add one point to their royalty score for each hand that they beat (comparing front to front hand, middle to middle, and back to back) belonging to that opponent. If a player wins all three hands, this is considered a sweep and they score an additional three-point bonus. After the players calculate their scores, the player scoring lower pays one unit per point for the difference between their scores.

If a player fouled, they pay to each opponent a flat penalty of six units, plus one unit per point for all royalties that the opponent held.

After all payouts have been made, the deal passes to the left and the next hand is played.

Fantasyland

If a player sets their hand with a pair of queens or better in the front hand without fouling, they are entitled to play the next hand in fantasyland. More than one player may be in fantasyland at once. The deal does not rotate on a fantasyland hand, instead being dealt by the same dealer as the last normal hand. After the initial five cards are dealt, eight more cards are dealt to each player in fantasyland, giving them all thirteen cards, which they immediately set, face-down. The other players play out the hand the normal way, with the fantasyland player turning their hands face up only when everyone else has set their hands.

If a player in fantasyland sets their hand with four of a kind or better in the back, or a full house or better in the middle, or three of a kind in the front, they may remain in fantasyland for another hand, and continue doing so as long as they continue to hold these hands.

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Chinese Poker

A Chinese dragonChinese Poker, also known as Pusoy, is a form of poker where players receive thirteen cards, which they must split into three poker hands. This mechanic is similar to that found in Pai Gow Poker, although in Chinese Poker, the players are playing against each other, rather than the house. Unlike most forms of poker, Chinese Poker and its variants are limited to four players because of the comparatively large number of cards each player gets. It’s also unusual because wagers are settled player-to-player, rather than with a traditional poker betting structure.

Despite its somewhat unconventional play, Chinese Poker has been embraced by the serious poker community. Chinese Poker was played at the World Series of Poker in 1995 and 1996. It is spread at a number of casinos in the United States. Open-Face Chinese Poker, a variant where five of the player’s thirteen cards are exposed to their opponents, was introduced in the United States in 2012, and has become increasingly popular as a side game in poker tournaments in the last several years.

Object of Chinese Poker

The object of Chinese Poker is to split the thirteen-card hand given to a player into three hands in such a way that, ideally, each of the hands is stronger than their opponents’ hands.

Setup

Like most forms of poker, Chinese Poker is played with a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards are perfect for any game. You will also need something to bet with, such as poker chips.

Players should agree as to the value of one unit. All transactions will be conducted in multiples of this unit. Unlike other poker games, hands are compared from player to player, not against all other players at once, so two players may mutually decide that one unit will be a different value for transactions between those two players in particular.

Shuffle and deal thirteen cards to each player. Any unused cards are set aside and have no further bearing on game play.

Game play

Each player looks at their cards and separates them into three hands: a three-card hand, called the front hand, a five-card hand stronger than the front hand, called the middle hand, and a five-card hand stronger than the middle and front hands, called the back hand. This act is called setting the hands. Straights and flushes are not counted as such in the three-card front hand. If the hands are not set with the strongest hand as the back hand and the weakest as the front hand (according to the standard rank of poker hands), this is considered a foul and none of the player’s three hands are eligible to win. Once a player has decided how to set their hands, they place them face-down on the table, with the back hand closest to them and the front hand closest to the center of the table.

A few particular thirteen-card combinations are considered to be naturals. A player must declare and reveal the natural prior to the other hands being exposed if they wish to score it as a natural, although the player has the option to set the hands and score them as usual if they feel they will score better that way. Any natural will always beat a regular hand, but if two natural hands are compared against each other, the higher-ranked one wins. A winning natural hand is paid three units, except for the dragon, which is paid thirteen units. Payments are made by each opponent immediately upon declaration. The naturals, from highest to lowest, are:

1. Dragon
A thirteen-card straight, from 2 up to ace. Suits are irrelevant. If there are two dragons, they tie. (This hand is not set into front, middle, and back hands.)
2. Three flushes
A flush in the middle and back hands and a three-card flush in the front hand (the only time a flush in the front hand is usable as a hand). If there are two players that hold this, the tie is broken by comparing the strength of the back hand, then that of the middle hand, then that of the front hand.
3. Three straights
A straight in the middle and back hands and a three-card straight in the front hand (the only time a straight in the front hand is usable as a hand). If there are two players that hold this, the tie is broken by comparing the strength of the back hand, then that of the middle hand, then that of the front hand.
4. Six pair
Six pairs and one unpaired card. If two players hold this, compare the highest pair, then the next-highest, and so on until the tie is broken. (This hand is not set into front, middle, and back hands.)

