Last week, one of our readers reached out to let me know that he and his wife had developed a new poker-themed card game. The game, which they decided to call “Challenge,” uses a standard 52 card deck and was developed over the period of the last six months. While luck is involved, just like in poker skill plays a major factor. No betting of chips or money is involved, but there’s a lot of strategic thinking needed to win.

As such, I would like to thank David and Neida Donohoe for sending to me the article below, which includes the rules of “Challenge,” object of the game, and basic game strategy. They are looking for feedback, so by all means please feel free to send some in directly to them at: dgdonohoe@gmail.com.

I personally haven’t yet had the chance to play the game, but generally speaking I’m a fan of games that assign point values to each card; it reminds me of baccarat a bit. In my home game, we play a couple variants called “numbers” as well as “7-27,” both of which operate in the same way as far as assigning point values to the cards. Of course, our games and most poker variants involve betting, which “Challenge” seems to be missing. There are also “Yahtzee-like” elements in Challenge, which add to the fun. In any event, as mentioned, your feedback is most certainly welcome.

card game
Image used for illustrative purposes only

Object

Be the first to score points for all 8 of the various hands listed below. All hands are formed by using the suit of the cards and not their face values. The game is over when one of the players is first to have scored points for each of the various 8 hands; unless a ‘Challenge’ is called by the other player who has not yet scored points on a certain hand (or hands). The ‘Challenge’ option will be discussed in detail later. The score for the winning hand is the total of the cards face values of only the cards that make up the particular hand. Example: 3 of a Kind (3 Hearts) – AH, 10H, 8H = 29 points.

Face Values of Cards: Ace = 11 points. King, Queen, Jack = 10 points. All other cards = their designated face value.

Various Hands

The following 8 hands are ranked from least valuable to most valuable.

  1. 1 Pair. Example: 2 Diamonds. Points: Total of the 2 cards that make the Pair.
  2. 2 Pair. Example: 2 Hearts and 2 Spades. Points: Total of the 4 cards that make the 2 Pair.
  3. 3 of a Kind. Example: 3 Clubs. Points: Total of the 3 matching cards.
  4. Straight. To qualify as a Straight it must include a Diamond, a Club, a Spade, a Heart. Points: Total of the 4 cards that make the Straight.
  5. Full House. Example: 2 Spades and 3 Hearts. Points: Total of all 5 cards.
  6. 4 of a Kind. Example: 4 Hearts. Points: Total of the 4 cards.
  7. 5 of a Kind. Example: 5 Diamonds. Points: Total of all 5 cards.
  8. Total Hand. Points: Total of all 5 cards. (See Definition of this hand below).

*Challenge option. To be discussed in detail later.

Definition of ‘Call’: In a game of conventional Poker, to Call means to match a bet or match a raise. In the game of Challenge however there is no betting, and therefore to ‘Call’ simply means when one of the players Call, both players are to reveal their hands. The player who ‘Calls’ must also state what hand he is presenting. For instance: I Call 4 of a Kind. Or: I Call a Full House. Once a player calls a particular hand, he cannot change that call. However, his opponent can challenge that call with a Total Hand call. See explanation below under Definition of a Total Hand call.

Definition of a ‘1 Pair Hand’: In order to qualify as a 1 Pair Hand, the 5 cards must consist of only 2 of the same suit and the other 3 cards must be 1 each of the other 3 suits. Example: 2 Clubs, a Diamond, a Heart and a Spade. Another example: 2 Hearts, a Club, a Spade and a Diamond, etc. Tip: If you are trying to achieve a 1 Pair Hand and hold more than 2 of the same suit, keep the 2 cards that total the highest points of the same suit and discard the other 3 and draw 3. Once you draw a qualifying 1 Pair Hand, you may call. If your opponent holds 2 Pair or better, you lose. If your opponent is also holding a 1 Pair Hand, the 1 Pair Hand that totals the highest points wins. The one who wins writes the total point score of only the 2 cards that make up the Pair on the score sheet next to 1 Pair. If your opponent wins but had previously scored the 1 Pair Hand, it is a wash and new hands are to be dealt. A sample Score Sheet is included at the end.

1 Pair-Score 17
1 Pair-Score 17

Definition of a ‘2 Pair Hand’: In order to qualify as a 2 Pair Hand, it must consist of  2 cards of one suit and 2 cards of another suit and the 5th card must be of a different suit than the 4 cards that make up the 2 pairs. Example: 2 Spades and 2 Diamonds and a Heart (or a Club). Another example: 2 Hearts and 2 Clubs and a Diamond (or a Spade).

2 Pair-Score 36
2 Pair-Score 36

Definition of a ‘Total Hand’ call. If you have not yet received points for Total Hand, then once you receive your 5 cards you may call Total Hand even if your opponent calls his hand first. Example: Your opponent calls a 4 of a Kind hand (or any other hand for that matter); you may immediately challenge his hand with a Total Hand call.  When you call Total Hand, it over-rides his 4 of a Kind call and both players must reveal their hands and total up the points for all 5 cards. If your point score is higher, you write the total point score for all 5 cards on the score sheet next to Total Hand. However, if your opponent who called 4 of a Kind wins, he totals up the points for all 5 of his cards and writes them on the score sheet next to 4 of a Kind (his original call). And if you lose the Total Hand call, you are to write a 0 (Zero) on the score sheet next to Total Hand. If both players’ hands total the same amount of points, it is a tie and new hands are to be dealt. Tip: It is wise to save the ‘Total Hand’ call until you are holding 5 cards that consist mostly of the higher point values.

