Texas Half’em

It’s too early to be crowing over my Ashes cricket predictions, but I’m off to a good start. Or at least I would be if I was betting, which I’m not, or if I wasn’t an England supporter, which I am. Still, it is nice to be right about stuff.

Instead today I’m going to talk about a fresh poker idea. I don’t really play these days, so I haven’t been able to road test it in a live game, but it feels like it would be fun. Although as you’ll see, the format would be easier to deal online.

From the name of the blog, you might’ve guessed that it’s based on the TV-friendly game of Texas Hold’em. Everybody knows it and lots of people like it, therefore it’s easy to learn and not too scary to try.

The cards get dealt out as normal, with everyone getting two each. There are no blinds though, because blinds are confusing, stupid and occasionally unfair. Instead the game is played with antes.

This is where it goes off-piste, so I’m going to use examples. Let’s say that it’s a cash game with £100 stacks and a 25p ante with eight players. So the start of every hand sees £2 in the pot. The minimum bet in this game is £1 and we’re playing a no-limit variant.

Once everyone has their cards, all players act simultaneously by privately logging the amount they are prepared to bet on their hand (you fold by not betting). In order to see the flop, you must be within 50% of the highest bet. That’s the Halfing rule.

Let’s take a nice easy number and say that’s £5. Anyone that bet £2.50 or more will get to see the first three community cards and so their money goes into the Main Pot. No-one has to pay any more money, the bet you register is the amount you have to pay in all rounds. That means you could be getting a cheap flop, or an expensive one.

Meanwhile, the money of the folks that didn’t reach the 50% threshold gets scooped up and put in the Fold Pot along with the antes. These folks won’t get to play any further part in the hand, but they do get a mini-showdown at the end to decide who gets the pot.

Let’s take the example further. Andy bet the £5, and his opponents Barry and Carl both bet £3. They get to see a flop with a Main Pot of £11. Darren put in £2, Eddie and Frank both bet £1, whilst Gordon and Henry folded. Those three players fell short of the £2.50 threshold so there will be a three-way Fold Pot of £6 (£4 in bets plus the £2 in antes).

At this juncture I’ll apologise to the non-poker people who are trying to read this. I appreciate it is hard to follow jargon, and it isn’t going to get any easier. Poker people, I hope you’re following so far.

The second round of betting now proceeds as before, without the lunacy of the Fold Pot. Again, Andy, Barry and Carl will privately and simultaneously register the amount they want to bet. The same Halfing rule applies. If any player bets within 50% of the highest amount, then they will see the turn and the hand will continue.

Andy follows up with a bet of £10. Barry anticipates the amount and bets £6, but Carl underestimates and only bets £4. Carl therefore loses his £4 and is forced to fold. The Main Pot is now £31 and it’s between Andy and Barry.

Andy is aware he has put in more money than Barry until now (£16 Vs £9), so he decides to low ball it. This time he registers £10, expecting Barry to bet around half the pot, which he does. This time it’s a cheeky £14. Now it’s Andy is getting the value. The Halfing rule is met so we get a river and the pot is £55.

It’s time for the final bets. Both players think they have the best of it and decide to bid a ‘safe’ amount to maximise the chances of a showdown. Andy goes for £45 and Barry registers £40. Andy turns over top two pair and takes the £140 Main Pot.

Among the early folders, Eddie has made a straight so claims the consolation £6, thus concluding the hand.

Here are the reasons why I like this format:

  • Getting everyone to play concurrently speeds the game up. If you’re still in then it is your turn to act.
  • You can always justify making a little bet with crappy cards, so you’re more likely to be engaged from one hand to the next.
  • As long as you make a bet pre-flop, you have something to cheer for. The dullest part of the game (waiting for the hand to finish) becomes more tolerable with the Fold Pot.
  • Position matters less and Game Theory becomes really important. Guessing and second guessing your opponent is everything. The constant uncertainty makes it a much more exciting game.

So what do you think – do you hate it or would you play it? Are there any unsolvable gaping problems that I haven’t considered or addressed? Off the top of my head, I’d say the rules around being “all-in” need tidying up, but it’s not an insurmountable hurdle.

If you have any thoughts, please get in touch. If I ever get around to trying it out (or I hear that somebody else has), I’ll be sure to report back.

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