Friday, May 9, 2008

It takes Guts.

Today I'm going over a game from a different family of poker. It's called Guts. If you haven't heard of it, be afraid.

Like most card games, there are different variations of Guts. My favorite keeps it simple, two-card Guts. The betting beings with an ante. Everyone is dealt two cards down and the players review their hand. The hand strength ranges from a pair of aces being he strongest down to a 3 high card being the weakest. The players then declare whether they are in or out for the round. Declarations must be made by all players and at the same time. This is usually done by players holding their hands out, opening them at the same time, and revealing either a chip (meaning in) or an empty palm. The players who are in showdown their hands. The best hand takes the pot, all losers match the pot. The players who opted out only lose their ante. A new round follows with all players anteing, declaring and showing down once more.

This game is an exercise in escalation. As players stay in and rounds roll over, the pots become huge. To illustrate, an example: If the game has seven players anteing a dollar each, the pot begins at $7. Three players declare in, meaning two will lose. They each pay the pot $7 while the winner takes $7. Round two, everyone antes. The pot is now $21. If round two has 4 players in, the pot will be $70 going into round three. I've seen rounds go up to eight and I barely ever play Guts.

It's hard to appreciate the fortunes won and lost at this game unless you play, but please keep it small. If you are used to putting $50 on the line, I wouldn't start with antes over a quarter. You'll be at $50 in no time. Keep in mind the game doesn't end until only one player declares in, giving the player with the most disposable income a considerable advantage.


  1. I will throw out a guts game variant, I've learned as 3-5-7.

    It consists of several rounds, each of which has 3 hands. Each round you start with 3 cards, then add 2 for total of 5 and ad two more for a total of 7. An ante is required at the beginning of each round. On the 3 card hand 3's are wild, 5's are wild on the 5 card hand, and 7's are wild on the 7 card hand. Instead of using chips to indicate in or out we usually have the dealer count to 3 allowing folks to push their cards to the middle on or before 3 (this allows for a bit of bluffing). If more than 1 person pushes in then cards are passed around so that only those who have gone in may see them. A mental note is made at to who won, and everyone who went in must pay that person an amount equal to the pot, but the pot only increases at the beginning of a hand. If someone goes in by themselves they earn a 'leg' once 4 legs are acquired victory is achieved, and that person wins the pot. We usually stipulate that if a player is about to claim his 4th leg everyone else may have infinite time to challenge.

    It's an entertaining game, but as you say using a large ante such as $1 can bring the pain in a 5-7 player game very quickly.

  2. We have a similar game called three card brag and the pots are ridiculous. I'm unsure of the exact rules as I've only watched the odd game go down at the pub but the highest ranking is 333 and I've seen £300-£400 change hands without themeven looking at their cards! It's madness, pure luck and basically whoever has the most money and dares to lose it will win!