Poker Home Games: Greedy Grill

April 26, 2009

There’s something I just love about guts games. Or any drop game for that matter. The difference is in the risk, as anyone will tell you, the all or nothing gamble that can really only be equaled in regular tournament or cash games by the all-in. Putting yourself “in” knowing if you lose, you have to match the pot regardless of how much is in there, gives you a different rush than incremental betting.

So, it should be no surprise that I know, play and practice dozens of different drop games. Anything that tweaks guts or high-low to make things a little more interesting or increase the pot size a little more is worth a look.

Here’s the latest one I’ve learned, and it’s a nice addition to the list.

Now, before I start with the rules, which are really quite simple, I have to open with my frustration for when guts players try to buy the pot. This means, they’ll take the risk of losing by going in on garbage, just hoping nobody else will go in, and he’ll then win by default. Of course, soon after these people showed up, the house dealers got wise and introduced the “grill,” a deck hand that would come into the play in the event that only one person stayed in for any given hand. And, like continents, eventually the grill hand made its way into every hand, regardless of how many people were staying in.

OK, so, this guts game takes that and adds another twist. Here are the rules.

1) Straight guts rules apply. It’s a 1,2,3 drop game where you hold if you’re in and you drop if you’re out. If you’re in and win, the pot is yours. If you’re in and you lose, you match the pot (in our games we always did match the pot plus 1 ante to keep the size of the pot growing even if only one person lost, but this is house preference).

2) Every player in typical guts gets three cards to work with. Straights and flushes don’t count. (Another house rule, while straights and flushes don’t count in terms of poker hand hierarchy, they would afford you the choice of trading in your hand for three fresh cards – however, if you chose to do this, you would automatically be “in” unless someone raised you back, which would give you the “out” to fold if you wanted to.) In this game, though, every player starts out with 5 cards. And yes, this time straights and flushes do count.

3) The 1,2,3 all is made to determine who will stay “in.”

4) Players who stayed “in” then receive two more cards to add to their hand. They’ll use these and the five they already have to determine their best five-card poker hand.

5) As in all guts games, best hand wins. Losing hands match the pot.

6) Here’s the twist. If only one player goes in, the grill not only gets a hand, but gets eight cards against the player’s seven. This, mathematically, should be all that’s needed to discourage even the most reckless player from going in just to buy the pot. It doesn’t make sense in this game, and that’s an aspect of it I absolutely love.

So, if you’re looking for something that evens the playing field a little bit but still retains the edge and rush of guts, all the while expanding the hands to include all of poker, this is the game for you. Give it a try.

Celebrity Poker Players

April 19, 2009

I love watching celebrities play poker. Most of them aren’t very good, but it’s cool seeing these famous people taken out of their element and thrown into a game against professionals like a steak to a lion. They’re just so overmatched, underpowered, in over their heads, whatever cliché you want to run out there. They basically don’t stand a chance, and I’ve never seen one (maybe you have) do anything really worthwhile in a big-name tournament.

I remember back when the movie Rounders came out (great movie, by the way, I’m sure everyone reading this has seen it. If you haven’t, run out and rent it or I’ll send Grandma over to your house!) Ed Norton and Matt Damon played in the World Series of Poker that year. Now, this was before poker became mainstream – although in hindsight, the movie itself may have played a decent role in that taking place – but the two of them were/are huge stars and the event received a lot of press coverage at the time.

Both actors knew their place here, though. In interviews, at least, they played humble pilgrims in an unholy land (thank you Sean Connery), admitting how incredible these experts are, and how they went through the whole thing as a learning experience, etc… That’s all fine and good, but you damn well know deep down they wanted to advance in the tournament. They wanted to live up to their characters in the movie. Personally, I’d have been more than happy with a few hours with Famke Janssen.

Also, remember back in the early nineties when PC games still came on dozens of floppy discs? Well I loved poker back then, and had a spanking new 386 with something like a 50MB hard drive (hellz yeah!). Anyway, when I was at the mall shopping at Babbages (don’t bother searching, they’re gone now, thanks Gamestop!), I came across a Celebrity poker game. It was actually called Multimedia Celebrity Poker, and it was quite possibly the most entertaining poker game I’ve played to date.

Not for the mechanics or poker options, mind you, but for the comedy you received from seeing these three celebrities represented in cyber form facing off against you like they were the Chessmaster himself. Joining Frakes, whose Riker character from Star Trek: The Next Generation was one of televisions biggest poker swindlers (poor Data) was Morgan Fairchild and Joe Piscopo. What??? Exactly. And if my memory serves correct, Piscopo was no longer famous even back in 1995, so grouping him in with the term celebrity might be a little bit of a stretch. I haven’t searched YouTube, but if you have the chance see if you can find clips of this game somewhere, it’s priceless.

And finally, pay attention every time you watch a celebrity participate in a poker tournament or poker television show. They all act exactly the same. Quiet, serious, head in the game trying to beat the pros. They all act as if they’re supposed to be there and how dare you single them out as celebrities during the game – like you’re actually interested in watching the for their poker skills. Makes me laugh.

Of course, if you are a celebrity, you probably have at least a little money to burn. And if they love playing poker, more power to them. I’m sure one of everyone’s fantasies is being able to go all-in with $10,000 worth of poker chips. The other fantasy undoubtedly involves Famke.


