The Stand Up Game: Poker with an Exciting Twist

By David Huber
February 13, 2024

Stand up poker games have made their way into the live poker scene in recent years, presenting players and live stream viewers with a unique, entertaining twist to bounty card games.

There are a few things to keep in mind when playing or watching a stand up poker game in real time; things that we will cover in this article.

Whether it’s an impromptu decision to play a stand up format at your next poker home game or televised programming offered at some of the more famous live card rooms, here’s what you need to know in order to get the most out of a poker stand up game.

stand up poker game

Image credit: World Poker Tour

Poker Stand Up Game: The Rules

The rules of a stand up game of poker can vary greatly depending on the hosting card room, casino, or home game manager. For the purpose of this article, we’ll use a televised Stand Up Poker game that was hosted at The Lodge poker room near Austin, Texas – which is co-owned by Global Poker Awards winner, WPT ambassador, and poker “vlogfather” Andrew Neeme.

READ MORE: Interview with Andrew Neeme

Players who are going to be competing in the poker stand up game arrange themselves around the poker table upon drawing for positions or based on their previous spot. Ideally, the number of players should be somewhere between four to eight players, but a stand up game can also be played with fewer or more participants.

Before getting started, all players should realize that they may be required to physically stand up WITHOUT taking a seat for an extended period of time. If the dealing process and/or the time taken per hand are excessively slow, one or more players could be forced to stand near their assigned seat for more than half an hour.

There is also a need for the stand up poker game host to set special rules before the round begins. Such rules may include (but are not limited to) establishing a “bounty” payout that the last player standing must award the other players at the table and of course deciding the stakes, format, and poker variant that will be played.

It might also be necessary to communicate beforehand whether a chopped pot will enable all players who won the hand to take a seat or whether all players who win a chopped pot must remain standing. For example, in the (extremely rare) case that the community cards are dealt as A-K-Q-J-T of the same suit, then all players who remain in the hand are guaranteed to chop it at showdown.

The concept of a “bounty” penalty for the last player standing is to encourage action. Since the Stand Up round will only endure until one sole player is left standing, it is possible that only a total of five hands might be seen at a six-handed table.

To follow our example, we’ll assume that the game being played in this case is Texas Hold’em.

The action proceeds just like any other poker hand, and the player who wins the first hand will win the corresponding pot just like any other typical poker scenario. However, the player who wins the first hand is allowed to physically sit down in the assigned seat around the poker table. Also, as a consequence, any seated player is guaranteed to NOT be forced to pay the last player standing penalty bounty at the end of the round.

Seated players usually participate in subsequent hands (although this rule can be changed as long as it is relayed to all players before the poker stand up round begins). If a seated player happens to win a subsequent hand, nothing happens except that player is awarded that subsequent pot as well. Even if a seated player does not win a subsequent hand, that player is NOT required to stand up; meaning that the player is guaranteed to remain seated for the rest of the stand up poker round.

The hands continue, and any new player who wins a pot gets to take a seat, and correspondingly avoid having to pay the bounty penalty at the end of the round. Once enough hands have been dealt and won so that only one player remains standing, that player can then take a seat and – if the rules apply – must then pay each player who was able to sit down the specific bounty amount that was explained before the round began.

Stand Up Poker Games: The Pros

There are a lot of entertainment benefits to a single round of a poker stand up game. It can represent a welcome reprieve from the seated atmosphere that live poker is usually played under while allowing all players to stretch their legs.

The format works well for televised poker games too. The stand up element of the round can contribute to a more casual, talkative atmosphere while also loosening up hand ranges if there’s a bounty penalty involved.

If the atmosphere in a live, televised game of poker is getting a bit boring (for the players, the viewers, or both), then a round of stand up poker can liven things up while giving each player an additional opportunity to relax or let a unique personality shine.

Stand Up Poker Games: The Cons

Don’t agree to a round of stand up poker if you’re unwilling to risk having to remain standing for a half hour or more. If you are not physically capable of standing up for this long without experiencing severe fatigue, then poker stand up games aren’t for you.

Standing for long periods of time can be annoying even for players in strong physical condition. As such, note that the stand up poker game concept can be applied without actual standing. Poker vloggers, like the aforementioned Neeme, have sometimes called it “the nit game”, where instead of standing each player gets a “nit button” and gets to return it to the dealer if they win a pot. Last player with the nit button loses and has to pay the other players.

