POKER

The Irish Poker Challenge: A Fun Variation for Parties

By David Huber
October 16, 2023

Irish poker may not be commonly played in marquee poker tournaments and high stakes cash games, but it is one of THE most popular poker variants at parties – and can be tons of fun!

Whether you’re playing heads-up or have six players participating, Irish poker can adapt to players coming in and out of a game between hands. Irish poker drinking games are also among the most popular party activities for poker enthusiasts.

Irish Poker Props

To play Irish poker, you will need the following props.

  • One 52-card playing deck of cards
  • Poker chips or some other prop to substitute for chips
  • A playing surface such as a poker table, poker felt, or poker mat
  • Two or more players (maximum ten players with burn cards)
  • Alcohol or spirits (optional – relevant if you’re playing an Irish poker drinking game)

Irish poker

Irish Poker Rules

The rules of Irish poker are very similar to community card games such as Texas Hold’em and Omaha. Poker hand rankings apply, so the very best made hand that is possible in Irish poker is a Royal Flush – while the worst 5-card hand possible is 7-5-4-3-2 unsuited.

To begin a hand of Irish poker, each player is dealt four cards face-down. This is exactly the same as Omaha, and there is a betting round that occurs once all four players have had an opportunity to see their own hole cards.

After the preflop betting round has concluded, a “flop” is dealt – with three community cards face-up near the center of the playing surface. So far, the game plays just like an Omaha hand, but now, things get interesting.

Once the flop has been dealt in Irish poker, another betting round occurs.

Then, all players who remain in the hand will need to discard TWO of their four hole cards. Once discarded, the cards are placed in a “muck” area and can no longer be retrieved by any player or used by any dealer.

This means that all players who continue competing for the pot after the flop hits the board will be using only TWO or their original FOUR hole cards. The objective remains to make the best possible 5-card hand in order to win at showdown.

The Turn (fourth street) and River (fifth street) community cards are dealt just like a hand of Texas Hold’em would be – with corresponding betting rounds. By the end of each hand, the game will have switched from an Omaha style variant into a Texas Hold’em variant.

Irish Poker Sample Hand

Here’s a look at a sample hand of Irish poker, which will reveal how to play Irish poker.

Step 1: Players post any relevant blinds and/or antes
Step 2: Each player is dealt four cards face down

Player 1: Ah-Qh-5d-5c
Player 2: 7h-6h-3c-3d

Step 3: A betting round occurs
Step 4: The first three community cards (also known as the “flop”) are dealt face-up

COMMUNITY BOARD CARDS: Kh-Jh-3s

Step 5: A betting round occurs
Step 6: Each player who remains in the pot must now DISCARD two hole cards

Player 1: Ah-Qh (discarded 5d and 5c)
Player 2: 3c-3d (discarded 7h and 6h)

Step 7: The Turn card is dealt face-up near the center of the table with the other community cards

COMMUNITY BOARD CARDS: Kh-Jh-3s-3h

Step 8: A betting round occurs
Step 9: The River card is dealt face-up near the center of the table

COMMUNITY BOARD CARDS: Kh-Jh-3s-3h-2c

Step 10: A betting round occurs
Step 11: Showdown

Player 1: Ah-Kh-Qh-Jh-3h (Ace-high Flush: Hearts)
Player 2: 3c-3d-3s-3h-Kh (Four of a Kind: Threes with a King kicker)

Step 12: Player 2 shows down the better hand and wins the pot

Drinking Game Preparation and Considerations

An Irish poker drinking game can be a lot of fun!

As a host, you will want to prepare for any “drinking” games that call for the use of alcoholic beverages beforehand. And it goes without saying that anyone participating in such poker games must drink responsibly. Below are a few tips for any party host who plans to allow guests to participate in drinking games in which playing cards are involved.

One of the most important considerations when hosting a drinking game of any kind is to avoid breakable surfaces and props. Glass, crystal, along with any fine dining ware will interrupt any gameplay if they happen to break during the course of a drinking game.

Seriously, don’t use glasses, cups, or any other playing surfaces that can be scratched, eroded, marked, stained, or otherwise reduced in value. When drinking alcohol, things tend to get moved around and spilled, so an Irish poker drinking game is NOT the occasion to show off your new high end furniture or carpet.

All plates, cups, and playing surfaces will need to be preferably made out of plastic, Styrofoam, or some other material that is cheap yet durable in a pinch. This also applies to things like beer bottles, wine bottles, and liquor bottles. If at all possible, use beer cans, wine cartons, and save the hard liquor for another occasion if you wish to have your Irish poker game “last longer.”

“Throw away” or “disposable” plates, cups, and playing surfaces are your very best friend when playing a card game that involves drinking alcoholic beverages as a main feature. Have a large trash bag nearby to dispose of plates, cups, and plastic utensils at your guests’ leisure; don’t make them think too hard about this.

