The best poker variants are generally the worst ones

There are two kinds of poker nights: the serious kind, where people play Texas Hold ’Em all night, and the good kind, where the game is dealers choice, no one’s at risk of losing rent money, and you can play wild games like “Pass the Trash” and have two players split the pot with royal flushes. Going through some old files this morning I found a document I wrote up in hopes of organizing the latter kind of night—and it has awoken a desire to get something organized again soon.

I never finished it—lots of the odder games still need to have their rules laid out. But it did include a variant I made up called “Game of Thrones.” It was seven-card stud with the following additional rules:

  • King in the North: Kings are high and aces low.
  • Noble families: A “blaze,” or a hand consisting of five face cards, is a valid hand; it beats a flush and loses to a full house.1This apparently used to be a valid hand in regular poker; learning about it was, I think, the inspiration for this variant. However, this hand probably won’t occur often, especially with the one true king.
  • You may only have one true king: Each player can only have one king showing. if you receive another king up, it’s dead and you do not receive a replacement card. Kings in the hole are safe.
  • You win or you die: The winner must have a king or queen in their hand. If the winning hand doesn’t have one, everyone re-antes and the deal passes to the left. This happens even if everyone but you folds: you better have a king.

I am torn between being sad that we never actually played this and being relieved, because this game would have been chaos. On the other hand, it’s not even the dumbest game on the list:

Night Baseball is there! But the only notes for it are, “Jesus, are we really this drunk?”