Prior to the hands being revealed, but after any naturals have been paid, a player who does not feel confident about their hand may choose to surrender (fold). A surrendering player makes a flat two-unit payment to each opponent, regardless of what the opponent holds.

All remaining players (other than those who held naturals and who surrendered) then reveal their hands. Each player compares their three hands against each of their opponents’ hands, one at a time. By default, a player pays their opponent one unit for each hand that they lost. If a player loses all three hands, they are said to be scooped and must pay three extra units (for a total of six units).

If a player holds a three of a kind in the front hand, a full house or better in the middle hand, and/or four of a kind or better in the back hand, they are paid out at higher rates if the hand wins:

  • Front hand, three of a kind: 3 units.
  • Middle hand, full house: 2 units.
  • Middle or back hands:
    • Four of a kind: 4 units.
    • Straight flush or royal flush: 5 units.
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Pineapple

A pineapple shrub
Pineapple is a variant of poker that plays almost identically to Texas Hold’em, but with one key difference—players are dealt three cards, one of which they discard in the middle of the hand! While Pineapple seems like a bizarre hybrid that you’d only find in dealer’s choice games, it’s gained a lot of acceptance in serious poker circles, being spread in online and brick-and-mortar casinos alike. Not only that, there are several variations of it that have gained popularity as well.

Object of Pineapple

The object of Pineapple is to form the best five-card poker hand from a combination of the two of the three cards dealt to you and five shared cards (called board cards), or to bet in such a way as to convince your opponents that you have the best hand.

Setup

As with most poker games, Pineapple is played with a standard 52-card deck. We highly recommend using plastic playing cards, specifically Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, in order to ensure game integrity and reduce the number of deck changes required. You’ll also need something to bet with; usually, poker chips fill this role.

Prior to game play, establish whether the game is limit or no-limit and the minimum bets (Pineapple is typically played as a limit poker game). You should also agree on the amount of a buy-in, that is, how much each player’s initial stake will be, and whether you will allow players to deep stack (i.e. buy in for a greater amount).

All players either ante or post blinds, although Pineapple is usually played with blinds. Shuffle and deal three cards to each player. These cards are called the player’s hole cards.

Game play

The players look at their three hole cards, then the first round of betting, called the pre-flop round, takes place. The player to the left of the dealer bets first, unless blinds were posted, in which case the player under the gun (to the left of the big blind) opens the betting. Betting is conducted according to the typical rules of betting in poker. If everyone folds except for one player, they automatically win the pot, no further cards are dealt to “see what would have happened”, and they are not required to show their hole cards to anyone.

After the pre-flop betting round concludes, the players each discard any one of their cards of their choosing. After everyone has discarded, the dealer deals one card from the deck face down (called burning a card) and deals three more cards to the center of the table, face up. (See “Dealing the flop, turn, and river” for more information on proper dealing procedures). The three cards just dealt, called the flop, are the first three of the five board cards, which are used by every player to form their hand. Once the flop has been dealt, a second betting round occurs, with first action going to the player immediately left of the dealer (which is the same player who posted the small blind, if applicable).

After thus betting round concludes, the dealer again burns the top card of the deck and deals the next card card face up, called the turn. Another betting round occurs, after which one more card is burned and the fifth and final board card, the river, is dealt. The final betting round is then conducted, after which each remaining active player shows their hand. The pot is awarded to the player who can form the best five-card poker hand, using five of the seven cards available to them (the five board cards and their two hole cards).

Variations

Crazy Pineapple

Crazy Pineapple is played just like regular Pineapple, except that the players keep their third card through the pre-flop and flop betting rounds, discarding just before the turn is dealt. This means that players have more information about possible hands they and their opponents can make before discarding. This often leads to a choice commonly found in Crazy Pineapple, between sticking with a good, already made hand, or sacrificing it in hopes of hitting an even larger hand on the turn or river. The bigger pots and more action found in Crazy Pineapple make it even more popular than regular Pineapple.

Crazy Pineapple Hi-Lo 8 or better

This variant is played the same as Crazy Pineapple, except the pot is split between two players: the player with the best poker hand, and whoever holds the best Ace-to-five Lowball hand, 8 or better.

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Guts

Guts is a simple betting game that can quickly escalate into a high-stakes game that takes a lot of bravery to make it through! Like Red Dog and In-Between, Guts isn’t a poker game, but it is often played in dealer’s choice games to change things up. It is best for five to ten players.