4 of a Kind-Score 35
4 of a Kind-Score 35

Definition of the ‘Challenge’ call. The Challenge call is an option for you if your opponent has scored points on all of the 8 required hands and you have not. Ordinarily the game is over at this point; unless you call to Challenge. Example: Your opponent has scored points on all of the 8 required hands; however, you have scored points on all of the hands except for the Full House hand. You may call to Challenge your opponent for that particular hand. If you should call to Challenge that hand, the cards are then dealt, discarded and drawn in turn until one of the players’ calls Full House first. If you call it first, you total up the points for the 5 cards and write them on the score sheet next to Full House. However, if your opponent gets a Full House first, you lose and write a 0 (Zero) next to Full House. Once a Zero is written next to a hand, that hand cannot be challenged again. If your opponent wins the Challenge, he totals up the point score of the 5 cards and writes it on the score sheet next to Challenge. In the event both players’ hands total the same point score, it is a tie and you may choose to Challenge again or not. Once all of the 8 required hands have been scored by both players’ (or a player decides to quit and not challenge for his missing hands), the game is over. Total up both players score and the one who has the highest score wins the game. Tip: If you are ahead in points, it may not be wise to Challenge a hand. The Challenge call has both its risks and rewards and the decision to use it should be weighed carefully.

Full House-Score 32
Full House-Score 32

Note: Before you make a ‘Challenge’ call, it is best to total up both players’ scores. It may be that even if you win the challenge, it offers you no hope of getting ahead. Example: If your opponent is ahead by 45 points and you Challenge him for his 3 of a Kind hand and you happen to win that hand, the most possible points you can receive is by having 3 Ace’s which equals 33 points. Even at that, it still leaves you 12 points behind. Furthermore, if you should happen to lose the Challenge, you are now down by 78 points rather than 45.

Game Rules

  1. Both players are dealt 5 cards then immediately examine their hands carefully to see which one of the 8 various hands shown above they have received. Either player may call for both players’ hands to be revealed before any cards are discarded and drawn. Example: After both players are dealt their 5 cards, you call 3 of a Kind (3 Hearts for instance). Both players show their hands. Your opponent holds 2 Pair (2 Clubs, 2 Spades and a Diamond). You win because 3 of a Kind beats 2 Pair. Therefore, you write the total points of the 3 cards (10H, 8H and 9H = 27 points) on the score sheet next to 3 of a Kind.
  2. When both players’ hands are revealed, it is always the highest ranking hand that wins. Example: If you call 3 of a Kind and your opponent is holding 4 of a Kind (4 Spades for instance), your opponent wins and he totals up the 4 cards face values (8S, 10S, 5S and 9S = 32 points) and writes the score on the score sheet next to 4 of a Kind. However, if your opponent had previously scored points for 4 of a kind, he does not win additional points and you do not lose, but that round is considered a wash and new hands are to be dealt.
  3. In the event of a tie when both players hold the same hand (3 of a Kind for example), and neither player has scored points for that hand, then both players total their 3 of a Kind cards and the highest scoring hand wins. The player with the winning hand writes the total points on the score sheet next to 3 of a Kind.
  4. In the event of a tie when both players’ hands total the same amount of points, neither player scores and new hands are to be dealt.
  5. In the event of a tie when one of the players’ had previously scored points for that hand, both players’ total up the point value of their hand. If the player who had not yet received points for that hand has the highest score, he wins and writes the total points on the score sheet next to that particular hand. However, If your opponent’s hand totals higher than yours but he had previously scored points on that hand, it is a wash and new hands are to be dealt.
  6. When new hands are dealt and neither player wishes to call a hand, then each player in turn may discard as many cards as he desires and draw the same amount of new cards. Discarding and drawing cards continues until a player calls a particular hand.

Good Strategy

Every time you are dealt a new hand, always examine it carefully for the following 4 hands that are easily overlooked: 1 Pair, 2 Pair, a Straight and a high point Total Hand.

READ MORE: We’ve got plenty of other great FREE poker strategy articles here

Always keep a close eye on the score sheet to help determine what hand you opponent may be trying to achieve by observing how many cards he is discarding and drawing. Example: If you notice that your opponent still needs to score 4 of a Kind or 5 of a Kind and he is drawing 2 cards at a time, you know he is most likely holding 3 of a Kind. You can call and defeat his effort if you hold 3 of a Kind or better, even though you will not receive points for your winning hand because you had previously scored it; but at least you may have defeated his effort.

3 of a Kind-Score 20
3 of a Kind-Score 20

Create your own Score Sheet on a ruled sheet of paper as shown below:

Challenge score table

If you examine the above sample score sheet, you will notice that Dave Challenged Mike on his 4 of a Kind but Dave lost the challenge and received Zero points, but Mike received an additional 32 points for that hand as recorded next to CHALLENGE. Mike won the game.

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