Draft Poker Variant

When you spend all summer house hunting, buying and selling homes and moving it goes much too quickly. And when writing about game playing usually only occurs after playing games, well, not much has happened. All that said, I have had a chance to enjoy a couple of new games this summer. And the one I’m most excited about happens to be a poker variant.

I play a cash poker game on a monthly basis with a group of friends. It’s just for fun, but the few (literally) dollars ahead or behind at the end of the night keeps things interesting. We play dealer’s choice for each hand so the games are varied. To keep things fresh we actively look for new games to try out or modifications to existing games. Some work and some fail miserably. Here’s one that has quickly become one of my favorites:

Draft
This is a 7 card stud variant. Each player starts with 2 cards face-down and 1 card face-up. After a round of betting, the dealer places N cards face-up on the table (where N is equal to the number of players). The players then select their next card from the middle with the player with the lowest current hand showing going first and the player with the best current hand going last. (We break ties with first person to the left of the dealer going first.) This is repeated 2 more times with betting between each round. At the end one more card is dealt face-down and another bet. Best 5 card hand wins.

It’s a simple variant but I love the strategy the game adds. For example: I have a 5 face-up and my choice of cards on the table include another 5. Do I take the 5 and get a pair? If I do, the odds of me now showing the best hand are pretty high. That means for the next rounds I will likely be selecting last. This means no choice in my next two cards – I’ll get whatever is left. But a pair can lead to a winning hand of 2 pair, 3-of-a-kind or better.

It’s also important to keep your eye on the other player’s cards. Do you select a card that won’t help you just to prevent the next player who will benefit from getting it? Or do you pick the card that keeps your possibilities open?

Ideally you get to pick a card that pairs one of your down cards. This keeps your opponents guessing while still getting a good draft position for the next round. Either way you play it, This variant adds an element of a Euro board game to an otherwise normal game of poker. I think it scratches that board game strategy itch in the midst of a fun evening of poker where randomness and bluffing dominate.

Anyone else play this poker variant? Or have any other poker/betting games that mix-in just the right amount of strategic choices? I’d love to try to them out.

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