With the popularity of poker still growing, I know many people have organized a group of friends for a regular poker game at home. Your game might be weekly, monthly, or less frequent; but I’m sure you run into the same problem myself and my friends have run into. You find that certain variations become the “favorite” of your group of friends. That’s great, but then eventually the complaints start coming that there isn’t enough variety in the games that the dealer calls when he is dealing a hand. Well, at our game last night my friends and I decided to try a few new variations of the games we usually play. Some were successes, and some were just so-so.

The new variation we played the most was a variation of no-peek baseball. We decided to add a little twist with the seven card. If a seven came up the person with that card had the option to change one of the wild cards that were currently in play. You will need to set a cost to do it though, we chose two times the cost of the wild cards. If a player chooses to change the wild card they pay the fee to the pot, and then they declare the wildcard they are changing and then flip over the top card from a separate deck of cards. This cancelled any wild cards players had of the previous card and now this new card replaced that wild card. The interesting thing is, someone that had all their cards played but had not folded could have their hand become much better or much worse even as the game progressed even if they had no cards remaining to flip. This version kept people in the game longer, sometimes calling bets even though they had second best hand with no cards remaining to flip. As I mentioned this game was played the most by our friends, and everyone enjoyed the game.

Our group has never been big fans of five card draw. Last night though we played “spit”. I’m sure many of you have been playing this all along but for those that haven’t it’s a decent variation of the bland five card draw game. Each player receives four cards in their hand and there is one community card. This card serves as a wild card for everyone, and any matching cards in your hand are also wild. As with five card draw you bet, get one chance to draw, bet again and compare hands for a winner. We felt this was a game we won’t play a lot, but it will be played more often than five card draw as the community wild card made it a little more interesting.

The game we play the most, and probably overplay is follow the queen. We do usually have a few options to spice it up such as high and low chicago, but still it was becoming the game dealers called about 70% of the time. We tried two different versions to change things up in our last poker night. The first was “killer kings”. In that version if a king was dealt face up in cancelled all the wild cards and made kings the only wild card. Then, if a queen was dealt face up at some point after that the game went back to traditional follow the queen. Of course if another king was dealt face up again, once again the king became the only wild card game. This added some intrigue to the game with a chance of wild cards changing significantly. Our group enjoyed this game, it wasn’t called a lot, but we all agreed it would be dealt more often at future poker nights. The other variation of follow the queen we played is sometimes referred to as “two-thirds” or “two out of three”. To win a hand you must have at least two of the following three: best poker hand, high chicago (high spade in the hole) or low chicago (low spade in the hole). If nobody had two of these three, then the hand was redealt. Here was the kicker though, if you folded you were out of the hand for the redeal. We found this game typically had a winner once you were down to three players, and the pot did grow to decent sizes in some of the games depending on how many people folded and how quickly. This was one we agreed was a good game, but only when everyone had a decent amount of chips, if one player was low on chips we agreed not to call this game.

The final variation of poker we played was a variation on Omaha Hi. Instead of each player getting four cards they each got five and discarded one immediately. To play this game you must have at least five players, because the discarded cards are what are shuffled and used as the communal cards (flop, river, and turn), so odds favor most players knowing what one of the communal cards will be. The rest of the game is played exactly like standard Omaha Hi. You can also play this as Omaha Hi-Low if you wish.

I hope that you will find a few of these poker variations interesting enough to give a try at your next poker night with your friends.