Dealer's Choice is a popular
format for home poker games. Although money is involved,
dealer's choice games are often played mainly for entertainment
rather than for profit. The essence of the game is that on each
deal a different poker variant, chosen by the dealer, is played.
These rules are set by the
Activities Committee to ensure the game is fun and enjoyable
first and foremost. If you are looking for a game for big
money - you came to the wrong place.
The betting regimen is one bet
and three raises. The first bet is a nickel, the 1st raise
is a dime and the final two raises is a quarter each. No
deviations are permitted.
No check -
- No wild
- Dealer antes $ .05
for each player.
Players and Cards
Dealer's Choice works best with 5
to 7 players, the ideal number being six. With more players, the
range of playable variants is restricted; with fewer many of the
variants become uninteresting.
A standard 52-card pack without
jokers is used. As in any poker game, it is best to have two
packs with different colored backs, so that one can be shuffled
ready for the next hand while the other is being dealt. This
reduces the amount of down time between deals.
The first dealer is chosen by
some random process, such as dealing cards clockwise face up
until a jack appears. With one exception, mentioned later,
players take turns to deal, in clockwise order around the table.
Before beginning to deal, the
dealer chooses and announces what poker variant will be played.
The main requirement is that the dealer should be able to
explain the game clearly and concisely, remembering to deal with
any options or special rules that may be needed. Most groups
that meet regularly establish a range of variants that they like
to play. These known games, and slight modifications of them,
can be chosen without fuss. But since the variety of games
played provides part of the entertainment, most groups will be
willing to try unfamiliar variants occasionally, and dealers
sometimes introduce their own inventions, hopefully having
carefully thought them through in advance to be sure that they
To help the game run smoothly,
players should try to decide in advance what variant they are
going to call when it is next their turn to deal. Then they can
specify the game without hesitation and the game can continue
If any problems occur, such as
ambiguities in the rules, or mistakes in the deal or sequence of
play, it is the dealer's responsibility to fix them in a way
that is fair to all players. The principle that once significant
action has occurred the game must continue applies here as in
other poker games. Once two or more players have had a turn to
bet, throwing in the cards and starting again is not an option -
the problem must be solved in a way that allows the deal to be
Players, Cards and
Traditionally, poker has been
thought of as a game for 2 to 7 players, the more the better
with 6 or 7 being the ideal number. However, some variants can
be played by more than seven, and some versions work well for a
small number of players - even with just two ("heads
up"). The deal and play are clockwise.
A standard international 52-card
pack is used, and in most forms of poker there are no jokers.
The rank of the cards, from high to low, is A, K, Q, J, 10, 9,
8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2. In certain circumstances the ace can be
used as a low card, below the 2. For the purposes of comparing
hands all suits are equal.
Poker is normally played for
money, but it is convenient to use chips to represent money
during the actual games. These generally come in various
denominations, sometimes labeled with numbers 1, 2, 5, 10, 20,
50, 100, 500, and sometimes in colors such as white, red, blue
whose values must be agreed. Players buy chips from the host
before the game and redeem them for money at the end.
In outline, a game of poker is
played as follows.
- Players place an initial bet,
if required by the game being played, by placing some of
their chips into a central common area known as the pot
- The dealer deals cards to the
- Players look at their own
cards, and have the opportunity to increase their bet, in
accordance with the betting regimen into the pot. All other players must
then either put in additional funds to bring their contribution to the
pot to at least an equal amount or fold,
discarding their cards and abandoning any chips they have so
far contributed to the pot.
- Players who have not folded
are known as active players. When all
active players have contributed an equal amount to the pot,
that is the end of the betting round.
According to the variant being played, further cards may be
dealt or players may have an opportunity to exchange some
cards, after which there is another betting round, and so
- When the last betting round
has ended there is a showdown: all active players show their
cards, and the owner of the best five-card hand takes the
contents of the pot. If at any point only one active player
remains, that player automatically wins the pot without
having to show any cards.
The objective is of course to win
money, and there are two ways to do this.
- To have the best five-card
hand at the showdown.
- To persuade all the other
players to fold.
