First up, Low Hole Wild. In this game, your low down-card is wild, as are all others of the same rank, and you choose whether to pay 50 cents to get your last card face up. Here’s why you’d want your last card face up: If you have a seven in the hole, and another seven on the board, you’ve got two wild sevens. If you draw a lower hole card, like a four, it might ruin your hand, in which case you need to buy your last card face up. That is assuming that it’s worth trying to win with the hand you have. If your hand can’t win, you might as well take your last card down, which is also the right move when your hand can’t lose!
In Cryogenic Freeze, the last face-up card you get is wild, as are all others of the same rank. Your choice is whether to stop receiving cards at any point, ‘freezing’ the last card you got as your wild rank; so, you might shut down with a pair of sevens if they are filling the blanks in a killer hand. Always deal the last card face up. Your choice here is often painful: If you freeze your hand to give yourself four of a kind, you can see someone freeze their hand to a straight flush with a card you would have gotten.
Mission Creep involves choosing how to change the wild card in the middle of the hand. Twos start wild in this game, but whenever a player gets a wild card face up, he must immediately change the wild card by one rank in either direction (aces wrap around). This means that if you’ve got two twos down and you get a third two face up, you must make the wild card either threes or aces. Make the choice carefully; just because the player on your left has an ace face up doesn’t mean he doesn’t have two threes down.
Mission Creep gives some people the chance to pick the wild card, but Juncture of Destiny gives everybody the chance to choose a wild card. At the beginning of the game, two ranks of cards are chosen as potential wild cards. At the showdown, each player chooses, for his own hand, which of these two ranks to make wild. (Well, it’s whatever makes his hand better, but it feels like a choice.)
Here’s our friend Jon’s recent improvement on Juncture of Destiny, adding a vote to the end. It’s called Brains, in honor of the concept of strategic choice, and because ‘Improved Juncture of Destiny’ is the best name anyone else thought of at the time. To begin, randomly choose two ranks that might be wild at the end. At the showdown, all players who are still in the hand must vote. Take a coin below the table, and return with the coin, or nothing, clenched in your fist. Holding a coin is a vote for the higher rank, holding no coin is a vote for the lower. The rank that gets the most votes is wild for all players. If there is a tie, then no cards are wild.
In Brains, you’ll probably notice that you tend to vote against the most common wild card on the table. This means that when you have a potential wild card showing, you can expect it to be less likely to become wild. We think this is a great way to punish people for getting their good cards face-up. But then, we also think it’s fun to play Mission Creep for money.
Mike Selinker and James Ernest are big fans of strategic choices, designing board and card games and occasionally writing poker books. You can learn 200 other strange games and a lot more in Dealer’s Choice: The Complete Handbook of Saturday Night Poker (Overlook Press, by James and Mike with Phil Foglio).