POKER

The Ultimate Guide to Indian Poker: Rules, Strategies, and How to Play

By David Huber
April 02, 2024

Indian Poker is a simple yet fun poker variant that can be enjoyed and wagered on in just about any casual card playing environment.

Known by many as “Blind Man’s Bluff,” Indian Poker gets its name from the physical similarities between actual gameplay and a Native American’s headdress — which is to say that players are required to hold their single card near the center of their respective foreheads.

This may sound complicated to individuals who have never played the game, but Indian Poker is one of the easiest poker variants to learn.

And while the entertainment value of Indian Poker might wane after a few hands, the variant — similar to Stand Up Poker — can serve as a “break in the action” during a normal home game session.

Indian Poker

How To Play Indian Poker

To play a hand of Indian Poker, you will need between 3-8 players along with the following poker accessories:

Note that, depending on the size (area) of your poker playing surface, the ideal number of people dealt into any Indian Poker hand may be anywhere between 4-6 players.

Indian Poker Rules

The game begins a forced ante contribution from each player at the table. Then, the dealer/player deals one single card, face down, to each player who is competing in the hand.

Once the antes have been collected and placed into the pot, and once each player has received a face-down card, all players simultaneously place their single card, face-up, on their respective foreheads and hold it there using one hand.

For this game to work as intended, players should be able to actually see every other player’s card except their own. This means that it is vitally important that players do NOT see their own card in order to respect the integrity of any Indian Poker game.

Once all players are holding their single card near their forehead so all competitors can see, a betting round ensues.

This betting round typically starts with the player located to the dealer’s left and continues clockwise until the last player has a chance to act. If a player is also performing the role of dealer, then that player would be the last to act.

During the single betting round of Indian Poker, the action can be checked, bet, raised, re-raised, and/or folded similar to any Fixed Limit format.

Once all the action for the sole betting round has concluded, the players who are still in the pot reveal their cards simultaneously. The player with the highest ranking card (Ace-high,K-Q-J-T-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-low) wins.

If two or more players have the highest ranking card, then the pot is typically chopped between those players.

Indian Poker Sample Hand

The following sample hand is aimed at answering the question, “How do you play Indian Poker?”

6 Players agree to play a hand of Indian Poker. Before any cards are dealt, each player places a $0.05 chip into the pot.

The total pot is now $0.30.

All 6 players then receiving a single, face-down card which they are NOT allowed to see.

Each player, without looking at their own card, then uses one hand to hold the card “face-up” so every other player can easily view the card.

PLAYER 1: 6d
PLAYER 2: Ah
PLAYER 3: 5h
PLAYER 4: Jc
PLAYER 5: Jh
PLAYER 6: 8d

A betting round then takes place. In this sample hand, we’ll assume that the dealer is not participating in the hand, and that PLAYER 1 is first to act.

PLAYER 1: CHECK
PLAYER 2: BETS $0.10
PLAYER 3: FOLDS
PLAYER 4: CALLS $0.10
PLAYER 5: RAISES to $0.20
PLAYER 6: FOLDS
PLAYER 1: FOLDS
PLAYER 2: FOLDS
PLAYER 4: CALLS $0.20

The total amount now in the pot is $0.80.

PLAYER 4 and PLAYER 5 simultaneously remove their respective card from their foreheads and place it face up on the table.

PLAYER 4 shows down Jc
PLAYER 5 shows down Jh

PLAYER 4 and PLAYER 5 chop the pot. They receive $0.40 each, and the hand has now concluded.

Using Suit Rankings in Indian Poker

Usually, there are no suit ranks when playing Indian Poker. However, players can agree beforehand to enforce suit rankings at showdown.

Indian Poker suit rankings are as follows, from best to worst: Spades, Hearts, Diamonds, Clubs.

If we use our sample hand as an example, then the Jack of Hearts would have outranked the Jack of Clubs, and PLAYER 5 would have been awarded the entire pot.

Using suit rankings in Indian Poker will eliminate the possibility of a chopped pot.

Rules regarding the use suit rankings should always be communicated to every player before any hand is dealt.

Indian Poker Strategy

In general, players will want to use their one-round betting option to encourage players who have high cards to fold, while making sure that one or more players who have low cards remain in the pot.

Once it become apparent that a player with an Ace (or another very high card) showing is not going to fold, all other players may choose to fold in order to cut their losses.

Remaining players may also bet aggressively is they see one or more relatively low cards still being played.

The betting action can get extremely “loose” if two or more players are deceived — through the betting actions of competing players — to fold their relatively high cards. This is because the remaining players in the pot KNOW when a high card is folded by one or more competitors.

Indian Poker Will Lose Entertainment Value after a Few Hands

While this poker variant can be very fun to play, Indian Poker is NOT something that you would schedule an entire poker session around.

It simply doesn’t have the “staying power” that other popular poker variants like Texas Hold’em, Omaha, Seven Card Stud, and Draw Games do.

It is also very possible that ALL players become overly bored with Indian Poker after just a few hands are played.

Collusion and Cheating Concerns with Indian Poker

Due to collusion and cheating possibilities linked to players attempting to unethically “see their own card” while in the process of physically moving it from the table to one’s forehead, Indian Poker is best played at low stakes in a Fixed Limit format.

