FIELD OF INVENTION
- BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
This invention relates generally to poker games and methods, and more particularly to a method for playing a poker game that is an improvement and variation to the “Texas Hold'em” poker game.
Numerous poker games currently exist. Each poker game has different rules and variations thereof and numerous patents have been granted in the field of methods for playing poker games. Some examples of poker games include: Texas Hold'em poker, five card draw poker, five card stud poker, seven card stud poker, Caribbean stud poker and Omaha poker. Poker games can differ in many ways, including whether a player plays against other players or against a dealer, whether community cards are available for all players to use, whether some of a player's cards are exposed to the player's opponents, the number of cards given to each player, whether a player may exchange received cards for new cards and when and how betting occurs. Although there are many poker games, one poker game in particular, “Texas Hold'em” or just “Hold'em” for short, has seen its popularity rise tremendously in recent years.
Texas Hold'em is a community card poker game played with a standard 52-card deck. It is generally played with between 2 and 10 people. Like most other poker games, the objective of Texas Hold'em is to win the pot of money bet by the players by either forming the best poker hand out of the seven cards available or by betting to cause other players to fold and abandon their hands. Play begins with each player being dealt two cards face down, which are called the player's “hole” or “pocket cards.” These are the only cards each player will receive individually. A round of “pre-flop” betting then occurs. Then the dealer discards or “burns” one card and exposes three face-up community cards called “the flop.” Another round of betting ensues, another card is burned and one card is exposed face-up as a community card called “fourth street” or “the turn.” Yet another round of betting takes place, a final card is burned and one final card is exposed face-up as a community card called “fifth street” or “the river.” A final round of betting takes place.
Normally a Texas Hold'em hand starts with the player immediately to the left of the designated dealer posting a “small blind” and the player immediately to the left of that player posting a “big blind.” These are forced bets to induce action or play in the hand. The amounts of the small and big blind vary depending on the stakes of the game, but the big blind is usually twice that of the small blind. The pre-flop round of betting then starts with the person to the left of the big blind. That person has to decide whether to “call” or match the big blind, raise the big blind or fold the hand. Betting continues clockwise around the table with each subsequent player deciding to call the big blind or, if a prior player had raised the big blind, call such raise, raise or fold. The betting round ends once each player has either folded or called the big blind and any raises. Subsequent betting rounds start immediately to the left of the dealer and proceed clockwise in the same manner, except that since the blinds are now part of the pot, players are allowed to “check” (remain in the hand without betting) if no bet has previously occurred. If all players check on a betting round it is called “checking around.”
The type of Texas Hold'em being played dictates the amount of any raise. The three most common types of Texas Hold'em are “Limit Texas Hold'em” (any raise in the first two betting rounds must equal the big blind and normally two times the big blind in the last two betting rounds), “Pot-Limit Texas Hold'em” (maximum raise is the size of the pot) and “No-Limit Texas Hold'em” (player may raise up to all of the chips or money the player has left at the table, which is called going “all-in”).
If a player bets and all remaining players fold, then the player wins the pot and is not required to show his hole cards. If two or more players remain after the final betting round, each player forms the best hand possible using the player's hole cards and the five community cards. Players are not required to use their hole cards (such players are said to be “playing the board”). The remaining player with the best poker hand wins the pot. If multiple remaining players share the best poker hand then they split the pot. Texas Hold'em poker hands are ranked in the following order (highest to lowest) like most poker games:
1. Royal flush (ace through 10, all of the same suit)
2. Straight flush (five cards in a row, all of the same suit)
3. Four of kind (all four of a card, like four sevens)
4. Full house (three of a kind and two of a kind in one hand)
5. Flush (five of a suit)
6. Straight (five cards in a row)
7. Three of a kind (three of a card, like three sevens)
8. Two pair (two of a kind twice in one hand)
9. One pair (two of a card, like two sevens)
10. Highest cards (Ace is the highest card in the deck)
The spike in popularity of Texas Hold'em is traced in part to the improbable victory in 2003 of an unknown amateur player, Chris Moneymaker, at Texas Hold'em's most prestigious event, the Main Event of the World Series of Poker. The excitement generated by Moneymaker's historic victory encouraged hundreds of thousands of people to take up the game with the general attitude being “if he can do it so can I.” One indication of Texas Hold'em's increased popularity has been attendance at the Main Event of the World Series of Poker itself: in 2003, 838 people participated in the Main Event; in 2004, 2,576 people participated; in 2005, 5,619 people participated; in 2006, event planners are predicting 8,000 participants.