A drinking game that involves playing cards is also a perfect time to introduce a very cheap, resistant, and easily washable playing surface. This can be easily achieved if you’re playing outdoors. However, if the game is indoors, then consider using a very cheap poker mat or at the very least a tablecloth that you don’t mind having to wash the day after.

A plastic table is also great for an Irish poker drinking game – and you might want to consider having a backup deck of cards just in case one or more of your playing cards get ruined due to beverage spillage.

Although you plan on hosting an Irish poker drinking game, make sure that you have several “non-alcoholic” options for players who do not wish to consume any more alcohol – either by choice or by necessity. Coffee, fruit juices, tea, sodas, and/or water are examples of non-alcoholic beverages that can be substituted when needed.

For quick snack options, try crackers, chips, peanuts, and other store-bought products that can be easily served.

One final bit of advice; this is critically important.

Plan ahead of time for any circumstances that may require one or more of your guests to secure a “ride home” after the party has concluded. In developed geographical regions, there are on-demand taxi services provided by companies like Uber that can save you a lot of heartache and worry as a drinking game host. Make sure your guests aren’t in a situation in which they feel obligated to (or don’t have any other options than to) “drive drunk” when leaving your property.

Aside from private taxi companies, some locales may also offer “safe ride home” services as part of their official social outreach. In general – when hosting a drinking game of any kind – you want to make 100% sure that you have planned for your guests’ transportation away from your party with sincere forethought. This includes having one or more “designated drivers” at your party who have not consumed any alcohol (or other influencing substances) on your personal or business property.

Viable, reliable, and socially-responsible options… don’t run out of them if you’re hosting a drinking game. It’s almost certain that one or more of your inebriated guests will eventually decide it’s time to leave – and that’s when planning, preparation, and very clear communication will reward hosting individuals and venues.

So, with that out of the way, let’s move on to…

Irish Poker Drinking Games

Here are some options for Irish poker drinking game “prompts” – defined as an occasion in which one or more of the card game participants will be prompted to take a “drink” or “sip” of their alcoholic beverage that’s close at-hand.

THE FLOP

If you’re willing to deal flop cards one at a time, then have your players guess…

  • Will the first card be red or black?
  • Will the second card be higher or lower than an eight (nobody loses if there is an “eight” dealt as the second community card?
  • Will the third card be a spade, heart, club, or diamond?

THE TURN

  • Will the Turn card be red or black; higher or lower than an eight; or a spade, heart, club, or diamond?

THE RIVER

  • Will the River card be red or black; higher or lower than an eight; or a spade, heart, club or diamond?

Individuals who guess wrong can be prompted to take a “drink” or “sip” of their alcoholic beverage.

Of course, the lower the alcohol content (as a percentage) of the beverage of choice, the longer your Irish poker drinking game can last without one or more participants becoming too inebriated to continue.

For reference, the “proof” of a specific hard liquor is always calculated as twice its alcoholic content (as a percentage). So a brand of vodka that contains 40% alcohol will be “80 proof,” and so on. An “overproof” rum that contains 84% alcohol will be “168 proof” by definition.

This isn’t to encourage any drinking game host to use a high proof, hard liquor – quite the contrary. The above explanation is for general reference purposes only.

Most beers have between 4 to 7 percent alcohol content, which makes them ideal for drinking games in which one or more players can be prompted to drink or sip at any given time. Wine usually has between 5-15% total alcohol content depending on the brand and distillation process.

Canned cocktails (the ones you can buy at a store or supermarket) usually have around 10% alcohol content on average, but this can also vary greatly depending on the brand.

Every major brand of alcoholic beverage will have its alcohol content displayed somewhere on the container, so make sure to check this closely if you’re responsible for making the purchases of beverages that will be used during a drinking game.

Irish Poker Game Variants with Drinking

Have fun, but don’t overdo it. If you see the need as a host, feel free to reduce the amount of opportunities for which players may be prompted to take a drink or sip of their beverage.

You can deal the flop cards all at once and simply have your players guess whether the majority of them will be red or black. You can also “skip” a drinking round or two within each hand if you observe that players are getting too intoxicated.

In summary, remember that Irish poker starts just like a game of Omaha poker and concludes just like a game of Texas Hold’em after the flop once each remaining player discards two hole cards.

Due to the amount of cards that are dealt – along with the per hand maintenance of keeping track of mucked cards – you might want to limit your Irish poker game to a maximum of six players when alcohol is involved.

With that said, a single deck Irish poker game can mathematically accommodate a 10-handed game even if you’re “burning” a single card before each dealer action.

Make sure that “fun” is the main feature of your Irish poker game, plan ahead, and make it easy for players to withdraw from the game (or drink something that doesn’t contain alcohol) as the need arises.

Make it your personal responsibility to ensure a safe means of travel away from your card playing party to ensure that the occasion can be repeated on another date with the same expectation of Irish poker fun!

Now you’re ready to take the Irish poker challenge by hosting a fun and entertaining card game for all your guests!

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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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