April 12, 2009


It’s inescapable at most poker tables. You could be in a casino, on a cruise or playing in your best friend’s basement, but chatter from other players will accompany the deal of the cards like heart surgery goes with a fast food burger.

Not necessarily a bad thing, although it does tend to slow up a game. And in my world of impatience, that’s enough to at least put it on my radar of things to discuss as they relate to the wide world of poker.

Now, in my opinion there are a few different types of chatter. They each have vastly different intentions and/or are the result of different things.

First, you’ve got the “off the subject” conversation. This is the talking that really bothers me. Of course, I’m just as guilty as the next person of doing it, but my hypocrisy aside for now, there’s nothing that irritates me more than when you’re in the middle an intense game, thinking about a major move or reacting to one, and Bobby and Jimmy are talking about how cute that chick at the gym is, or how awesome the latest action flick was when they saw it drunk at 1 in the morning last weekend. If you’re one of these people, do everyone else at the table a favor and shut up. Seriously, or at least keep the conversations to between hands. Even if you’re quick to play and it’s not technically delaying the game play in terms of seconds and minutes, it’s likely pissing someone else off. But maybe that’s the point, which brings me smoothly to the next kind of chatter.

And that is, “talking with a purpose.” Usually this purpose is to throw someone else off their game. These targeted cause/effect statements typically work when you know your competition, at least they’re safer in that environment. There’s no telling how someone you’ve never played with before is going to react to an off-the-cuff comment slamming their favorite sports team.

Other times, the “purpose” chatter is aimed at getting you to reveal something about your hand, either through a slip in your language or revealing your emotion in your voice or body movements while you talk. Unless the person talking is an accomplished actor, though, it’s usually pretty easy to spot. No dude you know mostly from poker games is just gonna ask you how your old, sick dog is doing between the flop and the turn.

A third form of this “purpose” talk is when someone takes an accusatory tone. They’re either frustrated from losing or irritated at a decision they made or you made, but the purpose is generally to vent this frustration and put you back on your heels. Almost like a power move after the cards and chips have been temporarily removed from the equation.

The last major form of talking I hear at poker tables is the “defensive” stance. That description is a little misleading, I’ll admit, since the intention of the person speaking isn’t really to take a defensive stance in the literal sense. I just get the feeling that it comes off that way in particular situations. I’ll explain what I mean. Let’s say there’s a big pot hand and it comes down to you vs. someone else. After an all-in battle, you end up taking the hand…with…9 high (nice lucky failed bluff, man!). Anyway, the loser is none too pleased and lets you know it. Striking the aforementioned accusatory tone, he suggests you shouldn’t have won because you made the wrong call. Or on a different hand he claims you got a lucky card. In either situation, he’s trying to turn the tables and make you feel guilty and wrong for being the winner, even though you’re the one cleaning up the pot. This naturally puts you in a position where most feel they have to explain themselves. You could have a perfectly logical, calm and collected response, but you’re still going to sound like you’re being defensive.

If someone comes at me like that, I usually shrug my shoulders in silence and take a drink of whatever’s next to me. After all, it’s best to let your cards do the talking. The can speak louder, and with a greater purpose, than anyone’s voice every time.

Poker Home Games: Stud ‘em

April 5, 2009

 It’s been a while since I’ve learned a new game. In fact, I’m usually the one teaching them to my poker groups or the occasional new gathering of people I haven’t played with before. Truth be told, I can get bored sometimes playing straight Hold ‘Em tournaments (which is what everyone seems to want to play these days – still, so between tournaments I’ll first plant the seed to switch over to cash ante games. Once we’ve been doing that for a while, I’ll start throwing different games out when it’s my turn to deal. You have to know your company, though, and if they seem overly agitated at learning something new, or don’t have the functioning brain cells left to handle any new intake, it’s best to stick with the basics.

Anyway, even though this one isn’t exactly new (it’s more of a meshed hybrid of two classics), I’m still excited to write about it.

So here’s the game. I’ll call it…Stud ‘Em Poker.

For starters, you can use any betting system you prefer here. Traditionally, there will be a big blind amount that one person puts in, and the rest of the people at the table would ante up half that amount. But you can use a straight ante system, a regular blind system, or a low-card antes system, whatever works for the table.

1) Each player receives their two down cards. These remain hidden but the player can look at their own.

2) First round of betting.

3) Remaining players receive one card face up now. At the same time, a single community card is deal face-up. The face-up card in each individual hand counts only toward that person’s hand. Whereas the community card, as always, is available for everyone to use.

4) Second round of betting.

5) Here’s a little bit of a twist on both straight Stud and Hold ‘Em games. At this point, each remaining player receives a hidden card, counting toward his hand only. At the same time a face-up community card is dealt. So to recap, at this point each player should have 3 hidden cards and one card face-up that are exclusively counting toward his hand. There also should be two face-up community cards on the table.

6) Third round of betting.

7) Remaining players (any of you left?) receive another card face-up. Another community card is also dealt, face-up. So now each player has five cards, three hidden and two face-up. There also are three total community cards in the center.

8) Final round of betting.

9) Now the reveal, and the player with the best five-card hand wins. There are no Omaha-esque rules here, either. You can use any combination of your cards and the community cards. Of course, mathematically you have to use at least 2 from your hand since there are only three community cards to work with.

Note – Again, it’s table preference, but you could just as easily play high-low for this game, as well.