Creating Poker Variants
Poker has become such a mainstream phenomenon these days, people are beginning to spread their poker interests into a wealth of alternative games. Pineapple is a prime example.
A simple variation of Texas Holdem that just gives players 3 cards to start with, and then makes the fold one right off the bat. Once players begin to discover the excitement of creating their own variations though, they will find that their home poker games are not only more fun and entertaining, but their overall poker knowledge will increase.
While at some recent home games with friends we came up with some funny and fun variants, and have overcome some of the pitfalls that come with them.
Some Basic Variations
Before you come up with an inventive new name for you poker variant, you have to establish the game changes and rules. Here are some of the basics.
- Deal an extra card or two and have players discard their choice.
- Give the players options, such as the option to flip up a card or discard one.
- Add a wild-card.
- If your adventurous, force a trade card or up-card rule.
Things to Watch For
Occasionally a game just won’t work. Make sure you keep your additions simple, because a complex poker game can take the fun out of it altogether. Watch out for situations where you may run out of cards in the deck as well, as they occur often when you add extra cards to the mix. Rules that focus on dealers or blind-players have potential to be unfair, so make sure any rule you add applies to everyone at the table.
A good example would be a game I recently came up with at our home game. The game was 7 card stud, but here was the twist. The first three cards are all dealt face down, and each player may look at his cards. They can then decide whether to flip up a card of their choice and keep their 3 cards, or discard a card face down and be dealt a new card face up. This gave each player an interesting new option. They could pick a nice Ace intimidator to flip up, or they could flip up a relatively weak card while keeping, say, a high pocket pair down. Also they could consider just discarding their weak card to get a new one. There was one little flaw we discovered while playing this game though, and that was that it was unfair for the people closest to the dealer, as the other players would be able to see their decision before deciding what they wanted to do. We adjusted the game so that people who wanted to flip their card up would wait until everyone acted, and then flip it up, so that each person would have an equally informed decision.
Playing Your Variant Successfully
Before you deal the cards, you might want to start a little discussion on what the logistics of the variant are. Bring up some strategies you think would help win and see where it leads. While it might seem like a bad idea to just give away your potential strategies, I have found that more often than not you will discover some minor point that you would otherwise have overlooked.
As you can see, variants can be both fun and challenging. I highly recommend trying this at your next home game. It builds a level of friendship and comradeship as well, as players that regularly come to the game will be comfortable playing their favorite game variants and will be able to tell others about their better versions of the plain vanilla versions. Nothing against the regular games, but a couple variants lend to an overall better poker game night.