Another leading generator of growth of Texas Hold'em has been its increasing availability on the internet. Although fifteen years ago one could not play Texas Hold'em on the internet, today there are numerous internet sites such as www.partvpoker.com and www.pokerstars.com, where players can learn the game and play against other people on the internet for free or for real money. Because of the relative ease of playing on the internet as opposed to finding and traveling to traditional venues for playing poker, like brick and mortar casinos and poker rooms, Texas Hold'em play has exploded on the internet. The remarkable rise of internet poker is illustrated in Party Gaming's 2005 Annual Report (Party Gaming is the parent company of PartyPoker, the operator of www.partvpoker.com) where reported revenues of PartyPoker increased from $153 million in 2003 to $977 million in 2005: “On average, PartyPoker handles around 32 hands of real money poker per second, every hour, every day, every month. Over $45 billion was wagered on the site in 2005, or $1,454 per second.”
While there have been many positive effects of Texas Hold'em's increased popularity, notably greater coverage of the game in both print and televison and increased opportunities to play, there have been negative effects as well. In short, the phenomenal growth of Texas Hold'em has ushered into the game (both live and internet games) large numbers of inexperienced players who now dominate the poker landscape. Their presence and resulting poor play have led to countless frustrations and “bad beats” among more experienced and sophisticated players, fundamentally altering the nature of the game for the worse. The problem is particulary acute online where the faceless nature of playing on the internet has reduced the normal reputational costs of poor play and immature behavior present in live play.
Examples of typical types of poor play include:
- 1. Chasing Cards. Inexperienced players like to chase cards. For example, if a flop includes two cards of the same suit and an inexperienced player's hole cards are both of that suit, then such player often “chases” a final card of the that suit to make a flush, typically calling large bets after the flop and after fourth street to do so. Experienced players usually do not call large bets (especially large bets into small pots) to chase cards because the odds (often called the pot odds) of being successful do not warrant the play. Similarly, inexperienced players often chase cards to make a straight.
- 2. Playing Too Many Hands. Inexperienced players like to play too many hands. That is, inexperienced players call or raise pre-flop with weak or “garbage” hole cards. Although experienced players sometimes play weak hole cards to keep their opponents off-balanced, they usually do not play weak hole cards often and they normally try not to play too many hands generally. This is because as poker professional Phil Hellmuth stated “the plain fact is that if you play too many hands in a pro-level poker game, you just cannot win, certainly not in the long run and probably not even on just one given night, no matter how lucky you are.”
- 3. Excessive Bluffing and Going All-in-All-the-Time. Inexperienced players like to bluff (calling or raising large amounts with poor hands) too many times, often going “all-in” in doing so. While strategic bluffing is undoubtedly part of Texas Hold'em, experienced players do not bluff or move all-in excessively because it diminishes the power of their future bluffs and “all-in” moves and increases the likelihood that their opponents will call on future hands.
The fundamental problem with these and other poor Texas Hold'em plays is that poor play is rewarded too frequently in Texas Hold'em. That is, while the odds of a poor move paying off are low, they are not low enough to discourage the ubiquitous inexperienced player from making them. For example, even if a player can only be helped by one card left in the deck on the river (say the ace of spades for instance), that player still has a 2.2% of getting the card (calculation: 1 divided by (52 cards in the deck minus 2 known hole cards minus 3 known flop cards minus 1 known fourth street card)). Similarly, if a player attempts to chase a flush on the river with two hole cards of the same suit and two cards of that suit on the board, the odds the player will be successful in making a flush are 19.6%. If an inexperienced player plays hole cards of 7 and 2 of different suits against a player with pocket aces (not of the same suits of either the 7 or the 2) (pocket aces are the best starting hand in Texas Hold'em), the pre-flop odds on the inexperienced player winning are 12.4%.
In the long run over hundreds of hands against hundreds of different opponents, such poor and inexperienced play is not profitable. However, in the short run on any particular hand against any particular opponent such poor play does in fact pay off 2.2%, 19.6% and 12.4% of the time in the examples above. In such cases, the player beaten by a poor play is said to have had a “bad beat” or have been unlucky. Given the sheer magnitude of inexperienced players playing today bad beats are all too familiar when playing Texas Hold'em. Such bad beats are particularly problematic in No-Limit Texas Hold'em because a player's entire chip stack or money can and often is at risk, and many experienced players have lost all of their chips or money because of such “bad beats.” Thus while poor play is not profitable for the inexperienced player over the long run to the benefit of the entire field of players, it can and does result in disaster to individual players who receive bad beats. The plight of individual players subjected to bad beats has resulted in the creation of several colorful and derogatory names for their inexperienced but lucky opponents: “fish,” “donkey,” and “suckout.” Although occasional bad beats have historically been part of the game, the domination of the game by the inexperienced, making poor play after poor play, has altered the nature of the game: bad beats are too common and some players fearing bad beats elect not to follow usually optimal strategies.