Object of Guts

The object of Guts is to win money by accurately judging the strength of your hand.

Setup

Guts uses a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. It doesn’t take a lot of guts to decide on using Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards for your game. You also need poker chips or something else to bet with.

Before you begin play, the players should agree to the amount of the initial ante. You may also wish to decide on a maximum amount the pot can reach, if desired. This will prevent the amount the players must pay if they lose, allowing the players to limit their risk.

All players ante. Shuffle and deal two cards to each player. The deck stub is set aside and takes no further part in game play.

Game play

Each player looks at the cards dealt to them and determines whether they are in (playing the hand and risking their money) or out (dropping out of the hand). Beginning with the player to the dealer’s left and continuing clockwise, each player declares “in” or “out”. Players who are out discard their hands to a central discard pile.

After all players have declared whether they’re in or out, it’s time for the showdown. If only one player remained in, they take the pot uncontested and are not obligated to show their cards. If more than one player stayed in, the players reveal their cards and the player with the best hand takes the pot.

Guts hands are evaluated by their ranks and whether or not they form a pair. Aces are always high, and the other cards rank in their usual order. Pairs rank higher than unpaired hands; if multiple players have pairs, the higher-ranked pair wins. Unpaired hands are compared using their higher-ranked card, with the lower-ranked card breaking ties. In any case, two hands that are identical other than by suits tie.

The winner of the hand takes the existing pot (multiple tied winners split the pot as evenly as it will go, with the remainder staying in the pot as “flavor” for the next hand). Each player who stayed in but didn’t win the pot must contribute the amount of the pot to the center, forming the pot for the next hand. (For example, if the pot was $25, and four players stayed in to the showdown, the winner of the hand collects the $25 and each of the three losers contributes $25 toward the next pot, forming a total pot of $75 for the next hand.)

If a maximum pot amount was established, losing players will continue adding to the pot as normal until it exceeds the maximum.

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Anaconda

An anacondaAnaconda is a very informal poker game that causes its players to make a lot of gut-wrenching decisions! You might form an excellent hand, but have to break it up between betting rounds. It’s also a split pot game, with half the pot going to the player with the best hand and the other half going to the player with the worst hand.

Anaconda is mostly played as a part of dealer’s choice games; it’s not likely to be found at your local casino. It can be played by up to seven players, and is best with four or more.

Object of Anaconda

The object of Anaconda is to form either the highest-ranking or lowest-ranking poker hand by selecting cards to pass to the other players.

Setup

Like most poker games, Anaconda is played with one standard 52-card deck of playing cards. Since an anaconda is a snake, we suggest using a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, which have a dragon on the ace of spades, keeping the reptile theme going. You also need something to bet with; poker chips work well, but you can use cash, matchsticks, bottle caps, pieces of gum…

All players ante. Shuffle and deal seven cards, face down, to each player. The deck stub is set aside and has no further effect on game play.

Game play

After everyone has had a chance to look at their hands, the first betting round takes place. This follows the norms of betting in poker. After the betting round concludes, the players that are still in the hand select four cards from their hand that they want to keep, setting the other three face down in front of them. After everyone has made their choices, everyone passes these discards to the first player to the left of them. Everyone picks up the cards that they received and adds them to their hand.

After the first pass, there is another betting round. Then, a second passing round occurs; this one is conducted the same as the first, except instead of passing to the left, the cards are passed to the second player to the right. A third round of betting happens after this.

Now, each player decides whether they will compete to have the highest hand or the lowest hand. Each player takes a chip in their hand and shuffles it from hand to hand under the table, out of view of the other players. The players then form one of their hands into a fist and bring it above the table. On the count of three, the players open their hands to reveal whether or not they are holding a chip; those holding a chip are indicating that they intend to compete for high hand, and those with no chip are going for low.

The players now form their final hands, discarding three cards face down into a discard pile. Each player then turns four of the cards making up their hand face up on the table in front of them, placing the fifth card face down next to the rest of their hand. Then, one last round of betting occurs. (It’s worth noting that at least part of the outcome will be fairly obvious in many cases, because at this point, the players know 80% of their opponents’ hands and whether everyone is going high or low. But some surprises can come out with the last card!)

After the final betting round, the fifth card of each active player’s hand is revealed, and the pot is split between the best high hand and the best low hand. (See “Rank of poker hands” and “Lowball poker” for information about how to determine the best hand.) Any remainder is left in the pot as “flavor” for the next hand.

