9 UNIQUE WAYS TO SPICE UP
YOUR HOME POKER GAME
YOUR HOME POKER GAME
Poker is a fun and exciting game that can keep you entertained for many hours, but occasionally it can be fun to change things up and add a few extra rules to the standard format. Of course, no casino in the world would let you modify the rules at the regular tables, but when you're hosting a home game, nothing prevents you from changing the game however you wish. Before you start playing with modified rules however, you should consider three things first.
DON'T PLAY FOR REAL
Because some of these rules are somewhat unconventional and not recognized in established poker variants, it might be worth only playing for fun and keeping anything of real value out of the game, at least until everybody gets used to the new rules. If you're still determined to play for real to keep the game interesting, make sure any buy-in is low.
MAKE SURE EVERYBODY UNDERSTANDS THE RULES
Before introducing any new rules into the game, ensure everybody knows and understands them. This is generally good practice before starting any home poker game. If everybody knows and agrees on a set of rules beforehand, disputes are less likely to occur.
VOTE ON ALL DISPUTES
As the host, it may fall on you to be the judge of any disputes. However, this is unnecessary pressure to put on yourself. Instead, make all game-related decisions a democratic process; if two players have a dispute, let them plead their cases to the rest of the table, then get everyone to vote on the right course of action. All decisions are final. This method will ensure the responsibility of making decisions is spread among everyone. It will also help avoid any dissent or bitterness about the outcome of the dispute being solely directed at the host.
Without further ado, here are nine unique rules you can use to spice up your next home poker game.
1. BLIND ROUND
Start the round like a regular game of Texas Hold’em, or whatever poker variant you are playing. Under normal circumstances, players will generally pick up their cards the moment they are dealt and start strategizing; however, if you are playing a blind round, nobody can look at their cards until they either fold or finish the last round of betting.
After that, the game unfolds like it usually would; betting is the same; players can still fold if they want, but nobody knows what their cards are. Don't flip your cards over until the showdown. The winner is decided using the standard hand rankings for whatever poker variant is being played.
2. SEVEN DEUCE RULE
A 2-7 off suit is statistically the worst starting hand in Texas Hold’em. It's challenging to make a straight, flush and other high combinations and even if you get lucky and make a hand, odds are, somebody else will have something far better. The Seven Deuce Rule introduces a new element to this hand. If a player can win with 7, 2 and show the cards, whether that be at the showdown or by making everyone fold because of a solid bluff, everyone at the table has to give them a big blind bounty.
All the players at the table should agree on the size of the bounty before the start of play. As a rule of thumb, make the bounty between two and seven big blinds. This rule can be used for any of the other poker variants as well. Pick one of the statistically worst starting hands and agree on the size of a bounty for any player brave enough to play the hand and win.
3. CRAZY EIGHTS
Similar to Joker Poker and Jokers Wild, Crazy Eights allows players to use 8’s as a wildcard to represent one other card and complete a combination. For example, an 8 can be used to complete the last piece of a straight, four of a kind, three of a kind, and substitute for any suit in a flush. However, the Crazy Eights rule adds an extra twist to this concept. Eights of diamonds and hearts can only count as 8 and above, so 8, 9, 10, jack, king, queen, ace, while clubs and spades can only count for 8 and below, so 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, and a low ace in a straight.
4. LIGHTNING ROUND
Set a timer for a random duration and start playing poker. When the device goes off, you begin a lighting round. If a hand is still in progress, finish before starting the lighting round. Before the cards are dealt, the betting starts, going clockwise as usual. Players can choose to fold as they normally would if the betting gets too high.
Once everyone has either chosen to fold or bet, each player is dealt their hand face up; there are no more betting rounds. Everyone still in the round is essentially playing an open hand from that moment onward. If you are playing a community card poker variant like Texas Hold’em, deal the flop, turn and river at the same time.
There is only one betting stage in a lightning round, after that, the game unfolds to the showdown without any further interruptions. Whoever has the highest ranked hand wins. Then reset the timer and continue playing normally. Wait until the timer goes off again before starting the next lightning round. If everyone folds at the start of the lightning round, the last player in sequence gets whatever blinds or antes are in the pot.
