Hold’em and Omaha may be the most popular modern variations with widely known poker rules, but they certainly aren’t the only ones.
The fact of the matter is that recreational players get tired of playing the same old games, and then someone comes up with a brand new variation. Irish Poker is one such game.
Irish Poker is clearly inspired by Hold’em and Omaha but offers an interesting twist, which calls for certain strategic adjustments.
The game has become quite popular in recent years, so several online rooms have started offering it, and you’ll find some live Irish Poker tournaments and cash games as well.
But this particular variation is more suited for home games, whether you want to play it seriously or just have a blast playing the Irish Poker drinking game.
The latter doesn’t require any poker strategy knowledge, but you should be pretty good at holding your liquor. Instead of outsmarting your opponents, you’ll need to outdrink them, which requires a completely different set of skills.
Irish Poker Rules
When the game is played in its more traditional variation, Irish Poker rules are quite similar to that of Texas Hold’em. Players will post blinds before the start of the hand, and the deal will begin with the small blind player and continue clockwise.
However, instead of two, each player will receive four hole cards, face down.
When everyone has their four hole cards, the preflop betting round begins, starting with the UTG player, and all the rules are the same as that of Hold’em or PLO if you decide to play the game in a pot-limit instead of a no-limit format.
When the preflop betting round is completed, the dealer will deal the standard flop consisting of three cards, face up. Another round of betting starts with the first still-active player to the left of the button.
All active players are required to discard two of their four cards after the flop.
This means that the turn and the river will be played like Hold’em since you’ll only have two hole cards to work with.
When it’s the time to show the hands, you’re allowed to use any combination of hole cards and community cards to make the best poker hands, i.e., you can use two, one, or none of your hole cards, just like in Hold’em.
So, Irish Poker Rules aren’t particularly complicated, and you should have no problems learning them in no time.
The only real twist is on the turn where you have to give up two cards from your hand, but this does mean you’ll have to adjust your strategy for this rule.
How to Play Irish Poker Well: Strategy Advice
You really shouldn’t struggle with the basic rules of this variation if you have any experience with poker, but learning how to play Irish Poker well will require some work.
Good Omaha and Hold’em players will probably adjust quite quickly, but here are a few tips that can come in handy if you find yourself in a game of Irish Poker.
Pick Strong Starting Hands
This tip is valid for any poker variation, so it’s hardly a surprise. The question is, what constitutes a good starting hand in Irish Poker?
Ideally, you want a hand where all four cards work together, just like in PLO.
Solid double suited hands containing high cards like Aces and Kings will perform well, as will the rundowns (hands containing four cards in a sequence, i.e., 8 9 10 J).
Of course, hands containing both straight and flush possibilities like Ah Jh Qs 10s are powerhouses.
Another category of strong hands is the ones containing high pairs like AA JJ or KK QQ. These hands can flop a top set and will win more frequently than in Omaha because your opponents will have to discard two of their cards going to the turn, so they will usually have fewer options to catch up.
If premiums aren’t coming your way, there are other hands you can get involved with if the price is right. A big pair with some straight or flush options is usually a strong starter, i.e., a hand like K K J 10, etc.
Know Your Discard Strategy
To know how to play Irish Poker properly, you’ll need to develop a good feeling and understanding of what cards to hold and what cards to muck when the time comes.
There are no charts you can use for this because it is very situation dependent.
You’ll need to pay attention to the board texture and see your best options and what your opponents’ most likely holdings might be.
Ideally, you want to flop very strong hands (like two pair+, straights, and flushes) or draws to the nuts or the second nuts. Like in PLO, you should stay away from weaker hands, especially low-end straight draws that can potentially give your opponent a better hand when they come in.
Omaha players will probably have a better understanding of these ideas than those coming from the purely Hold’em background, but that should not be a problem.
Just remember that hands such as just a top pair, even with the best kicker, aren’t particularly strong in Irish Poker, especially in multi-way pots.
If the best you can master going to the turn is a top pair type of hand, you should be prepared to give up unless you’re getting a really good price to see the turn.
Irish Poker Drinking Game: The Fun Variation
While playing serious poker and making money doing it is all well and good, sometimes you just want to have fun. Just like Strip Poker, this game can add a lot of fun and thrill to your evening.
For a bunch of poker players and their non-poker playing buddies, the Irish Poker Drinking game is an ideal way to set up a light and entertaining atmosphere that involves cards but doesn’t require any knowledge of starting hand, ranges or tells.