It is the second possibility that
creates the possibility for bluff. If everyone believes that you
probably have a good hand, then when you raise the stake, they
may prefer to fold rather than add to a pot that they will
probably lose. If they all fold you win, even though your hand
may in reality be much worse than theirs.
Ranking of Poker
It is of course necessary to know
which hands beat which. A poker hand always consists of five
cards. Even though in some variants you may have more
than five cards to choose from, you select the five cards that
make the best hand, and for the purpose of comparing hands any
other cards are irrelevant.
The ranking of hands from high to
low in standard poker is as follows.
- Straight Flush
- Five consecutive cards of the
same suit. Ace can be counted as high to make the highest
type of Straight Flush, which is A-K-Q-J-10 of a suit,
sometimes known as a Royal Flush. Ace can
be low to make (5-4-3-2-A), but not high and low at the same
time (for example 2-A-K-Q-J is not valid).
- Four of a Kind
- Four cards of the same rank
and one other card, such as 9-9-9-9-Q. Four of a kind are
sometimes known as quads or in some
non-English speaking countries as a poker.
The odd card - the queen in the example - is called the kicker.
- Full House
- Three cards of the same rank
plus a pair of cards of another rank, such as 5-5-5-K-K,
which would be described as "fives full of kings".
A full house is sometimes known as a boat.
- A flush consists of five cards
of the same suit (not all consecutive, otherwise it would be
a straight flush).
- Five cards of consecutive
ranks, not all of the same suit. The highest is A-K-Q-J-10
and an Ace can instead be counted as low to make the lowest
straight 5-4-3-2-A, which is sometimes called a wheel.
An Ace cannot be in the interior of a straight - for example
4-3-2-A-K is not a straight.
- Three of a Kind
- Three cards of the same rank
and two cards of different ranks - for example 7-7-7-10-6.
This is sometimes known as a triplet or trips.
- Two Pair
- Two cards of one rank, two
cards of a second rank and one card of a third rank (the
kicker) - for example J-J-3-3-8.
- Two cards of equal rank and
three cards of different ranks - for example Q-Q-A-8-7.
- A hand which does not fit any
of the categories above, commonly known as High Card
or sometimes No Pair. That is: five cards
of different ranks, not all consecutive and not all the same
Any hand of a higher type beats
any hand of a lower type. When comparing two hands of the same
type, the ranking is determined by the ranks of the individual
cards. The most numerous rank of cards in each hand (the quad,
the triplet in a full house or trips, otherwise the pair if any)
is compared first; if these are equal, any less numerous ranks
are compared. When two ranks are equally numerous, the
highest-ranking cards are compared before the others.
Note that in standard poker the
four suits are all equal, and that poker hands
consist of five cards only. Therefore if two
players can make five-card hands that are equal apart from the
suits of the cards, there is a tie and if necessary they share
the winnings equally.
- 4-4-4-7-7 beats 2-2-2-K-K
because 4 is higher than 2, and 4-4-4-3-2 beats 2-2-2-A-K
for the same reason.
- 5-5-5-9-9 beats 5-5-5-6-6
(these two hands could appear together in a game with shared
cards or wild cards).
- K-K-2-2-A beats 7-7-3-3-Q,
because the higher-ranking pairs are compared first and
kings beat 7's.
- 7-7-3-3-Q beats 7-7-2-2-A
because the higher-ranking pairs are equal, and the 3's beat
- A-K-8-3-2 beats A-K-7-6-5,
because 8 is higher than 7, the highest two cards in each
hand being equal.
- 6-5-4-3-2 beats 5-4-3-2-A,
because the ace must be low to make the straight.
The hand ranking above applies to
standard poker. There are modifications to this in certain types
of poker variant, for example:
- games with wild cards - cards
that can be used to represent a card of any suit or rank;
- low poker or lowball games, in
which the lowest ranking hand wins - also in the low
component of high-low games in which the highest and lowest
hands share the pot;
- games with stripped decks -
decks of less than 52 cards obtained by removing the lowest
- Before starting a game of
poker, it is necessary to decide what variation of poker
will be played, and for what stakes.
- If you play in a formal game
in a casino or tournament or play online, then these
decisions have already been made by the host and by joining
a table you accept the game and stakes played at that table.