The only attempts at reducing the negative effects of the large number of inexperienced players on Texas Hold'em and poor play have related to the size of the stakes. That is, buy-in amounts (the amount required to play to enter a Texas Hold'em tournament) and stakes (typical betting levels when not playing a tournament) have sometimes been raised so as to price out the mass of inexperienced players who simply do not have the money to play at higher levels. In fact, serious debate is taking place as to whether to increase the buy-in amount for the Main Event at the World Series of Poker, Texas Hold'em's most prestigious event, because of the effects of too many inexperienced players in the event. This is not a solution for players that do not want to play for high amounts.
Thus, a need exists to provide an improved Texas Hold'em poker game that allows players to protect themselves against and reduce their exposure to inexperienced or poor play and bad luck, thereby reducing the magnitude and frequency of bad beats inflicted by the extremely large number of inexperienced players that dominate Texas Hold'em poker.
The present invention is directed to an improved method of playing a poker game that is better than the present Texas Hold'em poker game.
The present invention is further directed to an improved version of Texas Hold'em poker that allows players to protect themselves and reduce their exposure to inexperienced or poor play and bad luck, thereby reducing the magnitude and frequency of bad beats inflicted by the large number of inexperienced players that dominate Texas Hold'em poker, by providing players the option, prior to the exposure of the river card, of declaring that their hand is “ahead” (is the best poker hand (or, in the alternative, is the hand that has the best chance to become the best poker hand at the conclusion of the hand)) among the hands of other players remaining in the hand at the exact time of declaration (or, in the alternative, among the hands of the other players remaining in the hand at the end of the betting round in which a declaration was made) and by guaranteeing any player who correctly makes such a declaration a predetermined portion of the pot regardless of whether the player has the best poker hand at the conclusion of the hand.
For the purpose of promoting an understanding of the principles of the invention, reference will now be made to preferred embodiments and specific language will be used to describe the same. It will nevertheless be understood that no limitation of the scope of the invention is thereby intended. Alterations and further modifications of the invention, and such further applications of the principles of the invention as illustrated herein, as would normally occur to one skilled in the art to which the invention relates are further contemplated herein.
The present invention is directed to a method for improving Texas Hold'em poker comprising the steps of:
- a) providing any player during any betting round prior to the exposure of the river card, when it is such player's turn to check, call, raise or fold such player's hand, the option, so long as such player does not check or fold, of declaring that such player is “ahead” in the hand (i.e., has the best poker hand (or, in the alternative, has the hand that has the best chance to become the best poker hand at the conclusion of the hand)) (e.g., “I'm ahead” or “I have the best hand now”) (each player may exercise this option only once per hand);
- b) determining whether a player did or did not in fact have the best poker hand at the time and among the players still remaining in the hand at the exact time such player made the declaration (or, in the alternative, among the other players remaining in the hand at the end of the betting round in which a declaration was made) by requiring players to retain and keep separate their hole cards even if they subsequently decide not remain in the hand (i.e., they fold their hand) so that once such a contested hand is concluded all players in the hand at the time of any declaration have the option of showing their hole cards to determine whether such declaration was correct;
- c) paying such declaring player a predetermined and guaranteed portion of the final pot at the end of the hand, if such player did in fact have the best poker hand at the time and among the players still remaining in the hand at the exact time such player made the declaration and if such player remained in the hand until it was concluded;
- d) not paying such declaring player the guaranteed portion of the final pot, if such player did in fact have the best poker hand at the time and among the players still remaining in the hand at the exact time such player made the declaration but such player subsequently folded such player's hand;
- e) not paying such declaring player any portion of the final pot, if such player did NOT in fact have the best poker hand at the time and among the players still remaining in the hand at the exact time such player made the declaration, even if such player has the best final poker hand and regardless of whether such player put additional money into the pot after the declaration, in which case 100% of the pot goes to the remaining non-declaring player with the best hand (subject to the rights of other players who correctly made their own declaration), unless all other players subsequently fold their hands to the declaring player, in which case the declaring player receives 100% the final pot, and unless all players remaining in the hand at its conclusion have incorrectly declared being ahead, in which case the pot is split equally among them (alternatively, an additional penalty may be assessed to such declaring player making an incorrect declaration such as requiring such player to pay all or some players a big blind or other predetermined amounts);
- f) making such guaranteed portion of the final pot equal to:
- i) one divided by the number of players in the hand at its conclusion, if, after making a second determination, the declaring player does not have the final best poker hand (e.g., if one other player finishes the hand and has a better hand than the declaring player, but the declaring player had the best poker hand at the time when such player made the declaration, then the declaring player is guaranteed 50% of the final pot; if two other players finish the hand and one of them has a better hand than the declaring player, the declaring player is guaranteed 33⅓% of the final pot);
- ii) 100%, if the declaring player has the best final poker hand and no other player correctly declared being ahead; or
- iii) 100% minus any guaranteed portions payable to other remaining players, if any other remaining player correctly declared having the best poker hand.