5. MUSICAL CHAIRS
Musical Chairs is played at parties worldwide. With a few, slight modifications, it can also provide a fun new rule at the poker tables. First, put on a playlist of random songs. Generally, just before a new song, there will be a few seconds of silence, a pause, or if you are using a free version of an online music streaming service, an ad; when this happens, everyone vacates their seat and moves to their right, leaving behind their cards and chip stack.
Everything is traded, cards and chip stack. Even if you’re in the middle of the hand, you still change, and the new player takes over the hand. Pick a playlist of songs everyone is unfamiliar with to ensure nobody can predict how long each song is and form a strategy to gain an edge. The rest of the game rules are the same. Alternatively, set a timer if you prefer not to use music as a guide for changing places.
6. TAX HAND
Nobody likes paying taxes. However, in the context of poker, taxes can add a great deal of fun and energy to a game, and for one lucky player, a chance for a quick chip up. Pick a common poker hand, such as a pair, to be the tax hand. From that moment onward, every time someone wins with a pair, whether it be at the showdown or through bluffing, they have to pay 50 per cent of their winnings in taxes. All chips paid in taxes are set aside.
This will take some measure of honesty, especially if somebody makes everyone fold before the showdown and mucks their cards. You can set a penalty for tax evasion, but it's tough to prove and enforce, and ultimately might cause more trouble than it's worth. After you pick the tax hand, decide how much accumulated wealth needs to go into the tax pile before it pays out. For example, if the limit is set at 3000, when a player pays their tax into the pile and it surpasses 3000, they collect all the chips as a tax refund. After a tax refund, start the process again. For added amusement, you can come up with creative names for the tax pile and tax hand.
7. PARTY FOULS
Home poker games can get very rowdy, especially if drinks are involved. The general shenanigans that come with a home poker night are fun, but they can also slow the game down significantly. To combat this, use the Party Foul Rule. As a group, make a list of party fouls beforehand and every time someone commits one of these offences, they pay a fine. The fine should be between four and ten big blinds.
The list of party fouls could include betting out of turn, spilling a drink, ruining a hand by talking, picking up a phone at the table or anything that holds up the game. All fines are held on the side of the table, and the next time there is a family pot, a pot where every player is still playing after the first betting round, all the fines are thrown in the middle and added to the total as a bonus. Whoever wins the round takes it all. After the pile of fines is gone, start the process again.
8. BANNED HANDS
Occasionally, one player wins constantly with a particular hand, and it can get very frustrating. Typically, the only remedy for this situation is to beat them at the tables, but with this rule, you can get a measure of petty revenge with little to no effort. Going clockwise around the table, each player gets a card; the highest card wins the right to go first, just like when you decide the dealer.
Starting with the high card winner, and going clockwise around the table, everybody picks one hand that the person next to them is banned from winning with. If a player is dealt their banned hand, it doesn't count, even against a hand that is ranked lower. For example, if a player's banned hand is a straight, and they reach the showdown with a straight, and their opponent only has a pair, the player with the pair wins the pot. The only way for a player to succeed with their banned hand is to bluff, force everyone to fold before the showdown and muck their cards.
9. BONUS CARDS
There are already poker variants like stud and Omaha Poker that introduce more cards into play, but there is nothing preventing you from adding more bonus cards into the game. Keep all the standard rules around betting and other aspects of the game but increase or decrease the number of cards everyone gets at the start of play.
For example, during a community card game like Texas Hold’em, add two extra rounds after the river, increasing the number of cards on the board to seven. Use three decks of cards and add five extra rounds of betting. Get creative. The only limit on adding bonus cards is how big the decks are and how long you want each round to last.
BONUS TIP—MAKE UP YOUR OWN RULES
The best part about hosting a home game is you can decide every aspect of the game, from the buy-in to the number of players and the venue. If anybody at the game has an idea for a fun new rule, why not try it for a few rounds. Many of the most popular poker variants resulted from players modifying already established formats. Who knows, maybe the rule you invent might catch on one day and the resulting poker variant ends up travelling from your living room to casinos all around the world.