Well, if you pick up a tell someone is about to get sick from drinking too much, you might be able to prevent some unpleasant events, but that’s about it.
So, what are the rules of the Irish Poker Drinking game?
First of all, you’ll need a deck of cards (naturally) and A LOT of alcohol. You can go with beers or shots, depending on the crowd, or you can let everyone choose their own poison.
From my experience with drinking games, the latter option is usually the best one as people tend to know what drink they tolerate the best.
Just keep in mind the point is to have fun, so don’t ruin the fun with too many rules.
Once the logistics are sorted out, you can start playing. All players are dealt four cards, face down, and the action will start with the first player to the dealer’s left.
Any number of players can participate as long as you have enough cards in the deck, so the maximum would be 13. But if you’re throwing a really big party, don’t be shy to use two decks – it doesn’t matter.
Irish Poker Round One
The player will try to guess the color of their first down card (red or black). If they succeed, they get to pick two players to take one drink each.
If they are wrong, they have to take two drinks themselves. The action continues around the table until all players are done with the first card.
Round Two of Irish Poker
You need to decide if your second face-down card is higher or lower than the first card you turned over. Guess right, and you pick four players to drink.
Guess wrong and, well, you’ll need to have four drinks. Aces are usually high, but you can have them as low or play both ways if you like.
Irish Poker Round Three
For the third “betting” round of the Irish Poker drinking game, you need to decide if the third face-down card is in-between or outside of the first two cards' values.
For example, if you turned over a 5 and 8 and guess outside, you’ll win if you turn over a 4 or a 9. Pick right and choose six players to drink. You already know what happens if you pick wrong.
Round Four In Irish Poker
For the final round, you need to choose one of four suits for your last card. If you guess right, you get to choose eight players to take one drink each.
If you’re wrong, you have to take eight drinks yourself.
I will admit that I’ve never had an opportunity to play the game myself, and looking at the rules, I’m kind of scared to try.
I have absolutely nothing against either drinking or poker – or mixing the two together on occasion – but the Irish Poker drinking game seems a bit too much.
If you want to set this up according to the “official” rules and have plans for the game to last longer than one round, good luck with that! You’ll need some pretty serious players to keep up.
Otherwise, feel free to relax the rules a little bit. The idea of having to take eight shots in a row will scare away quite a few people, but if you keep the number at a more reasonable level like one or two, you might have better luck organizing your Irish Poker night.
Irish Poker Drinking Game Strategy
While it will probably be very hard to think clearly after the first couple of rounds, there are some simple strategies that should give you a bit of an edge and help you dish out more drinks than you take when it’s your turn to act.
- Just guess on the first round, there is not much else you can do.
- On the second round, you should pick higher if the first card is 7 or below. Go lower if the first card is 9 or over. It doesn’t change things too much, but it increases your chances of guessing right ever so slightly.
- On the third round, if the gap between the two cards is small (under six cards), pick outside, otherwise go in-between.
- On the fourth round, observe all visible cards on the table and pick the suit that showed the least. For example, if your first cards was a heart, then you saw a diamond and a club, it only makes sense to pick a spade as your guess to increase your chances of succeeding.
There are also some general strategies to the Irish Poker drinking game, and they kind of rely on the psychological factors.
When you get to pick the players you want to drink, it’s good to explain why you picked them.
This might incentivize other players also to pick them, which means you won’t get picked as often.
Obviously, this strategy could also backfire if you read the table wrong. They might start picking up on you because you’re the “bully,” just like in real poker. However, your only counterplay in this scenario is having a very high tolerance for alcohol.
Conclusion: Irish Poker Is A Fun Variation to Break the Routine
Irish Poker is definitely an interesting game that combines elements from two popular variations and challenges players in a new way.
As such, it’s a great option for home games among friends, even if you only play a few rounds a night.
Irish Poker rules are easy enough to learn, so no one should object too much.
If you really like the game, you should be able to find it at some online rooms as well but don’t expect to be playing it for a living or find many games running. For most people, this is the game they play for a bit of fun.
As for the Irish Poker drinking game, it’s entirely up to you and those who participate in the event. Far be it from me to promote excessive drinking, so if you decide to give it a go, set some limits and don’t go too far on your first try.
Once you get to know the players and what level they play at, it’s easy enough to raise the stakes and up the antes!