POKER OP-EDS

Give Wild Card Poker Games a Chance

Like many fellow recreational poker players out there, my main poker activities take place in home games with friends. I don’t live near a brick and mortar casino, and frankly, even if I did, I prefer not to pay rake all the time and would rather just enjoy a casual, rake-free gathering among my poker friends. Anyhow, among the different games I take part in is my Dad’s weekly game, which has a reputation for being “the home of crazy wild card poker games”. I’ve been playing poker with my Dad and our mutual buddies for upwards of 20 years now, and precisely because there’s such a great mix of games we play — adding new variants and wild card poker games in every once in a while — that’s something that keeps things interesting. You think a rotating mix of Texas Hold’em, Omaha, Stud, and Razz is tough? Try keeping pace with “dealer’s choice, anything goes” wild card poker!

Deuces Wild Poker

Any given night sees some of the most outlandish forms of poker games being played including, but most definitely not limited to: Follow the Queen, Dad’s Army, 3-Card Texas Hold’em, Cross, Tic Tac Toe, Jacks or Better to Open – Trips to Win, Rotten Pineapple, Kings and the Little Ones, Baseball, Deuces Wild, Anaconda, etc. Each different game has its own unique set of rules, which often include stipulations like: hi/lo declare, roll your own, lowest card on the board is wild, etc.

Many of the aforementioned poker games feature wild cards. For instance, in the poker game of “Baseball”, threes and nines are wild and fours will get you an extra card. The game is dealt like 7-Card Stud, but the presence of wild card hands in this poker game means that five of a kind is possible, with the best possible hand being five aces.

If all of this doesn’t sound anything like poker to you, oh dear Texas Hold’em grinder, let me respectfully disagree and fill you in on what you’re missing.

Wild Card Poker Games: Action, Action, and More Action

The fact that so many more variables are brought into the mix when wild cards are introduced to “purer” poker games undoubtedly increases the luck factor. A full house doesn’t necessarily look so good anymore when five of a kind is a distinct possibility. Moreover, with three people left in a hand, you could theoretically just get lucky (for example by declaring “low” with total garbage holdings while your opponents both declare high) and “back into” half the pot once in a while. Added wild cards also increase the number of outs that a player has to overcome the leading hand of his opponent. This naturally leads to all players taking additional chances; i.e., sticking around in hands and generating monster pots.

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Thus, if you’re looking to mix things up a bit and really challenge yourself in a poker game with tons of action, I definitely recommend trying out wild card games. A word to the wise though, joining an existing wild card game may be akin to Baptism by fire! The learning curve can be pretty steep as you learn each new game that the other players may already be familiar with. When I first started playing in wild card games, it literally took at least a dozen sessions before I had my first win. Ever since I learned to make the right adjustments, however, it’s been smooth sailing, just like in “regular” poker games.

Wild Card Poker Tips

If you’re playing in a wild card poker game, perhaps the most important tip is that you must adjust your winning hand ranges. In other words, while two pair might be a decent hand in traditional 7-Card Stud, if you’re playing Baseball — with eight wild cards plus the presence of four 4s to potentially introduce another four cards into the hand — two pairs will only get you in trouble. You’ll usually need at least a full house to win in poker’s version of Baseball.

In wild card poker games that have a high/low split, you’ll often see more than one nut low and/or nut high. For that reason, you should be wary of getting quartered in poker games with wild cards. That is to say, if you feel that another player is likely to make the same nut low/high hand as you, try to ensure that either you also have a strong hand to try and win the other half of the pot, or at the very least that there are multiple players reaching showdown. That way, if you end up getting quartered, at least you won’t end up a net loser for the hand, as other players will have contributed significantly to the pot.

When playing wild card poker games, you should be ultra-prepared for significant volatility. The swings in wild card games can be absolutely brutal. While you might statistically have a stranglehold on the pot and have acted correctly throughout a hand, if your opponent managed to get a wild card, that could significantly alter the percentages and you’ll suddenly find yourself the underdog to win. That happens enough times, and you’ll have far fewer chips to work with. While there will always be luck in poker and there’s nothing you can do to change what cards your opponents get, you can do your utmost to maneuver appropriately.

Just like there’s plenty of math — such as calculating pot odds — in traditional poker variants, there’s also plenty of math in wild card games, too. Just be sure to also factor wild cards into the number of outs you or your opponent has to calculate odds correctly. You may think you’re making mathematically correct plays to chase straights or flushes, but if your mental calculations forget to take into account the existence of wild card in the hand, you may either be throwing money away or, alternatively, missing opportunities to charge your opponents more to catch the cards they need to beat you.

If at any point in any game the rules aren’t clear to you, whether it has wild cards or not, ask the other players for a full clarification. Huge pots have been won and lost “by mistake” because players forgot or didn’t understand a game’s rules correctly. This poker tip might seem pretty obvious and self explanatory, but there’s no such thing as “asking a stupid question” when real money is on the line. Better to “look silly” by asking a question that all your opponents know the answer to than “not look silly” but end up losing money because you were afraid to speak up and ask in the first place.

In dealer’s choice home games, every player will opportunities to pick the poker variant of their choice. When it’s your turn to deal or choose the poker variant, be sure to pick the game you’re most comfortable with. If you don’t feel fully comfortable playing wild card poker games, then pick “boring old 2-7 triple draw”. Don’t get peer pressured into playing a poker game with wild cards, or a poker variant whose rules you’re fuzzy on, just because that’s what all the other players are doing. As always in poker, you should try to get your opponents to play your game; in this instance, literally!

deuces wild

To be sure, there certainly are plenty of poker variants that get plenty wild even without the presence of wild cards in the games. The World Series of Poker spreads Dealer’s Choice bracelet events, and in those you’ll have a choice of 20 different variants to play, none of which feature wild cards. The presence of wild card poker games, then is something you’ll pretty much exclusively find in home games. That said, in the past I have seen some “deuces wild” tournaments on the schedules of a few small poker tournament series around the world.

You won’t find wild card poker games being spread in your local poker room, but if you decide to try out wild card games, it pays to keep in mind all of the aforementioned tips.

Ed. Note. This article was originally published in May 2012. We’ve “re-published” it 12 years later after updating and greatly enhancing (tripling in length) the scope of the information offered within.

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Written By.

Robbie Strazynski

Robbie founded Cardplayerlifestyle.com in 2009. A veteran member of the poker media corps, in addition to writing and video presenting, Robbie has hosted multiple poker podcasts over the years, including Top Pair, the Red Chip Poker Podcast, The Orbit, and the CardsChat Podcast. In 2019, Robbie translated the autobiography of Poker Hall of Famer Eli […]

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