Keep in mind that these games are played in a “live” setting, and the more players who are participating in the stand up game, the longer amount of time it will take (on average) for a stand up round to conclude.

If it’s taking longer than five minutes for hands to play out, or if it’s taking longer than five minutes for the cards to be shuffled and dealt face-down between hands, you might want to pass on agreeing to a stand up poker game.

One more thing, Stand Up games aren’t really the best fit for an entire poker session. The format is a great “one-off” for a single round that includes a few hands, but might quickly lose its appeal if it endures for longer than a half hour. After all, most poker players are very accustomed to playing their hands while seated.

Texas Hold’em is Ideal Variant for Poker Stand Up Games

Compared to Omaha (where each player receives four hole cards) and Seven Card Stud (where each player can receive up to seven total cards), Texas Hold’em is great for a round of stand up poker.

Fixed Limit can also work well for a stand up game because this format might “speed things along” in terms of players taking minutes at a time to make a decision while competitors are forced to stand near their seat.

Forced Action Due to Bounty Penalty

Bounty amounts are determined upon agreement by all players after they have been clearly communicated by the stand up poker game host.

It is important to consider how a monetary bounty penalty may (or may not) impact how “loosely” participants play their hands.

For example, if the stakes in your home game stand up environment are Fixed Limit $1/$2, you set a bounty penalty of $0.25 that the last player remaining will have to pay each seated player, then that amount might not entice looser action.

On the other hand, let’s say the table is six-handed at Fixed Limit $1/$2 stakes and the last player standing must pay $4 to each player who won a seat. This might correspondingly force all players to consider attempting to win a hand early in order to guarantee that they don’t have to pay out a total of $20 at the end of the round.

The action might get even crazier if the bounty payout for the above example is set at a higher amount, but in general the bounty penalty should be appropriate for the stake levels involved so that basic poker strategy still applies in some way.

Stand Up Poker as a Drinking Game

Similar to Irish Poker, a Stand Up Poker atmosphere might be ideal for a drinking game setup.

As always, the lower the alcohol content – and the lower the frequency in which “losing” players are forced to drink an alcoholic beverage – the better your chances are to have a safer, longer session.

If losing players must “sip” a beverage that contains relatively low alcohol content (like beer), your stand up poker drinking game will likely last longer than it otherwise would if losing players must “take a shot” of distilled spirits (such as rum, brandy, whiskey, tequila, etc).

Alcoholic drinks such as vodka may not technically fall under the category of distilled spirits, but it still typically boasts somewhere around a daunting 80-proof percentage. An 80-proof drink contains 40% alcohol. In general, you should shy away from high proof alcoholic beverages when playing a drinking game of any kind. Lower alcohol content is much more “player friendly,” in this author’s opinion.

Mixing different types (or proofs) of alcohol while playing drinking games with cards may not be the best idea either.

If you’re planning on hosting a poker game, it is a great idea to arrange for travel or lodging accommodations ahead of time. This will keep any inebriated players off the roads and safeguard against severe liability.

Play a Round of Stand Up Poker to Practice

If you’ve never hosted (or played in) a stand up poker game before, then it might be a good idea to practice in an extremely micro-stakes poker environment.

Distribute a handful of pennies to each player, set the stakes at $0.01/$0.02 Fixed Limit (with a hypothetical $0.05 bounty penalty), and play a round just for fun.

This will give hosts and new players alike first-hand knowledge of how a stand up poker round will work, how long losing players might be required to remain standing, and how each winning player will collect a bonus directly from the last player standing.

Doing this will also give hosts and players an opportunity to “work out the kinks” that occur during the practice round, and then decide if they want to play the format for higher stakes and bounty payments.

Still, there’s no substitute for being seated at a poker table for the duration of an entire poker session. Play live poker as it is typically played at your home games, and use the stand up format to implement a temporary change in atmosphere.

Use televised poker programming to get a general idea of how a stand up game will work while enjoying the entertainment that the format provides.

Try a stand up poker game at your next gathering, and have fun with both the novelty format that it provides. If the game turns out to be a good fit, you can plan for a single Stand Up Poker round for each home game session that you and your poker buddies participate in.



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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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