Poker Game Rules


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Poker Terms

Some terms used in the game descriptions that may not be that familiar to everyone

Guts Game - a game where there is no regular rounds of bet. Once the cards are dealt each player decides whether they are betting for the entire value in the pot. The winner takes the pot, the loser(s) match the pot. Usually, the players that did not lose (including the winner) ante for the next round.

The game ends when only one player stays in.

One of the key factors in a guts game is the process of declaring whether you are in or not. We have seen/tried 3 different ways to do this:

  • walk-around - each player, starting at the player to the left of the dealer, in turn declares whether they are in or out. If the last person (the dealer on the first round) is the only person to declare that they are in, the question goes around a second time to see if anyone wants to challenge them (the last person on the first round cannot change their mind) -- this is to keep the pot from being "stolen".

    There is a substantial advantage to being the person just before the last person (the person to the right of the dealer on the first round) since if noone else has declared in, they can declare in and the only person who can stop them is the dealer (it does not go around a second time if anyone other than the last person is the only person to declare in). So, we usually rotate the starting location for each round of the deal (one position to the left, so for the second round, the person to the dealer's left will be the last person to declare).

  • chip-in-hand - each player takes a chip below the table and brings their hand above the table closed. Once all players are ready they show their hands. Players with a chip in their hand are in and those without are out.

    Usually, we add a wimp-rule that comes into play when nobody has a chip in their hands. This rule states that in such a case, the person with the best hand (which would have won had they stayed in) must match the pot up to some limit (usually $5 to $10 on a quarter ante game). This is to encourage people to stay in when they have a decent hand.

  • drop-cards - each player holds their cards over the table and once all players are ready, they drop their cards if they are out. Players holding their cards are declaring in. The wimp rule can also be applied to this game.

    We have found that it's too easy to see what other players are doing at the card drop and change your bet (dropping your cards if you see too many others holding their cards, or vice-versa) so we don't use this option any longer.


  • Loser(s) pay the winner rather than the pot (the pot grows slower this way, and the winner has a bigger pull). For some reason, this is usually the way we play when playing Burn The Cross, but not most other guts game.
  • Set a limit on the max match (so if the pot is larger than the max match, the winner takes the pot and the loser(s) match the limit. We have found that setting too low a limit makes it too easy for people to stay in, causing the game to go on longer than desired.

High-Low Split - the pot at the end of the game is split between two players with one half going to the player with the "highest" hand and the other half going to the player with the "lowest" hand. The definition of the "highest" and "lowest" hand will vary depending upon the game.

Interesting twists to a High-Low Split game:

  • highest poker hand is 5 of a kind (wild cards) followed by a straight flush, 4 of a kind, and so on.

  • lowest poker hand is A 2 3 4 6 with at least one of the cards in a different suit than the other cards. Next lowest hand is A, 2, 3, 5, 6. And so on (A, 2, 3, 4, 5 is not a low hand as it is a straight).

  • going both ways - in some games you can attempt to win both the high hand and the low hand. If you win both, you win the entire pot; however, if you do not clearly win both (notably with a tie) you loose both -- so it is rare for one to try to go both ways.

    The opportunity to go both ways usually comes in games where you have some of the cards which you don't use in one of the hands (such as a 7 card poker hand where you can only use 5 of the 7 cards as your "official" hand and so could use 5 different card for each hand (some overlapping, of course)), or you have some cards that can have different values (such as an Ace in some games which can have 1 point or 11 points).

  • declaring - at the end of the game, before the players show their hands, the players MUST declare which hand they plan to win (the low hand, high hand, or both hands) If they choose to attempt to win both, they MUST win both (a tie in this case would count as a loss) or they loose both.

    Since one might change their mind when the see how others have declared, the declaration is done by placing chips in your hand and all players showing their declaration simultaneously.

    The chip declaraions are as follows:

    • No chip - Low
    • one chip - High
    • two chips - Both

    The value of the chips doesn't matter, it's just the number of chips.

    We usually place the chips in our hands under the table (all of us obviously taking 2 chips under the table) and hold our hands out over the table such that the chips are hidden and showing the chips at the same time when everyone is ready.

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