The Best Alt Card Games to Play on Poker Night
By The Editors

Yeah, we like Hold ‘Em, too, but there’s a whole world out there. So why not try these new games at your next poker night?


There is no club more comfortable — and exclusive — than a regular poker game...

...where everybody knows everybody else's 'tells', elevating the key strategy in poker — the bluff — to an art.

For historians, the roots of poker can be traced back a thousand years and the games it evolved from across China, Persia, and Europe. For the rest of us non-historians, the roots of poker stretch back to our first big losing night. Maybe we were in the wrong game?

Today, one game, Texas Hold ‘Em, reigns supreme. It’s what they play in casinos and in the World Series of Poker. If you watch poker on TV, they’re playing Hold ‘Em: two cards down, three “community” cards face-up in the middle of the table; best five cards wins. It can get monotonous. When I was recently invited into a local poker game, the first thing they told me is “No Hold ‘Em ever” because they were so sick of it.

Meanwhile, for guys of a certain age, the game almost always played as the house game is simple five-card draw.

But how about if we bring a little variety into your next poker night?

All you need to do to change things up is to deal a few different games — such as these.

If the beer’s good and the chips are okay, then all you need to do to change things up is to deal a few different games — such as these:

Omaha. Similar to Hold ‘Em, but players are dealt four cards down and have to use only two of those cards and three of the five community cards to make the best hand. This makes higher hands easier to come by. The game is usually played pot-limit, meaning your max bet can’t exceed what’s in the pot.

Seven-Card Stud. A classic: Everyone antes, then each player gets two cards down and one up. The player with the low card starts betting. Four rounds of dealing/betting happen so players eventually have four face-up cards. The seventh card is dealt face down. You can also play a five-card variation with two down, two up, then one down.

Chinese. Best with four players or less. Each player puts up three equal stacks of chips, or three bets. Then players are dealt 13 cards face down. Players must then divide their cards into three hands, the highest five-card hand, their next-highest five-card hand, and their lowest hand of three cards. The winner of the high-card hand gets the first stack of bets from each player. The winner of the middle five-card hand gets the second stacks, and the winner of the three-card hand gets the final stack from everyone. One lucky player could win all three bets, then walk out to his car in a dark parking lot.

Razz. You can play five- or seven-card versions of this stud game, but the goal is the lowest hand possible. Straights and flushes do not count, and aces are always low. So the lowest hand would be A-2-3-4-5, no matter the suit.

2-7 Triple Draw. Players are dealt five cards face down – at no time do players see other players’ cards. The goal is to have the lowest hand. Aces are always high, so the lowest possible hand would be 2-3-4-5-7 – however if all are in the same suit, that’s a flush, which ain’t too low, so beware. The game proceeds for three rounds of drawing/betting and you can replace up to all five cards on a draw.

And when you’re ready for something really stupid, try a hand of Forehead Poker: Every player gets one down card. At the same time, every player lifts the card to their forehead, so no player sees his own card but sees everyone else’s cards. There is one round of betting, with players betting on the strength of their own unknown hand based on what they see all the other players holding. Playing this game suggests there’s much more in front of the forehead than behind it.