Guts Poker Games

Guts poker games fall under the same guidelines: after the cards are dealt, players decide if they are “in” or “out” of the game. Those players that call “out” have no further stakes in the hand. They are out of the game for now, letting those players that called “in” continue playing. Of those players who called “in”, the one who has the best hand collects the pot. All other players who called “in” and did not have the best hand at the table must match the amount of money in the pot. Now, there is an equal or greater amount of money in the pot, even after the round has ended.

So, the cards are picked up, shuffled, and the same game is dealt again, with players again deciding if they will go “in” or “out”. This continues until only one player goes in…that player wins the pot and the game is over. Doing the math, if three people call “in”, the amount of money in the pot will double…one person will win the money, while the other two match the pot. Guts games are characterized by this calling of “in” or “out” as well as the growing size of the pot, and the game being played and played until only one person calls “in” and wins. Note that, for this reason, Guts games are typically more expensive to play.

Guts poker games are the one type of game where the term “small stakes” is thrown out the window. People will often assume that $10-$30 will suffice for a night of playing Home poker, but a good game of Jacks and Piss will see the pot rise higher than a week’s pay. For this reason, some people play with caps. Caps limit how big the pot can get and how much money a player can lose in one hand. For example, the dealer who calls the Guts game may determine that there is a five dollar cap on the game. What this means is that if the pot ever reaches more than five dollars, a player who wins it only claims five dollars of it, and a poker player who loses only pays five dollars.

A cap means that no player can win or lose more than that amount of money. If, for example, there is six dollars in the pot and three players go in. The one of the three who wins, who would normally collect all six dollars, will collect only five of the six dollars in the pot. The two of the three who lose, who would normally pay all six dollars, will pay only five dollars into the pot. The advantage to this is that players do not lose their shirt, they only lose as much as the cap. The first disadvantage to this is that a lone player who goes “in” on a six dollar pot only claims five of it, and the game is redealt for the new one dollar pot (which goes against the Guts principle that when a single player goes “in”, the game is over).

This leads into the second disadvantage, which is that the game is played a lot longer, because a ten dollar pot, for example, will require at least two wins to clear it out, even if a single player goes “in” each time. The third disadvantage is that caps are supposed to be to players’ benefit, whereas it normally encourages them to call “in” more, knowing they can lose no more than the pot’s cap. I personally do not like caps. If a pot exceeds players’ expectations, it is because of bad calls and bad luck, two things that are supposed to contribute to a bigger pot in Guts games.

The Kitty:
This is a blind hand dealt face-down and not revealed to the table until the hand is over. If the particular guts poker games involves five cards being dealt to each player, then a five-card kitty is dealt as well, kept near the dealer, and only turned up at the end of the round. The purpose of the kitty is that those players who go “in” must not only beat the other players who have gone “in” but they must also beat the kitty’s hand.

It is the extra hand that belongs to the pot that nobody sees until the end of the round. The feature that this adds to the guts game is that if the kitty has the best hand at the table, everybody who went “in” loses and matches the pot. Now, the guts game ends when only one person goes “in”…and beats the kitty. The kitty does not get a draw but it is not rare to see the kitty beat everybody at the guts poker table.

The main advantage of the kitty is to eliminate the dealer advantage. If everybody before the dealer calls “out”, that dealer would normally win the game by default, calling “in” and having no other hands to beat. Now, that dealer would have to beat the kitty’s hand in order to collect the pot. Otherwise, the pot is claimed by nobody and that dealer matches the pot. I favour kitties, especially in Guts games that involve a draw.

Coin Declare:
One way of calling “in” or “out” is by simply going in sequence after the dealer, starting with the player to the dealer’s left and ending with the dealer himself. The disadvantage to this is that a player’s decision is based on who called “in” or “out” before him, as opposed to all players declaring “in” or “out” at the same time. The coin declare is a method whereby all players declare at the same time.

All players hide both hands and a chip (or coin) under the table, bringing up one closed hand over the table. If the poker player wants to go “in”, then he has placed the chip in this hand to be dropped on the table. If the player wants to go “out”, he has kept the chip in the hand that is not raised over the table. At the count of three, all players open their hands over the table.

Those who drop the chip have declared themselves “in”, the rest are “out”. The purpose of this is so players cannot see who before them has called “in” or “out”, instead all players are declaring their status at the same time, no turning back.

It’s all Guts:
A Guts theme can be added to just about any Poker game, especially Draw games. The dealer simply states that the game (Snowmen and Hockey Sticks, for example) requires before the draw that each player declare “in” or “out”. Those that are “out” are out of the game until it is redealt. Those that are “in” are allowed a draw (the betting round is optional) and of them, the one with the best hand collects the pot, the rest match it.

When a Guts game involves a draw, the dealer must determine, when players match the pot, if they match the amount that it is there after there has been betting or the amount that was in there at the time they declared “in”. For example, do players matching the pot of a Draw Guts game that starts at five dollars but sees an extra dollar of betting among those players who called “in” match the five dollar pot or the increased six dollar pot?

Everybody Ante:
This variation, which can be added to any Guts game, holds that with each new round of the game, every player re-antes into the pot. Under normal rules, the pot will only increase in size when at least three players go in (the first collects the pot, the second matches the pot, and the third doubles the size of the pot). In Everybody Ante however, the pot increases at least by the size of every players’ antes with each round.

This variation is used primarily in Guts games that tend to end quickly, and require being spiced up. In addition, the dealer may also determine that the winner of the last round is not required to re-ante, but all other players must.