I have uploaded my collection of poker variants to this website. It should be 1,201 poker variants. However, I noticed some problems with the upload and the data. I need to get these into a formal database and do some cleaning on it to be sure.
Browsing the Variants
There are various categories you can use to browse the poker variants, just go to the Poker Variants Category and check out the sub-categories (still in progress). The categories are based on the old data, where each game could only be in one category. Once I get the games in a formal database, I want to redo that, and allow games to be in more than one category based on their rules. That is, an game where up cards are dealt to players would be considered a stud game, any game where you got to draw cards would be considered a draw game, and so on.
The games are also arranged in a tree, with each game having a parent game, except for the following root games:
- Dutch Stud
- Five Card Draw
- Five Card Guts
- Five Card Stud
- Seven Card Stud
- Spit in the Ocean
- Texas Hold'em
- Three Card Guts
Note that the text for each rule is identical across games. You might be able to find games similar to one you're looking at by searching on the quoted rule text.
How the Database Came to Be
I started playing poker with the brothers in Delta Sigma Phi, and continued with Doug, Dallas, Will, Adam, Jeff, and all the others back in Charlottesville. When I started hosting games at my place, I wrote up my first list of poker variants. It had some from my fraternity days, like The Game, some from the Charlottesville crew, like Monkey Love, and some I'd found on the internet, like Howdy Doody.
The list grew and grew as I poked around on the internet, and eventually I decided to put some serious work into it. I checked some 200 web links and went to Charlottesville and University of Virginia libraries. I produced a 43 page pdf which used to be on this web site. Time passed, and I found myself with time on my hands again, and thought I'd update the pdf. That's when my computer crashed.
I lost five months worth of work, including the Word document the pdf was based on. And seeing as I like the two column format, I couldn't easily extract the text from the pdf. However, I had just learned about relational databases, and thought it would be cool to put all of the games into one. Fourteen months later, I had a "relational database" with all of the games from the pdf in it, and a program to extract all the games, make a web page for each one, and index them all. That was the birth of the poker variants on my old website. I put relational database in quotes, because the tables were on a spreadsheet and I put them together without SQL.
Then, thanks to changes at The Python Forums and raised rates at my old host, I switch web hosts. I shifted everything to MediaWiki. Since the original database I've learned and mastered Python and SQL, but I'd also lost the original spreadsheet. So I wrote a Python program to scrape the data from the old html files and read them into Python objects, which have a media_wiki method for exporting the games to wikimarkup. Then I wrote a mechanize bot to load all the games into this wiki. I've still got some clean up work to do, but it's pretty much all here. Next I'm going to write a Python script to convert all the Python objects into a MySQL database. Then I can do just about anything with it, including redoing it as a single file, which has been requested.
Reading the Game Entries
These are just some notes what I mean by certain things, what assumptions I made, and any other rambling bits I wanted to throw in. One thing to keep in mind about the database is that it evolved as I was building it, and what is stated below is what I want it to be. I am fully aware that it does not fully meet the specifications below, and someday I will hopefully get it all fixed.
When I wrote the original pdf, I wanted each game to have a unique name. This wasn't my best idea, since some games are played completely differently by different groups, especially Anaconda and Follow the Queen. Additionally, some groups come up with different games but give them the same name. So when I made the pdf I changed names around to make them all unique. When I started work on the database, I tried to correct that, so sometimes you'll see roman numerals after a game, like Follow the Queen II. The roman numerals are not meant to be part of the name of the game, just an indication that the game shares it's name with a another game.
Also, I realize that some of the names are sexist or racist. It is not my intention to offend here, it is my intention to catalog. I do not approve of hating people based on sex or race or religion or culture or on any other superficial or un-chosen characteristic. I used to say I was a firm believer in hating people based on what they do. These days I'm trying not to hate so much.
Also Known As
These are just different names I have found for the same game. Some people change the name of a game for their group, and sometimes two groups independently create the same game. The same stuff that applies to names applies to aliases.
I have organized the games so that all but the root games are variants of some other game. This is one of the slippery concepts involved in this whole enterprise. Not having the full history of the creation of each and every game, I often based it on similarity. What other game is most similar to a particular game is what it is a variant of. But take Just a Buck. Just a Buck was a reaction to Buck Seventy Five, so it is a variant of that game, even though it is more similar to Low Chicago, which is what Buck Seventy Five is a variant of. If I was going by pure similarity, the order would be reversed.
