Soko (Canadian Stud)

Soko, also known under the name of Canadian Stud Poker, is a variation on Five-Card Stud Poker that adds two new hands to the hand ranking. It is most popular in Finland, which is where it derives its name; sökö is a form of the Finnish word for check.

Object of Soko

The object of Soko is to form the best five-card poker hand, or to bet in such a way as to convince your opponents that you have the best hand.


Like all poker games, Soko uses the standard 52-card deck, without any jokers. We commend anyone who makes the correct decision to choose Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards for their game. You’ll also need something to bet with, such as poker chips.

As with all betting games, it is important to establish betting limits that all players mutually agree to and are comfortable with. Like most classic stud poker games, Soko is played with an ante, the amount of which should be decided ahead of time, as well as the maximum and minimum betting limits.

All players ante. Shuffle and deal one card face down to each player (the hole card), then one card face up.

Game play

Rank of Soko hands

Soko uses two hands that aren’t found in standard poker, the Canadian straight (or four straight) and Canadian flush (or four flush). Both of these are simply a straight or a flush, respectively, made of four cards with one unmatched card. A Canadian straight outranks one pair, a Canadian flush outranks a Canadian straight, and two pair outranks a Canadian straight. The remainder of the hands follow the standard rank of poker hands, so the full rank of Soko hands, from highest to lowest, is:

  1. Royal flush.
  2. Straight flush.
  3. Four of a kind.
  4. Full house.
  5. Flush.
  6. Straight.
  7. Three of a kind.
  8. Two pair.
  9. Canadian flush.
  10. Canadian straight.
  11. One pair.
  12. High card.

Play of the hand

The first action of the hand goes to the player who shows the lowest face-up card. (If there are multiple players tied for low, the one closest to the left of deal goes first.) This first player is obliged to make an initial bet called the bring-in. The minimum amount of the bring-in is only half that of the usual minimum bet (rounded down if the minimum bet does not divide into an even number of chips). If the player wishes to bet more than the bring-in amount, they may do so. The betting round is thereafter conducted according to the usual rules of betting in poker.

After the betting round, each player is dealt another face-up card, bringing them to a total of three cards. A second betting round is then conducted, with first action again going to the player showing the lowest hand, although there is no bring-in required on this or subsequent betting rounds. If any player shows a pair as their two face-up cards, the betting limits (minimum and maximum) are doubled.

Another card is dealt face up to each active player, then another betting round occurs, with doubled betting limits for the remainder of the hand regardless of what any of the players hold. This pattern continues, with more cards being dealt until each active player has a five-card hand (four face up and one face down), with a betting round following each card dealt. After the fifth and final betting round, all players still in contention for the pot reveal their hands. The pot is awarded to the player holding the highest hand.


Follow the Bitch

A typical Follow the Bitch hand

Follow the Bitch is a variant of Seven-Card Stud with a curious mechanic for determining wild cards. Because which rank of card is wild can change—sometimes multiple times—during the game, hands that are strong early on can be utterly worthless by the time the showdown rolls around.

Object of Follow the Bitch

The object of Follow the Bitch is to have the highest-ranked poker hand at the time of the showdown.


Follow the Bitch uses a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. Don’t use a paper deck that will just get beat up, sticky, and gross. Use a washable, durable deck of deluxe Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards.

You will also need something to bet with, such as poker chips. Make sure to agree to betting limits (or lack thereof) prior to starting.

All players ante. Shuffle and deal two cards face down to each player, then a third card face up.

Game play

If, at any time, a queen is dealt face up, the next card dealt face up after it becomes wild. For example, if Alpha is dealt a queen face up, and Bravo, sitting to their left, is dealt a 9, then 9s are wild. 9s will remain wild until the next face-up queen is dealt. If the final card dealt face up in a particular round is a queen (i.e. no cards follow it), then there are no wilds until the next queen appears.

The player with the strongest hand, when taking into account only their face-up cards, gets the right to bet first. Betting otherwise follows the usual norms for betting in poker. After the betting round concludes, two more cards are dealt to each player, one face down and one face up. Another betting round ensues, led by the current strongest player. One last pair of cards is dealt to each player (again, one face down and one face up), giving them an end total of seven cards. There is one final betting round, again led by the strongest player. Then all of the face-down cards are revealed. The player with the strongest hand, using five of the seven cards available to them, and taking into account whatever wilds happen to be at the end, is the winner.

Low Chicago

Vanilla Follow the Bitch can often fall prey to limited betting, because one player is obviously showing a much higher hand than their opponents. To counter this tendency, it is often played with Low Chicago rules.

The Low Chicago is the lowest face-down spade. Not all spades will be contenders for Low Chicago; the lowest spade possible, the A♠, may well be in the deck stub, or be dealt face up. The A♠ would therefore not be eligible to win. If the A♠ is eligible, then it will be the Low Chicago. Otherwise, it will be the 2♠, or if it’s not eligible either, then the 3♠, and so on.

The Low Chicago is determined at the time of the showdown. The player holding the Low Chicago splits the pot with the winner of the normal Follow the Bitch game. The players will often be uncertain whether a player is betting because they have a strong hand, or because they have Low Chicago. As a result, the betting is livened up.

Of course, if one player has both the strongest hand and Low Chicago, they take the entire pot.