Anaconda strategy

Anaconda plays a bit differently than other forms of poker simply because the player is unable to simply “stand pat” with the cards they are holding; one card of any given five-card combination must be passed. For this reason, royal and straight flushes are useless unless lucked into after the second pass, and regular straights and full houses will be difficult to keep filled. The best hand to hold is four of a kind, not only because it is a very powerful hand, but also because the only card that will need to be passed is the kicker, which is irrelevant for four of a kind. Pursuing a flush is also a decent option, because with four to a flush, there are nine possible cards that can make the hand, although in larger games it is more likely that a full house will be present.

Players should also keep in mind that going for low is an option. Many players naturally tend toward going for high, so it is not all that rare for a player to win the low half of the pot with a fairly weak hand simply because they were the only one who declared low. A player intending to go high who misses their hand going may, rather than folding immediately, consider seeing if they can refashion their hand as a suitable low hand.

Remember that bluffing with the final reveal is possible, and both be wary of this from other players and take advantage of it yourself. Careful selection of which cards are revealed can help represent hands both stronger and weaker than what you actually have. A revealed hand of Q-Q-Q-3 could be four of a kind (Q-Q-Q-Q-3), a full house (Q-Q-Q-3-3), or even just three of a kind (Q-Q-Q-3-?). With jacks full of 9s, a player can choose to reveal J-J-9-9 to try to convince their opponents that they only hold two pair, or J-J-J-9 to bluff that they have quads. Keep your table image in mind too; if you are known to the other players to play conservatively, try representing a higher hand than you really have, and if you’re known as a loose player, show a poor hand.

Naturally, it is important to pay attention to what the other players are revealing. It is pointless to try to bluff that you have four 10s if one of your opponents is showing a 10 plain as day on the table. Likewise, if there are multiple possible four-of-a-kinds or full houses on the table, you are likely to be unable to get anyone to fold to your flush no matter how hard you bet it.

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Mille

Mille is a Rummy-type game that plays very similar to Canasta. Unlike Canasta, however, Mille is played by two solo players, not partnerships. Mille is likely of Canadian origin, beginning in Quebec and spreading east into Ontario by the 1990s. While it’s possible to play Mille just for fun, it is typically played for money.

Object of Mille

The object of Mille is to be the first player to score 1,200 points by melding cards of the same rank.

Setup

Mille uses a 104-card deck formed by shuffling together two standard 52-card decks with the same back design. (Unlike Canasta, Mille does not use jokers.) We, of course, would be overjoyed to know you’re using Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards for your game. You will also need something to keep score with; pencil and paper is probably your best bet.

The players should mutually agree as to whether to play for money, and if so, how much the stakes will be. Stakes are typically expressed as two dollar amounts, the second three times as much as the first, e.g. $1-$3, $2-6, $50-$150, etc. (The purpose of these amounts will be described in “Ending the game” below.)

Shuffle and deal fifteen cards to each player. Place the remainder of the pack face down in the center of the table, forming the stock. Turn one card face up from the stock. This card, the upcard, is the first card of the discard pile.

Game play

Play of the hand

The non-dealer goes first. As in most rummy games, a turn consists of drawing, melding if able, and then discarding. If a player has two or more cards in their hand of the same rank as the upcard, they may immediately meld the upcard along with these cards, then take the entire discard pile into their hand. Otherwise, they draw one card from the stock.

After drawing, the player may lay down, face up, as many melds as they have in their hand. A meld consists of three or more cards of the same rank. Melding is optional; a player may choose to retain an entire meld or some cards of the same rank in their hand. All cards of the same rank that are laid down by a player are considered to form one meld. If a player melded, say, three kings, then on later turn melded three more, this would form one six-card meld.

2s are considered wild cards, and may be melded alongside any other combination of cards. Note, however, that players who do not meld any 2s are awarded a bonus. Three or more 2s can also be laid down as a meld of 2s, which does not prevent the player from claiming the bonus. A 2 cannot be used to take the discard pile; this can only be done with two or more natural cards of the same rank as the upcard.

After melding, the player discards one card, and the turn passes to the next player, with this discard as the new upcard for the next player’s turn. If the stock is depleted, the upcard is set aside and the remainder of the discard pile is shuffled and turned face down to form a new stock.

The hand ends when one player has melded or discarded all of their cards. A player may discard on the turn they go out, but if they are able to exhaust their hand by melding all of their cards, they may end the hand without discarding.

