10 Poker Games You Won’t Find in Any Casino (And How to Play Them)


No one would blame you if you thought the only poker games you could play were Texas holdem and Omaha. Those seem to be the only games you can find consistently in a casino poker room. And Texas holdem seems to be the only poker game you can watch played on television.

But the world of poker has a host of other variations available.

In casino cardrooms, you can sometimes find 7-card stud, HORSE, and razz being played. It depends mostly on the casino and the cardroom manager.

In-home poker games, though, you can find a tremendous variety of poker variations being played. Some of these are simple and old-school, like 5-card draw. Some of them have bizarre and sometimes offensive names (like “Mexican sweat.”)

In this post, I want to introduce you to 10 fun poker games that never get played in the casino but might be fun to play in your home game sometime. I’ve included notes about how to play these poker games, too.

1 – Spit in the Ocean

Spit in the Ocean is a variation of 5-card draw. In 5-card draw, each player gets 5 cards face-down. There’s a betting round, which is followed by the opportunity to discard and replace cards from your hand. Then there’s a final betting round followed by a showdown.

Most people learned to play 5-card draw as kids, although this latest generation might have skipped right past 5-card draw and learned to play Texas holdem instead.

In Spit in the Ocean, you get 4 cards instead of 5, and you’re able to discard and replace up to 2 cards. The game also includes a “spit card,” which is the 5th card in your hand.

But it’s a community card dealt face up in the middle of the table.

You could think of Spit in the Ocean as being a hybrid of Texas holdem and 5-card draw.

You can mix things up further by making the spit card a wild card, regardless of which card it is. If you do this, the winning hand will usually be at least a full house. (A wild card automatically upgrades 2 pairs to a full house.)

Also, the rank of the spit card becomes wild—it’s not the only wild card. For example, if the spit card is a 7, then all 7s—including any that you might have in your hand—are wild.

2 – Five and Two

Five and Two is 5-card draw played high-low and featuring 2 community cards instead of just one. Since it’s played high-low, there will be 2 winning hands—one high, and one low. Also, the 2 community cards must be used together in your final hand or not at all.

This 2nd rule can be confusing to Texas holdem players, who are used to being able to use any combination of cards in their hand and cards on the board.

Each player gets 5 cards, and the 2 community cards are also dealt face up at the same time. There’s a round of betting followed by a drawing phase where you can discard and replace cards from your 5-card hand. Then there’s a final round of betting and a showdown.

You can decide to play this in one of 2 ways:

You can limit each player to one hand, and they have to decide and declare whether they’re going high or low.

Or you can play it like you would Omaha high-low, where it’s possible to have both the best possible high hand AND the best possible low hand.

If you want to win with the high hand, you’ll probably need at least 3 of a kind to pull that off. The community cards make the ranking of the average winning hand higher in this game.

Also, how high or low the community cards are makes a big difference. If they’re both low, someone is probably going to be going for the low hand. You have a good chance of winning the high and splitting the pot with someone—if you have a high hand.

3 – Cincinnati

Cincinnati is a community card game with a passing resemblance to Omaha.

But instead of getting 4 hole cards and having 5 community cards, you have 5 hole cards and 4 community cards.

The 4 community cards are dealt face-down in the middle of the table, and they’re exposed one at a time. There’s a round of betting after the initial deal; then there’s another round of betting after each community card is exposed.

It’s common to add more variant rules to Cincinnati. For example, the dealer might declare certain cards wild. This spices things up considerably.

Or the dealer might decide to make any of the 4 community cards wild before turning them over—it’s common to make the last exposed card wild. As with the Spit in the Ocean variation I wrote about earlier, it doesn’t become an individual wild card—it makes any card of that rank wild, even if it’s elsewhere on the board or in your hole cards.

Another common variation is to play “Low Hole Cincinnati.” In this variation, everyone gets his own wild card—whatever his low card in the hole card is wild for that player. This spices things up considerably, too.

You’ll often see Cincinnati referred to as 44, too, but it’s the same game either way.

4 – Death Wheel

Death Wheel is another community card game played high low. Each player gets 4 hole cards, but there are also 6 community cards, which are dealt in a circle face down in the middle of the table. To make your final hand, you must use 2 cards from your hand and 3 cards from the circle.

There’s another catch, too:

The 3 community cards you choose must be adjacent to each other on the circle.

There’s a round of betting when you get hole cards, then there’s a round of betting after each card gets exposed. The order in which the cards are exposed is important, too. You never expose the adjacent cards; you always expose a card, then expose a card opposite it on the wheel. The order in which you do it isn’t that important, although it’s common to expose the cards in order (1-6, 2-5, 3-4).

With 6 community cards, you have 6 possible 3-card combinations on the board. Each player also has 4 cards in the hole. As a result, winning hands will tend to be good hands. Appropriate strategy for Death Wheel is similar to the appropriate strategy for Omaha high-low. Most players will need to tighten up.

