Guts is a card game, in several variations, that is often included among the options during a session of Dealer’s Choice Poker, although it isn’t strictly speaking a Poker game. This is because most versions of Guts use fewer than five cards, with the basic game using just two.
However, the speed of play and the similarities to Poker in structuring winning combinations make it a popular alternative, so the game does attract a dedicated following among Poker fans. The betting system is quite different, and pots can grow to enormous sizes relatively quickly, so to play the bigger hands successfully definitely takes guts.
Basic Two-Card Guts Play
Two-Card Guts is the original game on which all other versions are based. The game uses a standard 52-card deck with no Jokers, and works best when played by between 5 and 10 players, although theoretically as many as 26 can play at once. A minimum ante must be set before the game starts, and many versions of the game also set a maximum amount that can be won or lost in one pot. Typically, this will be 100X the ante.
To start a game with an empty pot, all stake their ante in the pot. They are dealt cards one at a time, face down, until all players have two cards. Players then check their cards, and must declare whether they are ‘in’ or ‘out’. This declaration is first made by the player to the dealer’s left, and then continues clockwise. Players who declare they are out cannot win the pot, but they will not lose any more than their ante stake.
Declaration is Followed by the Showdown
Once all the players have declared whether they are in or out, the showdown occurs, with all remaining players revealing both of their cards. The highest hand, valued according to poker rankings, is the winner, and scoops the pot. So a pair of Aces is the highest possible hand, followed by the other pairs in descending order, followed by an Ace-King, Ace-Queen, etc, all the way down to a 3-2 hand. In the event of winning ties, with two players having identical pairs or two or more players with identical winning cards, the pot is split between the tied hands.
Any players who declared themselves in, but who do not win the hand, then have to pay an amount equal to the entire pot. These payments from losing ‘in’ players are then added together, forming the pot for the next hand. If only one player declares they are in during a round, that player can scoop the entire pot without showing their cards at all. If all the players who declare themselves in then tie to win, the pot is split between all winners. In both cases, players will have to re-stake their ante bets to create a new pot.
Many Variations to Try out
Two-Card Guts comes in several varieties, such as the Simultaneous Drop, where all players must declare at the same time. Some versions nominate a single loser, with only the lowest hand among the in players required to total the value of pot. Some versions make players pay their ante on every deal, even if they win or declared themselves out, and others add an extra Ghost player, so no one can take the pot without any opposition. There are also three-card versions of the game, as well as other variants that have extra round of deals and bets after the declaration.