The present invention uses some steps and features of the traditional Texas Hold'em poker game including Texas Hold'em's general object, structure and betting features.
However, the present invention provides for a novel improvement to the method of playing traditional Texas Hold'em poker in that a player has the option, during any betting round prior to the exposure of the river card when it is such player's turn to check, call, raise or fold such player's hand, to also declare, so long as such player is not checking or folding such player's hand, that such player is ahead in the hand. That is, the player has the option of declaring that the player has the best poker hand among the player's hole cards and any community cards present, if any, at the exact time the declaration is made among the players remaining in the hand at the time of the declaration.
If the declaring player is correct and does in fact possess the best current poker hand among the players in the hand at such time, the player is guaranteed at least a portion of the final pot should the player remain in the hand until its conclusion. If the declaring player is correct and also has the best final poker hand, the player is awarded 100% of the final pot, assuming no other player correctly declared being ahead in that hand. If the declaring player is correct but does not have the best final poker hand, the player is awarded a portion of the pot equal to one divided by the number of players in the hand at its conclusion. Thus, if the declaring player was correct and two other players finish the hand with one of them having the best final poker hand, then the declaring player receives 33⅓% of the final pot and the player with the best final poker hand receives 66⅔% of the final pot.
If the declaring player is wrong and does not in fact possess the best current poker hand among the players in the hand at such time, the player automatically loses the hand (and may be subject to further penalties), even if such player ends up with the final best hand and even if such player subsequently adds to the pot, unless all other players fold to the declaring player. If the declaring player automatically loses the hand and others players remain in the hand, the pot goes to the non-declaring player with the best hand (subject to the rights of any other players who have correctly made their own declaration). If all remaining players have incorrectly declared being ahead, the pot is split equally among them.
To determine whether a player in fact had the best poker hand among the players in the hand at the time of a declaration, all players are required to retain and keep separate their hole cards once a declaration is made, even if a player decides to fold such player's hole cards and is out of the hand. Once a contested hand is finished the dealer will determine if a player made a correct declaration by asking each player who was in the hand at the exact time a declaration was made to show such player's cards. When so asked a player may but is not required to so show his hole cards. The dealer is charged with recalling and only taking into account which, if any, flop or fourth street cards were exposed at the time of the declaration when determining if the declaration was correct.
Although a player may only declare being ahead once per hand, multiple players may declare being ahead in the same hand. For example if Players 1 and 2 each declare being ahead after the flop (Player 1 was correct and Player 2 was incorrect) and Player 3 declares being ahead after fourth street (Player 3 was correct) and Players 1, 2 and 3 finish the hand with Player 3 winning the hand, then Player 1 would receive 33⅓% of the final pot for being correct, Player 2 would receive no portion of the final pot for incorrectly declaring being ahead and Player 3 would receive 66⅔% of the pot for being correct and having the best final hand.
The ability to declare being ahead and the ramifications to the distribution of the final pot on the correctness of such declarations is a significant difference from traditional Texas Hold'em poker. This major difference allows players to play certain hands more conservatively when faced with inexperienced and poor players and allows players the opportunity to reduce the pain of any bad beats that might be inflicted by inexperienced or bad play or bad luck.
For example, if a player with pocket aces and a pre-river board showing another ace (making three aces for such player) but two cards of the same suit, and such player suspects, from the betting in this hand and from prior erratic and poor play by a particular opponent, that such opponent will literally call any bet to chase a flush, the player may bet and declare “I'm ahead.” If such player is correct and has the better hand when making the declaration, then even if the opponent poorly calls and wins the hand by hitting a flush, the declaring player is guaranteed 50% of the pot. Thus, the ability to protect one's hand against poor play by others reduces the effects of bad beats and other players' poor play (e.g., this player at least received 50% of the pot).