- The same applies if you join
an established private game: you need to find out from the
host what rules and stakes are used, and abide by them.
- If you play regularly with the
same group of people, you have probably settled these
questions in the past and if you always play the same way,
no discussion may be needed.
- However, if any new players
join your group it is important to make sure at the outset
that everyone understands the house rules and stakes.
Different players may be used to different arrangements, and
disputes that arise during a game from genuine rule
misunderstandings can be very difficult to resolve fairly
- Which variation?
- There are hundreds of
different varieties of poker.
- Casino card room games and
online games are normally devoted to a single type of poker.
Some private games are like this too, but many prefer to
play "dealer's choice", in which each player may
choose a different variant at his or her turn to deal.
The Deal and the
Since in most poker games the
dealer has a positional advantage, the first dealer is chosen at
random. Traditionally, one of the players deals cards face up
one at a time from a shuffled deck and the dealer is the first
player who receives a Jack. Since this method slightly favours
those who receive their cards first, players may prefer to deal
just one card each and the highest deals. If two players receive
equal highest cards, suits rank in the order spades (high),
hearts, diamonds, clubs (low) (but note that this suit order is not
used to break ties between hands in the showdown).
The dealer then shuffles the
cards thoroughly and offers them to the player to the right to
cut. If this player declines to cut, any other player may cut.
When the cards are cut, each portion of the pack must contain at
least five cards.
position of the dealer is often marked by a token called the dealer
button which is passed to the left after each hand. In
a formal game, for example in a casino or tournament, the house
will normally provide a professional dealer who does not play,
but shuffles and deals every hand on behalf of the player with
the dealer button. In this case, often there is no cut. The
dealer also looks after the pot and the discards, and generally
makes sure that the game proceeds smoothly and the rules are
observed. When poker is played on line, the virtual cards are of
course shuffled and dealt by the server computer. In what
follows, "dealer" means the player who currently has
the dealer button, irrespective of who actually deals the cards.
The cards are dealt as required
by the rules of the particular variant being played. In formal
games, each stage of the deal is normally begun by burning
a card - that is, dealing the top card of the pack face down -
before dealing cards to the players or the table. In casinos the
dealer slides the burned cards under the pile of chips that
constitutes the pot.
At various points during or after
the deal there will be a betting round. The
details of when these betting rounds occur depend on the variant
being played, but the principles are always the same. During the
betting round all dealing, exchange of cards, etc. is suspended,
and the players have an opportunity to increase their bets.
In most variants the first
betting round is begun by the player to the left of the dealer
if all the players have placed an equal ante in the pot. If only
some of the players have put funds in the pot - for example in a
game played with blinds - then the round is begun by the player
to the left of the player(s) who have already put in a stake.
The second and subsequent betting rounds may, according to the
variant, be begun by the nearest active player to the left of
the dealer seat, or by a player determined by the action in the
previous betting round. In variants where some cards are dealt
face up, each betting round may begin with the player who has
the best (or worst) hand showing.
The players act
in clockwise order around the table, continuing for as many
circuits as are necessary, missing any players who have dropped
out, until all active players have had a turn and the stakes of
all the active players are equal.
If no one has bet so far in the
current betting round, and the value of chips contributed by all
active players is equal, you have two options at your turn:
- You do not wish to bet more
chips at the moment, but you remain active and reserve the
right to take part in future betting. In the first betting
round, when all players have contributed an equal ante,
players often say pass rather than check.
- You bet some more chips by
pushing them towards the pot. The amount must be between the
minimum and maximum limits currently in force. The player
who bets first in the first betting round is said to open
If you have fewer chips in the
pot than some other player, either because there has been a bet
in the current betting round, or in the first round when some of
the players placed blinds, you have three options:
- You drop out of the hand,
discarding your cards face down onto a discard pile, which
is known as the muck. No player is allowed
to see the cards you discarded. You will take no further
part until the next deal, and any chips you have placed in
the pot are lost to the eventual winner of the pot.
- In order to remain active, you
match the latest bet or raise, but you do not try to
increase it further. You push towards the pot enough chips
so that your total contribution to the pot equals that of
the player who last bet or raised.
