Going over the ideas of Wild Card, Low Card games

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Over the years, there are two types of table games I’ve seen tried many times that I have never seen succeed. They are Wild Card and Low games. Low games are where the player tries to get the lowest possible hand. I believe both games have struggled because, quite frankly, players struggle to figure out what hand they have!

In Low games, you have the added confusion that there isn’t really a standard for the definition of a Low Hand. Anytime I’ve worked on one of these, the first questions are if Straights and Flushes count. When I used to play poker in college, A-2-3-4-6 of mixed suit was the best Low Hand. But, I’ve seen variations of low games tried in the casino where it doesn’t have to be mixed suit and/or A-2-3-4-5 is considered the lowest possible hand. Which is more correct? That is the problem. While we’re arguing, some player wagering real money is utterly confused.

Then we add even more confusion if we play the low game similar to a high game, where you get dealt more cards than are considered your hand. If you are dealt 5 cards to make a 4-card hand, invariably players who get dealt a Pair feel they have a dead hand. In reality, they can just drop one of the two cards and play the other four and may have a strong hand. Basically, it is not the math that has killed Low games, it is the human mind.

I’ve been told a new Low game is about to hit the market in the Midwest called Cali Lowball by AGS Gaming. I saw it at the G2E a couple of years ago and thought, of all the Low games I’ve seen, this one has a shot. We’ll see how it goes over the next few months.

The other type of game I mentioned is Wild Card games. It is fairly obvious what is unique about these games. Some card or cards are wild and can be used as anything. These games have had low success rates on tables for one of two reasons. The first is it is common to make just the Joker wild. The problem with this is there is only one of them and it can seem like an eternity until you get it. If you don’t get it, you’re in trouble. If you do get it, you’re sitting pretty. If the dealer gets it, you might as well surrender!

The other options are that one of the ranks will be made into a wild card. Frequently, Deuces are the selected rank because they are otherwise perceived to be a weak card. The issue here can be, with so many wild cards, properly identifying a hand can get tricky for some people. 2-2-3-5-7 is a Straight in a Deuces wild game. I can see many players missing this.

I was surprised a few years ago when asked to do the math on a game with both Deuces and Joker wild, nearly 10% of the cards! The game hit the casino in the past couple of years and is starting to catch on, I’ve been told.

In the game the player makes two equal wagers – an Ante and a Blind. The player gets five cards that he can review. The dealer gets five cards face down. The player either folds or makes a Play wager equal to 2x his Ante. Compare the hands. Higher hand wins. There is no dealer qualifying. The player wins even money on his Ante and his Play. The Blind wager will push if the player has Three of a Kind or less. If he has a Straight or Better, it can pay odds. The name of the game is, unsurprisingly, DJ Wild Poker.

Time will tell with this one as well if it can get over the hump and be a regular in the casino. All it takes is one successful game in a genre to potentially open the floodgates. So, we may be seeing more wild card games and low games arriving soon.

About the Author

Elliot Frome

Elliot Frome’s roots run deep into gaming theory and analysis. His father, Lenny, was a pioneer in developing video poker strategy in the 1980s and is credited with raising its popularity to dizzying heights. Elliot is a second generation gaming author and analyst with nearly 20 years of programming experience.

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