Scoring

The cards in Mille have the following values:

  • Q♠: 100 points
  • J♦: 50 points
  • Aces: 15 points each
  • K-10: 10 points each
  • 9-3: 5 points each
  • 2s: 20 points each

If a player manages to meld all eight cards of one rank without using any wild cards, this is called a natural, and the value of this meld is doubled in their hand score. If the player did not meld any 2s at all (other than as part of a meld of 2s), this is also considered a natural, and the value of all of their melded cards is doubled. When a player scores a natural of either type, it is indicated on the score sheet with an asterisk next to their score for that hand. If a player scores both types of natural, two asterisks are recorded on the score sheet, the natural meld scores 4× the value of the cards, and all other cards score double.

At the end of the hand, each player scores the total value of the all the cards they have melded, then they deduct the value of any cards left in their hand. As a result, It is possible that the player who did not go out can have a net negative score for the hand; this is called a chapeau (French for “hat”) and the negative hand score is circled on the score sheet.

Ending the game

The game ends when one player has scored 1,200 or more. This player is the winner.

If the losing player failed to score at least 600 points, this is a skunk. If the losing player ended  the hand with a negative score, it is a double skunk.

If playing for money, the loser pays the winner according to the stakes. As mentioned before, the stakes are expressed as two amounts, e.g. $1-$3. Using these values, the loser pays:

  • The larger amount once for losing the game.
  • The larger amount once for each natural scored by the winner.
  • The larger amount once for each of the loser’s chapeaux.
  • The smaller amount is paid once for each 100-point difference in score between the two players. To calculate this, round the scores to the nearest 100, subtract the smaller from the larger, and divide the difference by 100.

In the event of a skunk, the payment is doubled; in the event of a double skunk, the payment is tripled.

See also

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Rams

A ram
Rams is a trick-taking game for three to five players, related to Bourré and the English game Loo. The game’s main distinguishing feature is that, unlike most trick-taking games, you can choose to drop out of the hand rather than risk playing with a poor hand.

Object of Rams

The object of Rams is to accurately gauge whether your hand is likely or not to be a winner, and if so, to capture as many of the five tricks in the game as possible.

Setup

Rams is played with a stripped deck of only 32 cards. Starting from a standard 52-card pack of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, remove all of the 2s through 6s, leaving ace through 7 in each of the four suits.

Scoring in Rams is done with counters, so you will also need something to serve that purpose. Poker chips work well, but you can use practically anything, such as matchsticks, bottle caps, marbles, or whatever else is handy. If a betting game is desired, each counter may be purchased with and represent some arbitrary amount of real-world money, or may be simply left as a token with no value other than that which the game ascribes to it. Talk it over with your players and decide before playing. If the counters are not to represent a monetary value, distribute an equal number to each player.

Determine who is the first dealer by some means like a high-card draw. The first dealer antes five counters to the pot. Shuffle and deal five cards to each player, as well as to an extra face-down hand, which is called the widow. Turn the next undealt card face-up; the suit of this card fixes the trump suit. All other undealt cards are set aside and take no further part in game play.

Game play

Determining pass or play

The first order of business is for each player to establish whether or not they will be playing the hand they were dealt. First action goes to the player at the dealer’s left, who has the following options:

  • Play. Electing to play means the player is accepting their hand as-is, and is committing to win at least one trick with it.
  • Switch with the widow. The player may discard their hand and replace it with the widow. The player is not allowed to look at the widow before doing so, and upon making the switch is compelled to play with the new hand (i.e. they cannot pass). Only one player may do this per hand; a later player cannot discard their hand to take up the discarded hand of the player who took the widow.
  • Pass. Sit out of the hand, and thus have no obligation to take any tricks. A player may only pass if the pot contains more than five counters.
  • Declare Rams. A bid of Rams is a bid to take all five tricks. When this declaration is made, all players are obliged to play, whether or not they previously declared that they were passing. Bidding immediately ceases when a Rams bid is made, although subsequent players still have to option to claim the widow if it has not yet been taken.

In the event that all players pass except for the dealer, the player to the dealer’s right pays five units to the dealer and a new hand is dealt. If one other player stays in and all others pass, the dealer is not permitted to pass, but is entitled to discard any card and put the face-up trump card into their hand.

Play of the hand

The next active player to the left of the dealer leads to the first trick. If able to follow suit, a player must do so. If they are unable to, they must play a trump, if able; otherwise, they may play any card. The trick is won by the highest card of the suit led, unless a trump was played to that trick, in which case the highest trump wins the trick.