- You increase the bet by
pushing towards the pot the amount that you would need to
call plus the value of your raise. The value of your raise
must be between the minimum and maximum limits.
The betting round ends when
either all the active players check, or all the other active
players call the last bet or raise, or there is only one active
- If only one active player
remains, this player immediately wins the pot, and does not
have to show his or her cards (except in a few variants that
have a minimum hand requirement to win the pot). The deal is
over, the cards are collected, and if the session is to
continue the players ante for a new deal.
- If more than one active player
remains the game continues to the next stage - a
continuation of the deal, an opportunity to exchange cards,
or a showdown, according to the variant.
players: A, B, C, D, E, F. All place $1 ante. In the first
betting round A checks, B bets $2 and C folds. Now D raises $4.
In order to do this D has to contribute $6 worth of chips: $2 to
match B's bet and another $4 for the raise. E calls, which costs
$6, the amount needed to match what D has put in. Suppose F
wants to raise another $4. F must produce $10 in chips: $6 to
match what D has put in plus $4 for the raise. It is now A's
turn and it would cost A $10 to call: A decides to fold. B
calls, which costs $8, the difference between the $2 B already
put in and F's $10. C is already out so does not get a turn.
Having already put in $6, D could call for $4, but decides to
fold. E calls for $4, the difference between F's $10 and the $6
that E has already put in. That ends the betting round, because
the three active players B, E and F have each put in $10 in this
round. F, who was the last to raise, does not get another turn.
These three $10 bets plus the $6 from D are combined with the
antes to form a pot of $42.
In practice, most betting rounds
are much less eventful than this. Not infrequently one player
will bet, all the others will fold, and that player will collect
the pot, winning no more than the other players' antes.
It is important that at their
turn players clearly state what they are doing, by saying
"call", "raise", etc. or by making an
unambiguous gesture of pushing chips towards the pot or
discarding their cards. Having indicated what you are going to
do you are not allowed to change your mind. In particular you
must not make what is known as a "string raise": match
the previous bet as though calling, pause to observe the
reactions of the other players, and then add a raise.
In theory this is simple.
- If all players except one have
folded there is no showdown. The single surviving player
simply takes the pot without having to show any cards.
- If there is more than one
active player at the end, they all show their cards to
everyone, and the holder of the best hand (according to the
hand ranking explained above) wins the whole pot.
- If two or more active players
turn out to have equally good hands, beating all the others,
they share the contents of the pot equally between them.
In practice some complications
Some players are reluctant to be
the first to show their cards: they would prefer to wait to see
the other players' hands and then show their own cards only if
they can win. To avoid a stalemate between such players, the
rule is that the player who was the last to take positive action
(bet or raise) in the final betting round must show first,
followed by the other active players in clockwise order. If
everyone checked in the last betting round, the first active
player to the left of the dealer seat shows first. Despite this
rule, to speed up the game, active players are encouraged to
show their cards immediately rather than waiting for their turn.
In a showdown, players showing a
hand must expose the whole of their hand. It is
not sufficient to show just enough cards to prove that one has a
good enough hand to win, and not just the five cards that are
being used to make one's best hand. In the showdown, players
must show all the cards they were dealt, all
at once, so that everyone at the table can see what
Players who expose their hands
quite often also announce what type of hand they have, but in
some cases a player may overlook some combination and announce a
weaker hand than he or she really has. This would be unlikely to
happen in a straightforward game with five-card hands, but in
variants where players select the best hand from seven or more
cards, or where wild cards are involved, it is not uncommon for
some better possibility to be missed. In formal poker games the
usual rule is that "the cards speak for themselves".
This means that when a player's hand is exposed at the showdown,
it counts as the best five-card hand that can be made from it,
even if the owner of the hand does not find it. It is the duty
of the dealer or any other player who notices to point out what
the best hand is, and it is treated as such, irrespective of how
the owner described it. In some private games, however, the
reverse rule is used: that players must declare what their hand
is, and provided that the hand they declare can be made from the
cards shown, that is how it is treated even if a better hand was
Some players prefer to muck
(discard) their cards without showing them when they can see
that they are beaten. This is normal practice, but the
traditional rule is that any player who was dealt a hand, even a
player who has folded, has the right to see the hand of any
player who was involved in the showdown. The purpose of the rule
is primarily to enable collusion between players to be exposed,
and it is considered poor etiquette to insist on the right to
see a discarded hand without good reason. In particular a player
should not continually demand to see another player's hand so as
to analyse that player's style of play or simply to irritate the
player, and the winner of the pot should not ask to see a
loser's hand. Formal poker games often have the rule that the
right to see discarded hands at showdown can be revoked if
overused by a player.
