Kung-Pao Chicken

So now I’m playing poker. It seems to be the “executive activity” of choice at work, which suits me fine since I’m crap at golf. I’m not too hot at poker either, mind you. A background in statistics helps me evaluate the relative merit of the possible hands in a probabilistic sense, but whenever the pot gets big I tend to stay in with a marginal hand “just to see what happens”. Oh well. Fortunately, I don’t see being $25 down at the end of a night a crushing loss. $25 is a good price for a night’s entertainment if you ask me.

Anyway, I did manage to invent a new game at the last session. Since poker isn’t widely played in the Commonwealth states, to get some variety at dealer’s choice I have to make up my own game instead of relying on a vast repertoire of established games. So here for posterity are the rules of “ten-card chicken” (which on the night was universally referred to as “Kung-Pao Chicken”).

Rules of 10-card chicken

  • Each player is dealt 10 cards, face down. (This limits the game to five players, but we used two decks for eight players.)
  • The ten cards will be divided into two standard five-card poker hands, betted on separately. There will be two winners: the winner of the first hand, and the winner of the second hand. At the end of the game, the eventual pot will be split equally between each winner. (It is possible the same player may win both hands and take the entire pot.)
  • After the deal, each player looks at his 10 cards and decides which five will be used for the first hand. A betting round follows. A player who folds in this betting round is out for the rest of the game, and cannot win any of the pot.
  • Once the first betting round concludes, all remaining players simultaneously turn over and display a five-card hand of their choice. The player with the highest hand showing (under standard poker rules) is the winner of the first round (but does not yet collect from the pot).
  • Another betting round begins (excluding players who folded in the first round). Players are now betting on the hand made of the remaining five cards in their hand. Usual betting and disclosure rules apply. The winner of the first hand may fold if he chooses and still collect half of the eventual pot.
  • After the betting round concludes, the winner of the second hand divides the pot with the winner of the first hand.

It’s an interesting game. It’s called “chicken” because each player has to make a choice — do I play my best hand first or second? The winner of the first hand has a definite advantage, because he can keep bumping the pot in the second round safe in the knowledge he’ll collect half of what everyone adds. But a good hand in the second round can catch players off-guard (although betting big on junk in the first round kinda gives the game away), especially since so many cards have already been shown. Winning the second hand is definitely worthwhile, as the pot can be huge.

As it happens, in the one game we played one player had full houses in both his hands, which drove the pot to astronomical levels. Sadly, that one player was not me — the best I could make with 10 cards was a measly two pair.

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