A player must always play a card that will take the trick, if they have one, while also abiding by the rules of following suit. If a player can play the highest card so far of the suit led, they must, unless a played trump renders it moot, in which case they can play a lower card of the suit led. If a player cannot follow suit but can trump, they must, and they must play the highest trump so far if able.

Collected tricks are not added to the hand, but rather kept in a won-tricks pile in front of the player. Since it is important to keep track of the number of tricks captured, it’s a good idea to make sure the tricks can be easily separated after the hand by placing each one onto the pile at right angles to the one before it. The player that won the trick leads to the next one.

End of hand

In a hand where someone declared Rams, play immediately ceases when someone other than the declarer takes a trick. At that point, the declarer must double the size of the pot (e.g. if it contained 30 chips, add 30 more chips to the pot) and pay each opponent five counters. If the declarer wins all five tricks, on the other hand, each of their opponents must pay them five counters, and they collect the entire pot.

For all other hands, the hand ends after all five tricks have been played. Each player takes one-fifth of the pot for each trick that they won. If a player chose to play but failed to take any tricks, they contribute five counters to the pot, to be played for during the next hand.

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Commerce

Commerce is a French game that was popular in the 19th century. It was the forerunner of Whiskey Poker and other games that play similarly to it, like Knock Poker and Paiute, but unlike those games, it uses three-card combinations rather than five-card poker hands.

Commerce is originally a gambling game, but like Whiskey Poker, it is easily adapted to non-gambling play, where players compete to win just for the sake of winning. It is best for three to ten players.

Object of Commerce

The object of Commerce is to end the hand with the best three-card combination.

Setup

Commerce is played with a standard 52-card deck. We highly recommend using Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, of course.

You will need to establish whether or not the game is being played with betting. If so, all players should agree to the value of one stake. Each player antes this amount to the pot.

Shuffle and deal three cards to each player. Then, deal three cards, face up, to the center of the table.

Game play

Commerce hands

Commerce does not use poker hands to determine who wins. Instead, the following three-card combinations are used to gauge the value of a hand, from highest to lowest:

1. Tricon
Three of a kind (e.g. three jacks). Ties are broken by the rank of the tricon (aces are high).
2. Sequence
Three cards of the same suit, in sequence (e.g. 9-8-7♣). Aces can count as high (in A-K-Q) or low (in 3-2-A). Ties are broken by the highest card of the sequence (3-2-A is considered a 3-high and thus the lowest possible sequence).
3. Flush
Three cards of the same suit. Ties are broken by the flush’s point.
4. Pair
Two cards of the same rank, plus one unmatched card (the kicker). Ties are broken by the rank of the pair, then by the kicker.
5. Point
Three unmatched cards. The hand with the highest point wins; if two hands have the same point, ties are broken by the rank of the highest card, then that of the second-highest, then the lowest.

If necessary, a hand’s point may be determined by adding up the value of all of the cards in the hand. Aces are worth eleven points, face cards are worth ten, and all others their face value.

Play of the hand

Before the dealer looks at their hand, they may discard one to three cards from their hand, unseen, in exchange for one to three of the three board cards. Their discarded cards are then turned face-up and serve as replacements for the cards drawn. This is entirely optional, and the dealer may decline to take any of the face-up cards, choosing instead to start the game with the (unknown) cards in their hand.

Game play proper begins with the player to the dealer’s left. This player may swap one to three of the cards from their hand for the cards on the board. Each player may only swap three cards on the same turn once per hand (if the dealer switched out all three of their cards at the beginning of the hand, this is counted as their one three-card swap for the hand). Play then passes to the player on their left.

When a player is satisfied with their hand, they may knock on the table rather than take their turn as usual. Each other player then has one more turn to act. The hand ends when the player to the right of the first player has played. The hands are revealed, and the player with the highest hand wins. If playing for money, the winner takes the pot. (If two hands tie for best, the pot is split.)

See also

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Paiute

Paiute is a card game for two to five players, originating in Hawaii. As in Knock Poker, players work to improve their hand by drawing cards from the stock and discarding unwanted cards until they are satisfied with their hand. However, Paiute allows for six-card hands, which makes some of the hand rankings notably different from those in poker.

Object of Paiute

The object of Paiute is to be the player with the best combination of cards at the end of the hand.

Setup

Paiute uses one standard 52-card deck of playing cards. We sure would appreciate it if you used a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards for your game.