Here is a quick summary of some
of the best known poker variants. A fuller list will be found on
Card Draw is one of the oldest and best known poker
games, but has been superseded in popularity by some of the
newer styles. Each player is dealt a private hand of five cards.
Players look at their cards and there is a first betting round,
begun by the player to the left of dealer's seat. If all pass
(check), the cards are thrown in, the dealer button is passed to
the left and a new ante is added to the pot.
If the betting was opened, then
after the first betting round each player in turn can discard
any number of cards face down, and is dealt an equal number of
replacement cards. Then there is a second betting round, begun
by the player who opened the betting in the first round, or if
this player has folded by the nearest active player to the
opener's left. If more than one player survives the second
round, there is a showdown.
Five Card Draw is often played
with a minimum requirement of a pair of jacks to open ("Jacks
or Low Poker, the lowest ranking hand wins the
pot. Players need to agree whether aces can be counted as low
for this purpose, and whether straights and flushes count.
Depending on the answers, the best possible hand will be
5-4-3-2-A or 6-4-3-2-A (mixed suits) or 7-5-4-3-2 (mixed suits).
Note that in a "High Card" hand the cards are still
compared in order from highest to lowest, so in Lowball
8-6-5-4-3 beats 8-7-4-3-2 because 6 is lower than 7. The
mechanism - deal, draw and betting rounds - are essentially the
same as in Draw Poker.
Low versions of other poker
variants can also be played, and it is also possible to play
that there are two winners, the holders of the highest and
lowest hands splitting the pot.
In stud poker games, some of the
cards are dealt face up, and there are several betting rounds
during the deal.
Card Stud, the dealer begins by dealing one card
face down to each player (the hole card) and
then one card face up. Players may look at their own hole cards.
The first betting round is begun by the player with the highest
face-up card. Five Card Stud is sometimes played without an
ante, in which case the player with the highest card showing
must open with a minimum bet. When the betting round is complete
the dealer deals another face up card to each player and there
is another betting round, begun by the player who currently has
the best hand showing. This is repeated until each player has
five cards - one face down and four face up - and after the
final betting round there is a showdown between the survivors.
Card Stud is nowadays more popular than five-card.
Each player is dealt (one card at a time) two face down hole
cards and one card face up. The first betting round was
traditionally begun by the player with the highest card showing,
but some groups play that the player showing the lowest
card must open with a compulsory bet, called the bring-in.
After the first betting round one face up card (fourth
street) is dealt to each player and there is a second
betting round, this time always started by the highest hand
showing. This procedure is repeated for the next two face up
cards (fifth and sixth street).
The final card (seventh street) is dealt face
down, so that each player has four cards showing and three
private cards - the first, second and last. After a final round
of betting there is a showdown in which the active players show
all their cards, and the winner is the player whose hand
includes five cards that make the best poker hand.
is a lowball version of Seven Card Stud, in which the lowest
five-card poker hand wins the pot. Aces can be used as low cards
and flushes and straights do not count, so the lowest hand is
5-4-3-2-A. The first betting round is begun with a compulsory
bet by owner of the highest card showing; subsequent rounds are
begun by the owner of the lowest hand showing.
Seven Card Stud is often played high-low.
The procedure is the same as in ordinary Seven Card Stud except
that at the showdown the pot is shared equally between the
highest and lowest five-card hands. A player can use a different
subset of five cards to compete for high and low, thus winning
both parts of the pot. It's also possible to win the whole pot
with the same five cards - for example if those cards form a
straight or flush, which counts for high but not for low. Often
this game is played with a rule that a five-card hand must have
no card higher than 8 to qualify to win the low half of the pot
- this version is known as Eight or Better. If
no one qualifies for low, the high hand takes the whole pot.