Note that declaring being ahead is by nature a conservative play because if taken seriously (see below regarding bluffing) it reduces the chance that players, both experienced and inexperienced, would stay in the hand. Players are less likely to stay in the hand because after a correct declaration is made they can only win part of the final pot instead of the entire pot (of course, they will not know this for sure until the hand is over and cards are revealed), thus reducing the “pot odds” of making any call to stay in the hand. Because players are less likely to remain in the hand and call future bets, the declaring player potentially loses the upside when such player's strong hands hold up (not being bad beat). This is the ultimate tradeoff presented by declaring one is ahead: one is less likely to win bigger pots because other players are less likely to put more money in the pot once a player makes a declaration, but one is at least guaranteed a portion of an albeit smaller pot if a bad beat occurs. Essentially, one can use the declaration to protect against a poker disaster (a huge loss on a bad beat) but will probably win less money than if a declaration had not been made.
Note too that the method of this invention also reduces the negative effects of inexperienced players excessively bluffing at pots (making or calling large raises often by going all-in) by raising the likelihood that other players will call a suspected bluff (or not worry about making a large raise in anticipation of another player calling on a bluff). It raises the likelihood of other players calling a suspected bluff because such players can declare being ahead when calling a suspect bluff and thus guarantee themselves at least a portion of the final pot should the suspicion be confirmed.
Because declaring being ahead carries with it penalties for being wrong, its excessive use by inexperienced players is unlikely. As stated above, if a player incorrectly declares being ahead, then that player automatically loses the hand (unless all other players fold after such declaration), even if the player has the final best hand and even if a player adds money to the pot. This significant penalty, along with other player's ability to declare themselves ahead, reduces the chances that players will excessively use declaring being ahead as a method of bluffing at the pot. Simply put, the penalty is too large and too likely for players to excessively use the declaration. That said, sophisticated players are able to use the declaration as a bluffing method, adding another layer of skill and complexity to poker.
- CONCLUSION, RAMIFICATIONS, AND SCOPE
While the invention has been particularly described with reference to the preferred embodiment thereof, it will be understood by those skilled in the art that the following and other changes in form and details may be made therein without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. For example, and without limitation, the present invention includes alterations to the preferred embodiment such as which rounds of betting a player may make the declaration, how many times a person may make the declaration during a hand, a period of time or over a number of hands, whether a predetermined number of players must or cannot remain in the hand for a player to be allowed to make a declaration, the size of the pot guaranteed to the declaring player, whether to restrict the size of the pot guaranteed to the declaring player by the size of the pot at the time of the declaration, additional or different penalties of incorrectly declaring being ahead (e.g., distributing the existing pot to the players that were in the hand at the time of the declaration but subsequently folded if all such players folded and if the declaration was incorrect), whether a declaring player must continue to play the pot until its conclusion (e.g., guaranteeing the declaring player a portion of the current pot if such player is correct but removing the player from future rounds of betting and any accretions to the pot), whether the declaration should be for the best current poker hand or the hand with the best of odds of producing the best poker hand at the conclusion of the hand, whether payment of a guaranteed pot is made to a declaring player if such player is in fact tied with (and therefore not ahead of) other players, whether players are required to show their hole cards when determining if another declaring player was correct in making a declaration and whether a player must raise or call a raise to be able to make the declaration.
Accordingly, the reader will see that, according to the invention, the inventor has disclosed an improved method of playing Texas Hold'em poker that allows players to protect themselves against and reduce their exposure to inexperienced or poor play and bad luck, thereby reducing the magnitude and frequency of bad beats inflicted by the extremely large number of inexperienced players that dominate Texas Hold'em poker, by providing players the opportunity, prior to the exposure of the river card, the option of declaring that their hand is “ahead” (is the best poker hand) among the other hands of other players still in the hand at the time of declaration and by guaranteeing any player who correctly makes such a declaration a portion of the pot regardless of whether the player has the best poker hand at the conclusion of the hand. In addition to allowing players to protect and win a portion of the pot, it also allows players an additional method of bluffing, which itself adds another layer of skill and complexity when used sparingly by more experienced players.
While the above description contains many specificities, these should not be construed as limitations on the scope of the invention, but as exemplifications of the presently preferred embodiments thereof. Many other ramifications and variations are possible with the teachings of the invention, some of which are discussed as alternative embodiments above. Accordingly, the scope of the invention should be determined not by the embodiments discussed herein but by the appended claims and their legal equivalents.
All references cited herein are indicative of the level of skill in the art and are hereby incorporated by reference in their entirety.