Paiute can be played just for fun or as a low-stakes betting game. Players should come to a mutual agreement as to whether or not betting should take place, and if so how much the ante should be. All players then ante the agreed-upon amount.

Shuffle and deal five cards to each player. Then, deal one card, face up, to the center of the table. All cards of this rank are wild for the remainder of the hand. Place the deck stub, face down, so that it partially covers this card, thereby forming the stock. Turn one more card face-up and place it next to the stock; this card forms the discard pile.

Game play

Game play begins with the player to the dealer’s left. This player draws one card from either the stock or the discard pile, then discards one card to the discard pile. At the end of your turn, the discard pile must always have a different card on top of it than the one that was there at the start of it. You cannot draw a card from the discard pile and then discard it on the same turn.

If the stock should run out before the end of the hand, set aside the top card of the discard pile, shuffle it, and turn it face down to form the new stock. (The top card of the discard pile remains face-up in the discards, keeping it available to be drawn.

When a player is satisfied with their hand, they say “Call” and place their hand face-up on the table. A calling player may discard their sixth card as usual if it is not part of the combination in their hand; if it is, they simply retain it without discarding. Each player then has one more turn to try to complete or improve their hand. If they have a combination that beats that of the previous player that called, they may call as well. This continues around the table to the dealer, with multiple players potentially calling with progressively better hands. The dealer is always the last player to play and get the opportunity to call. (If the dealer was the first to call, the dealer wins automatically, as no other players get a chance to call or improve their hands.)

Winning combinations in Paiute are:

1. Five of a kind
Five of a kind consists of all four of a particular rank of card, plus a wild card (example: 9-9-9-9-2 if 2s are wild). Ties are broken by the rank of the cards (five nines beats five eights).
2. Royal flush
A royal flush consists of A-K-Q-J-10 of the same suit. Competing royal flushes tie.
3. Straight flush
A straight flush consists of five cards of the same suit in sequence (example: 4-5-6-7-8♠). Ties are broken by the highest card; competing straight flushes with the same top card tie.
4. Four/two
A six-card hand containing four cards of one rank and two cards of another rank (example 8-8-8-8-4-4). Ties are broken by the rank of the four-of-a-kind.
5. Three/three
Two three-of-a-kinds (example 7-7-7-3-3-3). Ties are broken by the rank of the higher three-of-a-kind.
6. Paiute (two/two/two)
Three pairs (example Q-Q-10-10-6-6). Ties are broken by the rank of the highest pair, then the middle pair if there is a tie, then the lowest pair, if necessary. A paiute may only be called on the player’s first turn.

It bears mentioning that the traditional poker hands of flushes and straights are not considered winning combinations in Paiute.

The player or players who called with the highest winning combination win the game. If playing for money, the winner takes the pot (which is split if multiple players tie for highest hand).

See also

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Preference

Preference is the name applied to an entire family of games played from central and eastern Europe into Russia. There are dozens of regional variations of the game, so the one we’ve chosen to describe here is the version played in Austria. Other variants add new elements to play, such as bids to collect more than six tricks.

Preference is a game for three players. If a fourth person wishes to play, they can be included by simply sitting out on their turn to deal. While Preference can be played with pencil-and-paper scoring, traditionally it is played for cash (not even chips, as many betting games are).

Object of Preference

The object of Preference is to collect six tricks if you are the declarer and two if you are a defender.

Setup

Preference uses a special 32-card pack. Starting from a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, remove all of the 2s through 6s, leaving aces through 7s in each of the four suits.

Before playing, it should be established whether the game is being played for money or for points. If played for money, the players should mutually agree to the value of one stake. This will be the denomination that all bets will be transacted in. Players should also agree as to the amount that will be anted to seed the pot for the first hand. This ante must be divisible by ten times the stake.

Shuffle and deal the cards in the following manner:

  1. Deal a packet of three cards face down to each player.
  2. Deal two cards face down to the center of the table. This forms the talon.
  3. Deal a packet of four cards face down to each player.
  4. Deal a packet of three cards face down to each player.

Game play

Bidding

Suits in Preference rank in the following order, from highest to lowest: hearts (4), diamonds (3), clubs (2), spades (1). Note that this suit ranking is relevant to the bidding only and not to the value of the suits in the actual game play.

Game play starts with the bidding, which is kicked off by the player to the dealer’s left. This player has the following options to bid:

  • One. A bid that the player will take six tricks if they are allowed to name the trump suit and exchange the two cards from the talon with two from their hand.
  • Game. A bid that the player will take six tricks if they are allowed to name the trump suit without using the talon.
  • Hearts. A bid that the player will take six tricks if hearts are trump, without using the talon.

