Poker Home Games – Criss Cross

June 29, 2007

Also known as Iron Cross, Criss Cross is a fun game of stud poker that can be played with a variety of wild-card rules. You can also go high-low for a split pot if you’re playing with a bunch of people and want to increase your chances of winning some money.

Cross-cross can also drive you crazy, and I’ll explain how in the steps that follow.

1. Every player is dealt 4 down cards and 5 community cards are dealt face down in the center. It’s very important that these cards form a “cross” or a “plus sign,” as the order in which they are turned over is vital to the betting and overall structure of the game.

2. Knowing that you will use your 4 cards and one of the two rows of cards in the middle (you can only use one of the three-card rows…either up and down or side to side. The middle card, of course, is part of both rows and therefore will be available to use regardless of which row you choose to make your best or worst hand) there is an initial round of betting.

3. The first card is flipped up (I always play that the person who dealt does the flipping for the entire hand, and I recommend you do it the same way just so you don’t have everyone reaching in and flipping cards over) and another round of betting ensues.

4. Going counterclockwise (I guess it doesn’t really matter which way you go, as long as the middle card is flipped up last), the rest of the cards are flipped up one by one, with a round of betting between each card.

5. The middle card is flipped up, and everyone can now use their 4 cards and one of the two 3-card rows to make their best poker hand. There is a final round of betting and then players show their cards.

So how does this game drive you crazy? It never fails that you can make a perfect hand with the cards on the board…but they’re just not in the same row. You’ll get great practice keeping your poker face if you’re holding a pair of kings, and the first two cards up in the cross are both Kings….but….ah, ah, ah….you can only use 1 of them in your hand.
Sucks, don’t it? Better hope for that boat.


1. One way to play criss cross is just like any other straight stud, no wild cards, no high-low, very boring. They way I look at it is if you’re going to try a new game where the rules are a little different, you might as well keep going and implement some wild cards into the mix. But, as always, it’s the dealer’s choice.

2. For the no wild-card purists that are willing to compromise just a little bit, one option is to make the middle card of the community cross wild. And, subsequently, if it’s a 5, all the other 5’s would be wild, as well. So you’d be sitting pretty with a pair of fives in your hand. This has a little bit of strategy to keep in mind, as you may want to stay in to see the last card if you’re sitting on a low to mid pair that otherwise wouldn’t be worth much.

3. My favorite way (and the way I actually learned Criss Cross) is to play with baseball rules. Of course, this also gets cloudy as there are numerous ways to play baseball. But for now, here are the rules I play with. 3s and 9s are wild. If a 3 comes face-up, you must match the pot or fold. This rule significantly hikes the value of the pot when you’re playing straight baseball and the decision only falls on 1 person…so you can imagine how much the pot grows when 5-7 people are put to the decision of matching or folding, especially if it’s late in the hand already.
Also, if a 4 comes face-up, every player gets a free down card. Some play you have the choice of buying the extra card for a predetermined amount, and that’s up to you to decide.

Personally, I’m all for wild-card games on Poker, but they definitely serve more as pot-builders and a break from Hold ‘em games and Hearts when you’re doing an all-night game. And by all-nighter, I mean nobody is ever allowed to leave before the break of dawn for fear of having all of his quarters thrown at him and being hoisted into the pool (if you have a pool. If not, just spray beer on the person, the effect is basically the same.)