If you’re playing poker with a bunch of guys who are used to Texas holdem, Death Wheel can be a really great game to deal. Most Texas holdem players who aren’t already familiar with the game get a big kick out of it.

You could theoretically play Death Wheel high-only, but that isn’t nearly as fun as playing high-low.

You don’t need wild cards in this variation. With so many cards in play, the values of the final hands will already be good.

5 – Roll Your Own

Roll Your Own is a variation of 7-card stud where you get to decide which cards stay face down and which cards get turned face up.

Traditionally, in 7-card stud, you start with 2 cards face down, and one card face up. The next few cards are dealt face up, and the 7th card in your hand is also dealt face-down.

But in Roll Your Own, you get 3 cards face down to start with. You get to decide which card to turn face up. And that’s followed by a round of betting.

You then get 2 more face-down cards, and you decide which one to turn over and make a face-up card. There’s another round of betting.

You get 2 final cards, face-down, and you choose one of those to turn over. Then there’s a final round of betting.

You still wind up with 4 cards up and 3 cards down, but you got to choose which cards were turned face up.

Roll Your Own is also traditionally played in high-low format, which is common among 7-card stud games anyway. Wild cards aren’t usually part of a Roll Your Own game, although they can be if the dealer chooses.

Most players choose to keep their good cards face down and only expose their bad cards. This makes it harder to estimate what your opponents are holding. Of course, you can choose to expose your good cards, but I think you’re giving up some advantage by doing so.

All that being said, this variant doesn’t play out much differently from any other 7-card stud game. The difference in game-play is minor.

6 – Follow the Queen

Follow the Queen is a 7-card stud game with a wild card that can change during game-play. When a queen is dealt to someone, the next card dealt (which will be to the next player, of course) becomes a wild card.

But if another queen is dealt, that wild card is no longer wild, in favor of the next new wild card.

Also, if the final face-up card is a queen, none of the previous cards are wild.

Some people also make any queens in the hole wild, but that’s getting into some pretty fancy variation there.

Follow the Queen is always played high-only. It’s a fun game, but it can be irritating when the wild card changes. Also, as with most of these games, it’s not JUST that one card that becomes wild—it’s any card of that rank.

If player A gets a queen face up, then player B gets a 7 face up, ALL the 7s become wild.

If player C gets a queen, then player D gets an 8 face up, 7s are no longer wild. 8s are now wild.

If you’re playing in a game where queens in the hole are also wild, you can wind up with some big hands competing for the pot.

It can be hard to determine where you’re at in this game because the wild card could change at any time. Follow the Queen is a good game for people who enjoy poker with a lot of luck in play.

You’ll NEVER see this dealt in a casino, but it’s been a popular variation in home poker games for decades. In fact, this is one of the first poker variations I learned to play when I was a teenager.

7 – Baseball

This might be the most popular variation of 7-card stud in existence, and it’s a tremendous amount of fun. The 3s and 9s are wild cards. If you get dealt a 4, you get a bonus card.

The 3s are wild because of 3 strikes, and you’re out. The 9s are wild because there are 9 innings in a baseball game. And you get a bonus card for a 4 because 4 balls result in a walk.

Baseball is played high only. I’ve never seen it played high-low.

Variations exist within Baseball, too. Most of these variations are based on how the bonus card is handled after you get dealt a 4.

In one popular way to play, you check your hole cards for a 4. If you have one, you turn it face-up so that you can get your bonus card before the next player gets his next card.

In another, everyone gets their hole cards, then they check for 4s in order. The bonus card gets dealt after everyone has their cards in this scenario.

In my favorite variation, you can expose your 4s whenever you want to. You always have to expose them before a betting round, though, never after. This way you can surprise your opponents toward the end of the hand by getting your bonus cards. This is the most fun variation of baseball.

Also, you need to decide how the bonus cards are handled. Most of the time, if a hole card is a 4, you get your bonus card face down. And if the 4 was dealt face-up, you get your bonus card face-up.

That’s not an ironclad rule, either, though. The dealer can decide that all bonus cards are dealt face-up or face-down, but the dealer should announce this at the beginning of the game rather than deciding arbitrarily with each bonus card.

Oh, yeah—in some games, you don’t get a bonus card for a 4 in the hole. You only get the bonus card if you have a face-up 4.

One of the other reasons to love Baseball is its many variations. One variation is called “Major League Baseball.” In this variation, you get 9 cards instead of 7 cards.

When playing 9 card stud, the deal goes like this:

  1. 3 down
  2. 5 up
  3. 1 down

When you play Major League Baseball, the bonus cards for the 4s don’t happen, but 3s and 9s are still wild.

