Poker Home Games: The Twist of Death

January 28, 2008

OK, time to throw a “crazy” variation of seven-card stud into the mix. I’ll give this an early disclaimer (or two) that it builds up huge…allow me please to repeat….huge pots, and it can end up being viewed as one of those games that goes “over the top,” with rules and twists and wild cards, etc… So if either of those two aren’t your or your groups cup of tea (which is understandable), the rest of the rules of this one just might not be for you.

So, now that we got that out of the way….on to the fun!

This form of 7-card stud builds on the general rules of the game, but then goes in all sorts of directions from there.

The first set of different rules:

- 7 card stud 5’s and 10’s are wild

- If a 5 is turned up you have the choice of putting $5 in the pot or folding

- If a 10 is turned up you have the choice of putting $10 in the pot or folding

The variations to this first set of rules:

The first wild card turned means the player must pay the normal penalty to continue

Second wild card turned means the player must pay a double penalty (so if a 10 is the second wild card turned up and you play with this variation – that means you must pay $20 to stay in the game!!)

The third wild card means a 4-times penalty.

The forth wild card means an 8 times penalty….and so on.

These variation rules, although completely out of control, really makes buying the wild card a major decision (if you thought a match or fold decision in baseball was huge, you haven’t seen anything yet.) As the game goes on you know more of your hand, so it costs more to buy the wild card.

The twist:

This only applies if you include jokers…that is assuming you still own the jokers to your deck in the first place.

The twist is that a joker is wild if by itself in your hand. But if a joker and a 5 or 10 is in your hand….you’ve killed all wild cards (ALL – the entire table — bet you wish you didn’t pay $40 for that extra 10 now, huh?)

- This game is not only a whirlwind of shoveling money into the middle, it also requires a strong strategy of betting/paying into the pot, and demands it early and often. The risk is huge (as is the potential of your wild cards becoming worthless given the joker twist.) My cautious recommendation is to play this once or twice a night, as it’ll likely give both middle fingers to someone’s wallet. Of course, you could play for lower stakes on FullTiltPoker.net….but where’s the fun in that?

Poker vs…. (Round 2 – Spades)

January 20, 2008

All right, after some well-deserved time off to heal its wounds from the nasty beating it took from hearts a few weeks ago, poker is back with a vengeance to take on a new challenger in spades.

Spades is a formidable opponent, weighing in at 265 lbs.

Let’s start the fight!

LEARING THE GAME
POKER: At the most surface level, it’s fairly easy once you know the different poker hands. Two from your hand, three community cards totals your best 5-card poker hand. Grading scale 5/10

SPADES: Fairly simple, depending on whose rules you’re playing with. The basics of playing a card, following suit, and the trump cards are about as easy as it gets, but the different variations of nil, what the points are worth, who leads with what card, etc…, bump the difficulty of learning the game up just a bit. Still, doesn’t take a genius. 5/10

UNDERSTANDING THE GAME
POKER: Hold ‘em games, much moreso than draw games, rely mostly on odds and statistics, instead of knowing what the keep and what to drop. So, really, under this category of the skill, if you understand what hands are more difficult to achieve in a hold ‘em game on FullTilt , you’ve already got a leg up against the competition. 3/10

SPADES: While it may seem remedial and restricted in terms of how one can understand and interpret different card play combinations in spades, it actually takes some experience to understand why certain cards are played, led or dumped. There are complicated decisions to make during game play that require keen observations skills throughout the entire hand, every hand. Managing bags (and doing it with a partner whose hand you cannot see) is a whole other issue, altogether. 6/10 BETTING/PLAYING SKILL:
POKER: Poker’s playing skill is dominated by intelligent betting, which is why these two different areas are combined into one. Taking control of the table with a power bet, throwing others a curve with a curious check, etc… (the list goes on and on) take talent, experience and balls (I sat here for 2 minutes trying to think of a better word to use, but I really couldn’t…sad). Aside from betting, poker players must be able to figure how their hidden hand plays not only against the community cards, but also against what other might be holding (of which betting from them can be a reveal to the contents of these hands, as well). 9/10

SPADES: Bidding is key here, as you’re usually not playing spades for money, you’re playing for points. Of course, there’s nothing against spicing a game up (we usually do), by putting a cash reward at the end of the climb to 500 points for the winning team, but that’s up to you. As veterans of bridge and spades will undoubtedly tell you, bidding in these games is a science, and requires a comfortable, unspoken relationship with your partner. You need to know if he/she tends to bid heavy. Is he/she known for risky nils? Should you underbid to even things out? If the other team bids low with no nils, do you overbid if you’re sitting on high suited cards to avoid a plethora of bags? How many tricks can you make if you only have 2 of one suit? Should you count on that king of diamonds as a trick if you have 5 diamonds? As you can see, plenty to work through. 8/10

READING PEOPLE
POKER: Well, this is pretty much what the game is famous for after the gold bracelets and sunglasses. If you got it, you got it…and oh boy does it make a difference. 10/10

SPADES: In spades you need to not only be able to read your opponents, but your partner, as well. However, you’re doing so primarily through the cards that are played, not the ticks or tells of the person himself (although talented card players can decipher certain card-playing decisions as a tell in and of itself.) Certain cards led can mean that person wants the suit led back. If a nil leads a suit, it probably means he’s safe there and wants it led back to either duck under or sluff a different suit. Does hesitation to play a card mean he’s debating which card to play? Or is he messing with you and only has one suited card left he’d be forced to play anyway? It matters, because if you choose to believe the former and lead back, you could be setting yourself up to be trumped. That said, reading people in the grand scheme of spades isn’t a major part of the game, but it does matter. 6/10.
LUCK
POKER: Luck? LUCK??? Blasphemy, you say. Yeah, yeah, whatever. Even the champs will tell you, there is SOME luck in poker. No more evident that the cruel, cruel river. Luck detracts from skill, so poker gets a -3 here. Minus 3