A player may also pass, which means they take no further part in bidding that round.

If “one” has been bid, it may be overcalled by “two”, then “three”, and so forth. A player may not skip numbers in bidding. If game has been bid, the only bids available are game and hearts. Once a player has made a numerical bid, they may not increase it to game or hearts; they may only bid higher numbers.

A bid of hearts cannot be overcalled; the auction immediately ends. Otherwise, the auction ends when all players but one have passed, or all of the players have either passed or bid game.

The winner of the bidding is called the declarer. The result of the bidding is as follows:

  • Numerical bid: The declarer collects the two cards from the talon and discards two cards from their hand, face down. (They may of course discard the two cards from the talon, if desired.) The declarer then announces the trump suit for the hand. It must be at least as high as the winning bid (e.g. if the winning bid was Three, the only possible trump suits are hearts [4] and diamonds [3]).
  • Game: If only one player bid game, that player becomes the declarer. If multiple players bid game, they each declare the suit they desire as trumps, and the highest-ranking suit wins. If multiple players desire the same trump suit, the first one to the dealer’s left wins. This player becomes the declarer and their preferred suit becomes trump. The talon is discarded.
  • Hearts: The player who bid hearts is the declarer. The talon is discarded.

The two players who did not become the declarer become the defenders. With the trump suit having been declared, the defenders decide whether they wish to play the hand, and thus commit to winning at least two tricks, or drop out. The defender on the declarer’s left announces whether they are playing or not first. If both of the defenders drop out, the hand is not played, and is paid out as though the declarer took all ten tricks. If one defender plays but the other does not, they have the option to invite their fellow defender to play. “Invite” is kind of a misnomer—the invited player, called the guest, is compelled to play, at the inviting defender, or host‘s, insistence! However, the host takes on all risk of the defenders’ failure to take a total of four tricks.

If the declarer has no aces, they may (but are not required to) declare this before leading to the first trick. Note that they cannot discard aces into the talon in order to make this declaration. This declaration allows them to receive a bonus if they successfully take six tricks, but pay a penalty if they do not (see “Payouts and penalties” below).

Play of the hand

The declarer leads to the first trick. If able to follow suit, a player must do so. If they are unable to, they must play a trump, if able; otherwise, they may play any card. The trick is won by the highest card of the suit led, unless a trump is present, in which case the highest trump wins the trick.

A player must always play a card that will take the trick, if they have one, while also abiding by the rules of following suit. If a player can play the highest card so far of the suit led, they must, unless a played trump renders it moot, in which case they can play a lower card of the suit led. If a player cannot follow suit but can trump, they must, and they must play the highest trump so far if able.

Also, a special rule comes into play if both defenders are playing and the declarer leads. If the first defender to play can beat the declarer’s lead, they must do so by playing the lowest card they can that will beat the lead (subject to the other rules above, of course).

Collected tricks are not added to the hand, but rather kept in a discard pile in front of the player. Since it is important to keep track of the number of tricks captured, each trick should be placed onto the pile at right angles, so that the tricks can be easily separated after the hand. The player that won the trick leads to the next one.

Payouts and penalties

After all ten tricks have been played, each player counts the number of tricks they captured throughout the game.

The declarer takes ten times the stake from the pot and distributes one stake to each of the defenders for each trick they took. (If one of the defenders was invited to play, then the host defender receives the payout for both of the defenders.) The declarer then takes the remainder, which constitutes one stake for each of the tricks the declarer took.

After the payout occurs, penalties are assessed. if the declarer failed to take six tricks, they pay twenty times the stake to the pot. If any of the defenders who chose to play failed to take two tricks, they pay ten times the stake to the pot. If one of the defenders was invited to play and the two defenders failed to take a total of four tricks between the two of them, the host defender is solely responsible for paying the ten units to the pot.

The following bonuses are then paid. Note that these bonuses affect all players, whether or not they played, dropped out, or were invited in.

  • If the declarer bid hearts and took six tricks, each opponent pays ten times the stake to them. If they failed, they pay ten times the stake to each opponent.
  • If the declarer held all four aces and took six tricks, each opponent pays ten times the stake to them.
  • If the declarer declared “no aces” and took six tricks, each opponent pays ten times the stake to them. If they failed, they pay ten times the stake to each opponent.

Game play continues until the pot is depleted. At this point, the players mutually decide whether to end the game or ante anew to continue playing.

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