In some especially cruel home games, any face-up 3 means that the player must match the pot or fold. (I like this variation.)

Here are some more Baseball variations:

  • Basketball – 2s and 5s are wild, and 3s get a bonus card. (The 2s represent baskets, there are 5 players on a team, and a 3 represents a 3-point shot.)
  • Football – 6s and 3s are wild, and 2s get a bonus card. The 6s represent touchdowns, while the 3s represent field goals. The 2s represent safeties.
  • Hockey – 3s and 6s are wild. 3s represent the number of periods, 6s represent the number of players on a team. 7s get a bonus card. (The 7 represents an upside-down hockey stick.)
  • Woolworth – 5s and 10s are wild, an 2s get bonus cards. (Woolworths is the original 5 and dime store, and the deuces represent 2 for a dollar.)

Finally, there’s Night Baseball, which is just Baseball played in No Peek format. Of course, No Peek is its own variation.

In No Peek poker, all 7 cards are dealt face-down. You only turn over enough cards from your hand to beat the previous player. You have a betting round after each player’s turn of exposing cards, instead of betting after each round.

This continues until all players’ cards are revealed.

You can play No Peek as just a variation of 7-card stud, but it’s twice as fun when you play Night Baseball. Another variation added to most Night Baseball games is the requirement to match the pot if you when you turn over a 3.

8 – Wild Kings

This is a high-low variation of 5-card stud. Each player starts with a single hole card. You then get to choose from an exposed community card or a card from the deck. (You don’t get to see the card from the deck before deciding.)

There’s a round of betting after each round of choosing cards. In the final round, you also get a buy/substitution option. Kings are wild cards, but ONLY when making high hands.

That might sound complicated, but it’s more fun than you might think, and it’s easier than you might think, too.

Here’s an example of how the game might play out:

Player A get dealt an ace, and the dealer has exposed an ace. Player A can choose to take a card from the deck or the ace—he chooses the ace, obviously. That becomes his first face-up card.

A new face-up card gets dealt, and Player B gets to act.

Once all the players have a hole card and a face-up card, there’s a round of betting.

Then the process is repeated until each player has a 5-card hand—one hole card and 4 face-up cards.

After the final card gets dealt, you can choose to buy a card. This card replaces one of the cards in your hand. If you decide to replace your hole card, you get a new card face-down. If you replace one of your face-up cards, you get a new card face-up.

You can’t really evaluate where you are in the hand until after everyone has 3 cards, so this generates some serious action with the right players at the table. You’ll need at least a flush or a full house to win the high hand in this game.

9 – Pass the Trash

This is another variation of 5-card stud. You get 7 cards, but you get to choose 3 cards you don’t like to pass to the player to your left. The cards then get turned over like a normal 5-card stud hand with a betting round at all the usual points in the game.

This is an interesting game because you have a lot of knowledge about what other cards are out there. Not only do you know which 7 cards you hold, but you also know at least 3 cards that your opponent has, too. And you get more knowledge of more cards as the game continues.

You start by dealing each player 7 cards face-down. There’s a round of betting.

Then each player puts 3 cards from his hand in front of his chips. These all get passed to the left simultaneously. Then there’s another round of betting.

Then each player turns one card face-up, and that’s followed by a betting round.

This continues until each player has 4 exposed cards. You use a combination of your 4 exposed cards and one hole card to create your best possible poker hand at the showdown.

10 – Guts

Guts is a game where you have lots of hands which don’t last long. The pot gets progressively bigger until someone finally wins. The longer the game lasts, the bigger the pot gets, and the more courage it takes to continue in the game.

You start by having each player ante. Then you start dealing cards to each player, each of whom declares himself in or out after looking at his cards. The player with the highest hand wins the pot.

But the player with the lowest hand has to match the pot so the game can continue.

The game doesn’t end until only a single player has enough “guts” to declare himself in.

In its simplest variation, Guts is played with 2 cards per player. With 2 cards, there are no possible straights or flushes. A pair of aces is the best possible hand, and most pairs are winning hands. In a lot of hands, an ace-high can take down the pot.

The pots can get so big in Guts that it can turn your entire night around from a winning session to a losing session or vice versa.


There are more variation of poker than Texas holdem and Omaha. Most of these variations are played in home poker games, and they can be a lot of fun. If you’ve never tried any of the variants listed in this post, you should try some out next time you’re playing with your buddies.

What are your favorite home poker games that are never dealt in casinos?

Petko Stoyanov
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About Petko Stoyanov
My name is Petko Stoyanov, and I've been a gambling writer for more than ten years. I guess that was the natural path for me since I've loved soccer and card games for as long as I can remember! I have a long and fairly successful history with English Premier League betting and online poker, but I follow many other sports. I watch all big European soccer leagues, basketball, football, and tennis regularly, and I keep an eye on snooker, volleyball, and major UFC events.