Shared Card Poker
In Shared Card or Community Card
games, some cards are dealt face up to the center of the table
and can be used by all players as a part of their hand. The best
known game of this type is Texas Hold'em, which thanks to
televised tournaments towards at the end of the 20th century and
its success as an online game at the start of the 21st has
become one of the most popular poker variants.
is another well-known shared card game. After the blinds have
been placed, each player is dealt four hole cards. The betting
and the remainder of the deal is similar to Texas Hold'em: a
betting round;, a three-card flop dealt face up; a second
betting round; a single "turn" card dealt face up; a
third betting round; a single "river" card dealt face
up; a final betting round. In the showdown, each player must use
exactly two hole cards plus exactly
three of the five cards on the table to make the best
five-card poker hand.
A popular variant is Omaha
Hi-Lo/8, which is played like Omaha except that the
pot is shared equally between the highest and lowest hands at
the showdown. Players can use different cards for the high and
the low, but always two cards from hand and three from the table
in each case. When comparing low hands aces are low and
straights and flushes do not count. To qualify to win the low
part of the pot, none of the five cards can be higher than 8. If
there is no qualifying hand the high hand wins the whole pot.
Compendium Poker Games
Rather than sticking continuously
to a single poker variant, many players prefer to play several
different variants within a single session. For this reason,
home poker games are often played as Dealer's
Choice. Each dealer in turn announces, before the
antes are placed, what variant will be played for that deal
only. This way everyone gets a chance to play their favorite
version from time to time. Most groups will have a repertoire of
variants that they regularly play, so the announcement can be
quite brief. Often gambling games that are not strictly types of
poker such as Guts, 7-27 or Bourré
will be permitted.
No set of rules for poker covers
every possible irregularity. Most try to cover the most common
mishaps, and leave it to the house, or the dealer in a home
game, to resolve other problems as fairly as possible with the
minimum disruption to the game. Here are some general
"Action" is a pass,
bet, check, raise or fold by any player. If two or more players
have acted, that constitutes "significant
action". Once the initial cards have been dealt
and significant action has taken place, the play must continue.
Problems with the deal
Under strict rules, any error in
the initial deal, such as giving too many or too few cards to
any player, dealing an extra hand or missing out a player who
should have been dealt a hand, omitting the shuffle or cut or
exposing cards counts as a misdeal, provided that it is pointed
out before there has been significant action. In this case the
cards are thrown in, the shuffle and cut are repeated and the
cards are re-dealt by the same dealer.
In an informal home poker game,
players may agree that re-dealing in such a case wastes too much
time. In that case the deal may be corrected if possible in a
way that is fair to the players. For example a player who has
one card too few may be dealt another card, a player who has one
card too many may hold his cards face down while another player
removes a card from it at random, and this card is shuffled into
the deck, and so on.
In some home games, if a player
misdeals more than a certain number of times in succession (say
more than twice), the deal passes to the next player, and the
mis-dealer may be required to pay a penalty, such as matching the
After significant action has
taken place, the cards can no longer be re-dealt. Players should
check at the start that they have the right number of cards. A
player who has the wrong number of cards at the showdown cannot
win the pot.
Players are responsible not only
for making sure that they have the right number of cards, but
also for ensuring that their concealed cards cannot be seen by
any other player, and that their cards are kept separate from
any common table cards and especially from the discard pile or
"muck". The strict rule is that any hand that touches
the muck is dead and the owner can no longer win the pot. In
fact "mucking" a hand by placing it in contact with
the discard pile is commonly used as a method of folding.
Players must not deliberately
expose cards that are meant to be concealed. Any card
accidentally shown to any player (either from the deck or
another player's hand) must immediately be shown to all players.
Action out of turn
Players must be careful not to
indicate what their action (check, raise, fold, etc.) will be
before their turn. If any player accidentally does this, then
they are committed to take that action when their proper turn
Cheating and collusion
Players must not advise one
another, and non-players are not allowed to help the players in
any way. Each player must play alone, in his or her own interest
only. Playing in such a way as to help another player is known
as collusion. It is considered a form of cheating and would be
grounds for being expelled from a formal game.