One of the things I want to do once I have a relational database is calculate the distance between games. In the database each action is coded with it's own ID. Using those IDs as "letters" in a string, I hope to use a Levenstein distance or some other string distance metric to calculate the distance between every pair of games, weighted for the type of action and number of cards involved. Then I can find the minimal spanning tree for the poker variants in the database. Actually, early test make it clear there will be multiple minimal spanning trees, so I will have to guide the process somewhat.
Type of Game
I have classified all of the games in the database into six types: common, draw, guts, nonpoker, passing, and stud. Common games are games like Texas Hold'em, where some cards are shared among all the players, and can be in more than one hand at the same time. Draw games are games like Five Card Draw, where you discard cards and get replacements for the ones you discarded. Guts games are games like Three Card Guts, where you declare yourself in or out, and everyone who doesn't go in must match the pot. The game is played again and again until only one person goes in. Passing games are games like Anaconda, where players pass cards to each other. Stud games are sort of the default, and are games without drawing, pot matching, common cards, and passing. There is some blurring between stud and draw in the database, because draw games usually have all the cards down, so if there are up cards it is typically coded as a stud game. And of course, there are games that cross the lines, having elements of more than one type of game.
Nonpoker games are games that are not poker, but are often played in home poker games, and share some elements of poker. This of course begs the question of what poker is. For the purposes of this database, poker is a game that:
- Uses playing cards.
- Involves making runs by rank and sets by suit and rank.
- The players have information about their hands.
- The players have secret information about their hands.
- Involves betting and raising the bet.
Note that by criterion 5, most guts games are nonpoker games. This is another blurring of the categories, but I decided to keep the guts category, as I think it is distinct and generally recognized.
I am working on a new classification system for the games, that will hopefully deal with things like stud games that have passing in them. It might also have keywords to describe things like the showdown, the wilds, or any odd actions. So Follow the Queen would have a type something like 'Seven Card Classic Stud with Conditional Wilds.' I'm still working on this part, along with plans for extensive changes to the coding of the database, all of which will require converting the data to a MySQL database.
The idea here is to capture the concept of "N Card Foo," like Five Card Draw or Seven Card Stud. It is meant to be the number of cards you have at the showdown, including any common cards. However, it is more like "the number of cards you have when you build your final hand." Thus, Anaconda is a seven card game. Also, some games give each player more than one hand, such as Henway and The Game. In these games, one one hand is counted for the number of cards.
This is also a maximum, which is why Suck is a 48 card game even though you're only dealt three. (With a full table, if all but two players fold and all pass to the same guy, he'll have 48 cards). However, cards a player gets through random deck actions are not counted. An example of this are the extra cards you can get with a face up four in Baseball.
This is the most players that can play the game without the deck running out of cards. This does not include burn cards. I assume that you are playing a home game with people you trust, and don't have to take anti-cheating measures such as burn cards. I'm also assuming you understand that burn cards don't change the probabilities. For games with explicit reshuffles, this is generally the number of people you can make the initial deal to. However, other game requirements may limit the number of players further, and I have tried to take that into account.
This is how many times you get to bet during the course of the game. I do not make any distinction between different betting structures, so Pot Limit Omaha and No Limit Omaha are not considered separate games. I assume in many cases a spread limit structure, and when other assumptions are made I have tried to specify them.
Max Cards Seen
This is the most cards that can go through your hand during the game, although you might not have them all in your hand at the same time. So for Five Card Draw the number is nine, as you start with five and can draw four more with an ace, so you see up to nine cards. This does not count how many cards held by other players you get to see.
This is the number of possible wild cards in the game. For most games this is pretty simple. In Baseball threes and nines are wild, so their are eight possible wild cards. Some games are more complicated. In Kings and Low Men kings are wild, as is each players lowest rank. So if you have the maximum of six players, and everybody has a low four of a kind, and four kings are out, there would be twenty eight wild cards in the game. Obviously, most games of Kings and Low Men don't have twenty eight wild cards. Unfortunately, I didn't have time to calculate the expected number of wild cards for each game, so I just went with the maximum possible.
Below the game statistics table the actions that make up the game are listed. I won't get into the various distinctions between actions that I make when coding things into the database, at least not here. There are some relevant assumptions in the phrasing of the actions, however:
- Most queens are holding just a flower. The bedpost queen is also holding a staff or rod of some sort. This is typically the Queen of Spades.