As explained above, the game is best used as a one-off distraction in the middle of a poker session rather than something to plan an entire poker session around.

Michael Shackleford, a.k.a., the “Wizard of Odds”, created this handy video explaining more about how to play Indian Poker.

Another Indian Poker Sample Hand

A total of 8 players agree to play a hand of Indian Poker with suit rankings enforced.

  • Each player contributes a $0.10 ante into the pot
  • A single card is then dealt to each player
  • The total pot amount at this time is $0.80

PLAYER 1: Tc
PLAYER 2: 2h
PLAYER 3: Td
PLAYER 4: Th
PLAYER 5: Qs
PLAYER 6: 4s
PLAYER 7: Jd
PLAYER 8: As

PLAYER 1: BETS $0.25
PLAYER 2: RAISES to $0.50
PLAYER 3: CALLS $0.50
PLAYER 4: FOLDS
PLAYER 5: FOLDS
PLAYER 6: RE-RAISES to $0.75
PLAYER 7: FOLDS
PLAYER 8: FOLDS
PLAYER 1: CALLS $0.75
PLAYER 2: CALLS $0.75
PLAYER 3: CALLS $0.75

SHOWDOWN: PLAYER 3 wins a total pot of $3.80 with the Ten of Diamonds.

PLAYER 3 is awarded the total pot in this instance due to suit rankings, as the Ten of Diamonds outranks the Ten of Clubs.

Why Indian Poker Isn’t Spread at Most Casinos and Card Rooms

There simply isn’t enough popular demand for casinos and card rooms to justify spreading Indian Poker.

Regulatory bodies who are responsible for licensing casino activities may also balk at authorizing the game itself due to its relative susceptibility to cheating and collusion.

The game would also need to charge a hefty rake amount per hand in order to justify its existence in a casino or card room environment.

Play Indian Poker Online for Free

Although it’s highly unlikely you’ll find a “live” Indian Poker game at your local casino or card room, you can play the game online for free.

There are a number of websites and apps that appear when performing a simple Google search that will allow you to experiment with the game and learn how to play on your own time — without any monetary risk.

However, most real money online poker rooms shy away from Indian Poker since the game itself typically loses its charm after only a few hands.

You probably won’t find any Indian Poker variants within the virtual lobby of online poker sites that offer real money games.

Having Fun Rather Than Competing

Indian Poker could be a legitimate option for novice card players who want to experiment with a simple poker game in a fun environment, without any gambling involved.

If you and your friends are “itching” to play some form of poker for fun, but only have 10-20 minutes to do so, then you can probably see 3-5 hands of Indian Poker and use one or more substitutes for poker chips while playing for fun.

Once a few hands have been played, the poker “itch” will have been satisfied and each player can then go on to whatever activity is planned without fear of having some lingering desire to play more Indian Poker.

This is because the game begins to “wear thin” after a small number of hands are played. Indian Poker simply isn’t a great poker game in terms of entertainment, staying power, or betting rounds.

You only get one lone betting round in Indian Poker after the antes have been placed into the pot. Plus, you’ll want to save more popular poker variants for occasions in which players have hours (as opposed to minutes) to dedicate to competitive play.

Comparing Peer Versus Peer (PvP) to Casino “House Edge” Games

Technically speaking Indian Poker can be categorized a PvP poker game just like Texas Hold’em and other variants.

This is because players are competing against other players as opposed to a casino or card room “house” player.

If you’re looking to play casino games (also known as “pit” games), make sure that you are aware that you will be competing against a casino that has a pre-determined, monetary “edge” over all customers who are playing in a hand.

Some of the most common casino-style card games (usually referred to as “table games” when using gaming jargon) include Double Draw Poker, Blackjack, 3 Card Poker, Casino Hold’em (or Texas Hold’em Bonus), Pai Gow, Caribbean Stud, and Baccarat.

More Card Games Similar to Indian Poker

There are a number of card games that are similar to Indian Poker that you can play in a PvP competitive environment.

The Stand-Up Poker format is great for a few hands and can actually reward one of the participants with a jackpot prize.

Another poker variant that can be used casually in a low stakes environment is Pass The Trash. This game inserts a unique twist into most Draw Games in that players can discard unwanted hole cards and force their opponents to adjust upon receiving them.

Play Novel Poker Variants for Fun

One of the most important things to keep in mind when playing “novel” poker variants such as Indian Poker is that you want to prioritize “having fun” above all else.

The best way to ensure this (and to recognize when players are becoming bored with the game) is to compete for micro-stakes or no money at all.

A single real money hand of Indian Poker can be played out to its fullest extent for as little as $0.09 total (this assumes that the stakes are $0.01 Ante with $0.02 Bets and a max-cap of $0.08 per betting round.

Nine pennies will do the trick. And you might not even need all nine cents to play a single hand of $0.01 Ante/$0.02 Indian Poker!

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David Huber poker author
Written By.

David Huber

David Huber has been involved in the poker industry for close to two decades: initially as a professional online poker player and later as an editor, consultant, writer, and forum manager. Known as “dhubermex” online, David’s poker-related work has been heavily published across numerous websites since 2004.

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