Boulder Buy’em Poker

The boulder gamedev club had a card game jam this week. My group made a poker variant. It’s pretty good (it received the high praise from Namaste, “I’m not sure if it’s better than no limit Texas Hold’em”). The game has been dubbed “Boulder Buy’em” by Paul Steinbrecker. Here are the rules.

Each player, as usual, starts with some chips somehow. There’s a dealer button on one of the players, and it rotates clockwise each round.

Something to note while reading this: there is no “dealing”, and players do not receive a new hand each round. Instead they build their hand over the course of multiple rounds.

The round proceeds in several phases:

  1. Ante
  2. Auction
  3. Claims
  4. Discards

The Ante phase is just an ante. Each player puts in a fixed ante.

The Auction phase is quite unlike any other poker game. Cards equal to the number of players are placed on the table, 2 of them face up1, the rest face down. It’s an auction for first choice of cards to put into your hand. The player on the dealer button makes a fixed blind bid (double the Ante in our playtests). Then there is a free auction without ordering (just calling out numbers with the dealer acting as the auctioneer); for cases without a dedicated dealer, it’s possible to use a turn-based auction style. There is no minimum increment for bidding, except as restricted by the chip values (it is perfectly reasonable for the blind to be 10, someone to bid 100, and then someone else bid 105). The winner of the auction pays the amount he bid, everyone else pays nothing. The winner then takes a card from the table of his choice, face up or face down, and the rest of the players take cards from the table in clockwise order.

The Claims phase is much more like a traditional poker hand. Most rounds there will be no claims, but the dealer should make the request for claims each round. The first person to say “claim” after the request initiates a claim. He chooses any number of cards from his hand and places them on the table face down in front of him, optionally in addition to some chips (as an opening bid). Then, proceeding clockwise around the table, each player has the standard options (raise, call, fold). When a player raises or calls, he chooses cards from his hand to put on the table. If the number of cards the player plays exceeds the maximum number of cards anyone has on the table, then it “counts” as a raise in terms of actions: everyone else gets another chance to act. It also counts as a raise if it was a monetary raise, of course. Whenever a player acts, he gets a chance to put more cards on the table face down in front of him, but not to remove any cards.

When the bidding completes, everyone is either folded or has the same amount of money and some cards (not necessarily the same number) on the table (modulo all ins). There is then a showdown. Starting with the last person to bid or raise, proceeding clockwise, a player can show his cards or muck. The best hand takes the whole pot, including the pot built up over the past few rounds from the auction phases. All the cards which were played on the table are reshuffled into the deck, including those of folded players. Players get to keep cards which they never played on the table.

On the Discard phase, all players who have more than seven cards in their hand choose cards to discard down to seven, and the dealer reshuffles those into the deck.

In tournaments, if a player does not have enough for the ante, he pays whatever he can into the ante. No special splitting is necessary in this case (think about it). It is strongly advised to claim that round (because otherwise the player is definitely out).

If the player on the dealer button does not have as much as the blind bid, then the blind bid is equal to the player’s stack and starts from there. That is, if the blind is 50, but the player only has 10, then the blind is considered 10 and it is perfectly reasonable for another player to bid 15.

If a player wishes to sit out, he must sit out until the round after the next claim, so his next ante will be into an empty pot. Harsh and variable, I know. This is necessary to keep player from sitting on a good hand not paying ante until the pot is huge.

1During heads up, only one of the two cards is face up. All the other rules remain the same.


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