Go Wild!

August 15, 2008

When it comes to poker home games, only 1 thing comes to mind when I hear people talking about “The Great Debate.”Sure, there are little issues or rules that come up, and can end up being points of contention. Every home game has had to decide things such as whether a royal flush beats five of a kind, or how long the time limit is going to be between raising the blinds, or why the fridge no longer has any beer in it, but in my mind, the “Great Debate” refers to nothing other than the wild card dilemma.

I’ve been around games where the mere metion of a wild card would cause the temperature in the room to drop 20 degrees and bring out scowls on faces that would frighten a war veteran.

Surely there’s nothing so hateful about a wild card? Those cute little deuces…those sympathetically disabled one-eyed jacks…hell even the King is taking care of the hard part and getting suicidal so you won’t have to murder him…so what’s not to love?

Personally, I like wild cards. I’ve never flip-flopped, and I couldn’t imagine a Saturday night home page without them. They just make the games too damn entertaining.

And they provide much needed variety to the rotation that would become painfully stale if revolved solely around Hold ‘Em tournaments and seven-card stud. As much as I love those two games, and as much as they continue to rule as the “kings” of the poker world in my book, they’re just not enough to sustain my interest throughout a 5-6 hour session…especially in games that don’t include a few rounds of Hearts (which, sadly, is most of them).

Think about it, without wild cards, here’s what you have.

Baseball (all versions): 3’s and 7’s are ….3’s and 7’s. So basically you’re left with seven-card stud with the ability to buy an extra card if you get a 4 face up. Yawn.

Follow the Queen: Follow her where? To the next regular card. This game ceases to exist anymore.

King Sh—y: One of my favorite games also becomes irrelevant. The whole game is based around wild card decision making…otherwise it’s just another name for 5-card draw.

The Cross: Now, this game still would exist, and it would still be interesting, but there’d be a much smaller payoff to staying in until the final, middle card is turned up if that card isn’t wild….because most of the time you’re sitting, hoping to double that up to give you a leg up in your hidden hand against the competition. How ya gonna take that away from me, bro?

That’s just a small sampling…and really the one that hurts the most is baseball, because with baseball comes midnight baseball, double-hand baseball, etc… I can’t remember the last time I played an ante game and baseball wasn’t called at one time or another.

However, to be fair, there still would be a good sampling of non wild-card games to choose from…although depending on how much of a purist you are, these “wildish” games might be frowned upon all the same.

Moose: Lots of buying and swapping, and waiting for the final card to determine which was the split pot goes, but no traditional wild cards in anyone’s hand. This game does, however, get about as close as possible without actually declaring a wild.

Chicago: Good, clean Chicago. High hand takes half, highest spade in the hole takes the other half. I’d probably rely on this one and Moose for 75% of my non hold ‘em/stud action in Saturday night games if wild cards were abolished nationwide tomorrow.

Continents: No wilds, no money pots? Not so fast. Continents can and probably will still reign supreme as the master of all pot-building games.

Pass the trash: And the unique games stay in the mix, as well. Pass the trash makes the wild-card cut, and it doesn’t even have to ride the bus.

Guts: Legendary game, infinite variations, none (that I know of) involve wild cards. Lots of hand dropping, but no wild cards.

So there you have it…and you’re probably saying I didn’t spend any time actually debating whether wild cards were good. And you’d be right. I make no apologies for being firmly in the pro-wild card camp. And maybe I will (in an as unbiased manner as possible) pick up a real debate on the merits of wild cards vs. the detriments in a future article, but for now consider this my love letter to those little friends that can turn a hand of 10 high into a royal flush.

Now if I can just keep that one king from stabbing himself in the head….