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Off the Beaten Path: Guts
By: J. Phillip Vogel


Because poker is the sort of game that lends itself well to creative inspiration, there are just about as many poker variants as there are imaginative players. One such variation is known commonly as “Guts.”


Although this family of poker games has over forty versions and counting, the general theme is almost always the same: the winning hand earns the pot, while all losing hands must match the pot. Variations in play take the form of the number of cards dealt (generally one to five) pot limits or caps, and ante options.


In Two-Card Guts, for example, each player antes and is then dealt two cards. Beginning with the player to the left of the dealer, players must decide if they are “in” or “out.” Since only two cards are used, hand rankings range from pairs to high card, with A-A being the best hand, while 2-3 is the worst. Suits and sequence have no bearing on the hand. Players who are out have no further stake in the game and have only lost their ante wager. Players who are “in” reveal their two cards and the player with the best hand wins. All other players who were “in” must then match the size of the current pot and that money becomes the next pot. The game continues in this manner with the pots growing until such time as only one player stays “in” for a hand.


Another popular form of guts is Monte Carlo or Three-Card Guts. In this version of the game, the same basic “guts” rules apply except players are now dealt three cards instead of two, resulting in a wider spectrum of hand possibilities. The following is the ranking of hands in three-card guts:



Straight Flush: Three suited cards in sequence.


Three-of-a-Kind: Three matching cards.


Flush: Three non-sequential suited cards.


Straight: Three non-suited sequential cards.


Pair: Two matching cards.


High card: Single highest value card in the hand.


To play Three-Card Guts, each player is dealt three cards, and starting from the dealer’s left, players declare if they are in or out. (In some versions, all players announce their decision simultaneously by either holding or dropping their cards on the count of three. Players that retain their cards are “in.”) Again, the player with the best hand wins, while all losers must match the pot. The cards are then re-dealt and play continues until only one player calls “in” and wins the pot.


An exciting variation of Three-Card guts is called “Two and One Guts.” Two and One Guts follows the same rules as Three-Card except players are initially dealt only two cards. Players who are out, receive no additional cards, while player who decide to play expose their two-card hand and are subsequently dealt a third card face-up.


Whatever version you play, Guts is a simple and exciting, but potentially expensive, poker game. Pots often run very high and, while you may make a bundle, it could take only a few tough rounds to decimate a bankroll.

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(© 2005 BluffMagazine. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed)

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