SPADES: In all honesty, you have to be skilled to be a good spades player. You need to not only be able to handle your own decisions, but be able to cooperate with your partner to make sure your team goals are met. If spades were hiring you for a job and asked on your resume that annoying questions, “Do you work better individually or as a team?” You’d have to say both. But, keeping the theme of honesty going…the cards do most of the walking here. You can be the spades master of the world, and if you get zero spades, virtually zero no high cards, but are stuck with the solo king of diamonds, you’re bidding 1. Even if your partner puts up a 6 or 7 bid…unless you’re down by 200 points, you’re not risking it. And on the other side of the table, if you’re dealt 6 spades, it’d be pretty hard for you to screw up a 4 or 5 bid regardless of how new you are to the game. Minus 4.

Final Score:
POKER: 24
SPADES: 21

And in a not-as-close-as-it-may-seem sloberknocker….poker redeems itself in it’s early career and climbs to a respectable 1-1 record.

Poker Home Games – Midnight Change-up

January 13, 2008

I used to play with quite a few different groups of poker players. I had a regular group from high school (which lasted through college and even a couple year past that), and a couple work-related groups as the sources of our main games. Cool people, it was just as much about enjoying a Saturday night as it was getting together for a serious game of cards. But the point is, the group was easy-going, everyone got along, nothing seemed to mess that up.

Except for midnight baseball.

For some reason, that game drew a big, juicy dividing line in the sand each time it became dealer’s pick. A handful of people just refused to play it. Almost like it was against their religion (odds are it was against their wallets’ religion, as they tended to be the ones who’d lost hundreds over the years to its cruel, unrevealing grip.)

That always irritated me, because I would play anything. Even in-between, which I loathe, I’d play it as a courtesy because everyone else played the games I chose when it was my deal.

Well, if you’re one of those people, you’re REALLY gonna hate midnight change-up. And, if you happen to be someone who likes midnight baseball….well, you might hate this version, as well.

The recipe for this game is a big, heaping wad of midnight baseball garnished with a sprinkle of follow the queen….sort of.

I’ll explain the rules below.

1.) Everyone (3-7 players works best) is dealt 7 cards, all face down. No peeking.

2.) Everyone stacks their cards into one pile, shuffle them, whatever you want to do, but you can’t look.

3.) As in any baseball game, 3’s and 9’s are wild. (House rules as to whether you want to play with the match or fold rule if a 3 comes up…but it might not work well in this variation, and you’ll see why in a minute.)

4.) We now progress with typical rules of midnight baseball. One person flips up, round of betting. Second person flips cards until his hand beats the previous person’s hand, and then another round of betting. This continues until all cards are showing, or everyone but 1 person has folded.

5.) OK, here’s the catch. The wild cards can change in this game. If a 7 comes up in someone’s hand, that person has the option to pay a fee (I would recommend at least 4X the ante) and have a fresh card (off a second deck) flipped up and kept aside. If he so chooses, then that up card replaces either the 3 or the 9 (again, which of the two is replaced is the choice of the person who bought the new wild card.)

6.) This wild-card swing can continue to happen so long as more sevens show up in the players’ hands.

**Note** Some baseball games play with the “4 rule”, meaning if a 4 is turned up, that person has the option to buy another card for a fee. In midnight baseball, it has to be revealed to everyone just like the other cards. House choice as to whether this rule is included in midnight change-up.

***Strategy*** This might be my new favorite version of baseball. You’ll really question whether you want to stay in early, even if you have a wild card supporting a great starting hand. Likewise, if it’s the middle of the hand and you’re put to the choice of matching or folding a $35 pot, only to wonder if a 7 is going to come up and potentially wash away your wild card….that’s a heavy decision.

But it all adds to the fun. I mean, dumping $80 into a pot only to watch your 4 Aces turn into top 2-pair is fun, right?

For a normal game, check out FullTilt Poker and play with the pros.

Poker Home Games – Hidden Community

January 6, 2008

HIDDEN COMMUNITY

Here’s a great twist on the typical “guts” or “pimp guts” games that are always floating around poker home games.

Now, most of these guts games are played with a “match or fold” rule at the end…meaning everyone says if they’re “in” on the final round of betting, and if you’re in and lose, then you have to match the pot and the game continues for another round.

Yeah, it’s great for building up huge pots.

This version, I suppose could be played as a match or fold (although most games probably could), but for explanation purposes, I’ll just keep it as a strict winner-takes-the-pot format of betting.

All right, here we go with the poker home game Hidden Community.

***Note*** – I’ll tell you right off the bat this is better when there’s more people at the table. I’d recommend it for at least five, but probably no more than 7 players.

1) Everyone antes the predetermined amount, and all the players are dealt 3 cards face down.

2) Players are allowed to look at and arrange their own cards.

3) Round of betting.

4) Anyone still in the game then chooses one card from his or her hand and turns it face up on the table. All players do this at the same time to keep things fair and prevent someone’s choice from influencing someone else’s choice.

5) Round of betting

6) Second card is turned up by everyone.

7) Round of betting.

8) Now everyone turns over their third card to reveal they’re poker hand. Here’s the twist…your poker hand consists of your 3 down cards (which are now face up)…and ANY 2 other cards showing on the table.

9) High hand takes all.

The twist to have hidden community cards right up to and past the last round of betting is definitely something that intrigued me, along with the strategy it adds to the game. You can certainly find yourself dumping huge amounts of money into the pot in hopes of someone’s last card being a heart for that flush you need.

For more community card games, visit FullTiltPoker now.