Poker Home Games – Continents

June 8, 2007

Another great game that has the potential to build huge, heaping pots is Continents, a lengthened, expensive variation of some home game’s version of Guts.
Continents is the favorite of my drop games…and by a drop game, I mean a poker game in which at one point or another, everyone chants “1….2….3!” and either drops their cards if they’re out, or holds onto them if they’re in.

We won’t get into the never-ending debate as to whether it should be “1…2….drop, or 1….2….3….and then drop,” or we’ll be here for hours. Although for your purposes of playing at home, it’s always best to choose one or the other before the hand begins to avoid individual interpretation…namely cheating.

Anyway, Continents is a game that can take a long time…it’s not just playing one hand of the game and winner takes what’s in the middle.

Here’s the rundown, and by the end you’ll know why the game is called what it is.

1. Each player is dealt 2 cards, the object being to make the best high poker hand you can. As I mentioned, this is a drop game, in which the player must decide based on the strength of his hand whether he wants to continue on in the game. The penalty for going in and losing is a burn to the pot. In Continents, the burn is three times the ante. When we play, it’s a $1 ante and a $3 burn…and we only consider it a really good pot if it exceeds $200.

In Continents, you’re deciding whether to keep playing with the understanding that whoever stays in will receive a third card to complete their poker hand.

Also, straights and flushes are worth nothing. Three of a kind is high, then pairs, then Ace high, etc…

2. “1….2…..3….drop!” OK, you held your cards, hoping that Ace 7 will somehow hold up against the other two people who held as well.

3. Now the fun part…the introduction of the grill, the evil cards off the deck meant to put a stop to any one player’s easy run at a winning hand. That’s right, the grill plays every hand, as well, pitting its three cards against yours.

4. So with three people remaining, the grill gets its 2 initial cards first, then everyone in order receives their last card, and then the grill gets its last card.

5. Now everyone flip ‘em up and shows what they’ve got. Let’s say of the 3 remaining hands, one had a low pair, one had Ace Jack, and you ended up with Ace seven. And we’ll say the grill had nothing on this hand.

6. So the low pair wins the hand…which means what? Well it means two things. First, the low pair is the only person who went in to not have to burn 3 times the ante into the pot…and it also means that person keeps the cards that made his hand a winner. So the low pair, say it was 2 three’s, are kept by that person, face down.
These cards do not become part of the person’s next hand, and you can’t use them in any future hands. What you’re doing is building your continents, and when one person gets to 7 cards, he wins the pot.

7. When the burns have been paid and the winning cards taken out, the dead cards are cleared and set aside until the deck runs out. (So through each deck, the players will be wise to whether the Aces have come up yet, or if going in on King high still might not be the best idea.)
Then a fresh hand is re-dealt, but there is no re-ante each time.

8. Now, backtracking just a little, let’s say the grill had the winning hand. Everyone who went in would have to burn three times the ante, and the grill then would keep whatever cards made it the winner…and these cards would go face up in the middle for everyone to see.
This part is the best….if the grill reaches 7 cards before anyone else, everyone turns in their cards and the game begins again – but the built up pot remains in the middle.
I know, good stuff.

9. A couple things to note at this point. First, if only one person goes in, he still must face off against the grill. Second, if two people face off with a high-card hand, the winner only keeps the high card, and not both the high card and the secondary high card that was used to decide the winner.

10. Also, if you want to keep the pots from getting too big too quickly, you can only use the grill when one person goes in alone. That way the grill will be less likely to grow, and there will be fewer burns since players will only face each other when more than one person goes in.

11. One more rule, you do not have to answer questions of how many cards you have, or what cards you have won out of the deck to that point. You can stack your cards so other players can’t tell how many are there, but you have to keep the cards on the table. You, of course, may look at those cards for reference and to keep track of how many you have.

Continents gets really fun when more cards start being removed from the deck, and the decision to go in on Jack or Queen high is looking a hell of a lot better that the first few hands….but is that last king still lurking out there?

What’s it worth to you to find out?

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