- Blackjack Hand
- In a blackjack hand, aces are one or eleven, face cards are ten, and everything else is face value. The value of your hand is the sum of the cards in your hand, or zero if that sum is over 21.
- Discards are assumed to be mandatory, unless it is stated that a player "may" discard.
- Indicates Wild
- If a card indicates wild for you, all cards of that rank are wild for you.
- Kill Cards
- Sometimes one card will make other cards useless or no longer wild. These cards take effect if they are anywhere in your hand, even if they are not part of your declared hand. They do not take effect if they have been discarded.
- Make Cards
- If one card makes another card wild, both cards must be in your declared hand to get the wild.
- Some face cards have the figure in profile, so only one eye is showing. Which cards these are depends on the manufacturer of the deck, although I don't know of any that don't have two one-eyed jacks and a single one-eyed king.
- Unless otherwise specified, a player is someone who has not yet folded their hand.
- Unless otherwise specified, redeals are only for players who are still in the game. Players who have folded their hands are not dealt back in. If they are, the action will say "redeal for all." Redeals assume that the dealer (or at least the lead better) shifts, everyone in for the redeal reantes (except in guts games), the deck is reshuffled, and the game starts over.
- Suicide King
- The king with the sword going through his head. Typically this is the King of Hearts.
There are three main types of low hands. There are Casino Lows, also called California Lows or the Wheel. For those straights and flushes don't matter, and the ace is the lowest card in the deck. The lowest hand is an ace to five straight, which is called the Wheel. Two-Seven Lows, also called Billy Baxter Lows or Seven-Five Lows, straights and flushes do matter, and aces are high. That makes the lowest hand 2-3-4-5-7 of different suits. Ace-Six Lows, also called Six-Four Lows or Swing Ace Lows, are just like Two-Seven Lows, except the ace is the lowest card. That makes the lowest hand A-2-3-4-6.
I have seen one other type of low mentioned at Graham's Card Club. The 'Graham' low counts flushes, but does not count straights. So it's like a casino low, except flushes matter.
I don't generally distinguish between the different types of lows. The only exception is when a named game requires a specific type of low, like Razz. I have been told the choice of low can significantly change the play of the game, but I don't have time to play all of the games.
Most low qualifiers assume casino lows, so if you are playing with other low hand rules, you may want to adjust them.
I'm sure I've forgotten something.
Three Card Hands
The probabilities of poker change when you are making a hand out of three cards. The order of hands from worst to best is: high card, pair, flush, straight, three of a kind, straight flush. The way I remember it is that it's like normal poker hands, except straight beats a flush and three of a kind is treated as four of a kind.
I have tried to give credit where credit is due, but that is not always easy to do. The source listed is where I got the game from. I do not claim that the source listed created that game. In some cases the sources have further information about who did create the game, or at least where the source got it from. Someday I hope to have a sub-source field in the database to include those attributions here, but I don't think I have time for that. I have linked to sources whenever possible. However, some sources that I used no longer exist, or have at least moved somewhere I am not aware of.
Some games are listed as public domain, which means there isn't a clear source/creator for the game. I listed games as public domain if they appeared on three or more web sites, or if I knew them in college.
I try not to be an jerk about this sort of thing, but this has all turned out to be a tremendous amount of work. Therefore, all web pages hosted on xenomind.com with in the Poker Variant Category are copyright 2006 and 2016 by Craig W. O'Brien. They may not be reproduced in any way except normal web browser use (and normal fair use exceptions) without the express written consent of Craig W. O'Brien.
I am only doing this because I noticed in my web research that many of the online poker web sites have made their own poker variant sections by copying other people's web sites. One of the problems I have with current copyright law is that it has shifted from a way to allow creative people to earn money for their ideas to a way for corporations to earn money off of creative people. If you just have a website for your home game, and want to use these pages, contact me and I will be happy to let you put a copy of these pages up on your site. But if you intend to make money from your site, you are going to have to pay me for my work.
Also, I am fully aware of the Supreme Court case involving Anti-Monopoly. I am not claiming copyright of the games on this web site, only of the particular form and presentation of the rules of those games. I am not trying to say you can't play the game or put rules to the game up on some other site. All of that would be patently ludicrous. I'm just saying that you can't copy and paste what I wrote.