Introduction to Guts Poker — Rules, Tips, Strategies, and More

Last Updated on August 4, 2021 Author:Adrian Sterne

Nut N Guts Poker CardsEven though many players wouldn’t really classify “Guts” as a poker game, it is a common choice among home-based poker players. In case you haven’t heard of it, guts is a variation on the standard poker game, but it is played with either two or three cards.

The rules of the game are quite simple, and even though it’s not very easy to win big, there is a huge winning potential. Many players believe you need guts to play with such huge stakes, and that’s probably how the game got its name.

So, if you’re one of the daring ones, you probably have some questions about the basics of this game. If you want to find out more about the rules, variations, and possible strategies, keep on reading.

Rules and Variations

As I’ve mentioned, the game is normally played with fewer than five cards. The betting mechanism is somewhat different from basic poker, where match pot betting is applied. Most of the time, guts players turn out to be reckless when betting.

Consequently, this leads to a larger pot size, which tends to increase with each round rapidly.

Since there are multiple kinds of guts poker, let’s see the different rules that apply to each game variation.

2-Card Guts

The 2-card variation is the basic form of this card game. The dealer uses a standard 52-card deck without jokers, and the ideal number of players is from 5 to 10. However, even up to 26 players can participate in a single round of guts.

Ideally, players should agree on the ante in advance. So, before the game starts, players should place the agreed amount to start the pot. Also, players should decide on a maximum amount that can be won or lost in a single deal. A typical choice is 100 times the ante, but that can vary.

The game starts with the dealer handing out face-down cards one at a time until each player has received two cards. Then, starting from the dealer’s left, going clockwise around the table, each player declares whether they’re in or out. All players that are in need to show the cards, and the participant with the best cards wins the pot. If all players back out, the one who is left standing takes the pot.

Here are some of the basic rules you should know when comparing hands:

  • Aces are high.
  • A pair of equal hands defeats a pair of unequal hands.
  • A higher pair defeats a lower pair.
  • If two players have equal highest cards in two hands, the one whose other card is higher wins.
  • Equally strong hands share the pot.

When it comes to payments, all “in” players who do not have the highest cards have to make an additional payment equal to the entire pot amount. Those payments create the pot for the next round. After all payments have been made, the pot might exceed the limit that has been set. In that case, the excess is set aside and reserved for the subsequent pots.[

3-Card Guts

The 3-card guts version is similar to 2-card guts, but the ranking of hands is a bit different, since a lot of players end up with 3-card flushes and 6-card straights. The ranking of the cards low to high is as follows:

  • Nothing
  • Pair
  • Flush
  • Straight
  • Straight flush
  • Three of a kind

Some groups may rank flush above straight and straight flush above three of a kind, which is why you should determine which version the entire group agrees with so as to avoid any misunderstandings.

Other Variations

There are a few other variations of the two previously mentioned guts games that can be adapted depending on the group playing. For example, if more than one person is left once the winner has been determined, only the one with the worst hand matches the pot. Also, if two or more players tie for the worst hand, they all need to match the pot. The players who have matched the pot don’t have to place an ante on the following deal.

In another common variation, the player who is left standing is not allowed to take the pot if all other players choose to leave the game. Namely, some players find such an outcome unsatisfactory, as there’s no real play involved. That’s when they decide to play a version where an extra hand called the ghost or kitty is involved. The hand doesn’t belong to any player, and it’s shown at the showdown.

To win the pot, you must beat both the ghost and other players. If the ghost wins, all in players must match the pot. If everyone drops out, all players must add an ante for the next round.

Another common change that can be made to the basic guts game is the simultaneous declaration. If this rule is implemented, all players will have to declare simultaneously whether they’re in or out by keeping their cards face down over the table and waiting for the dealer to count down and say, “Drop.” That’s when all the players who want to be out must drop their cards.

Not all players like the dropping out method, as some can cheat by waiting for a split second to see how others react. For that reason, some players like to use chips instead. Each player holds out a closed fist. When ready, all players open their fists — the ones holding a chip are in, the ones without a chip are out.

Basic Tips

Since guts is a relatively simple game, there aren’t many tips that can be applied here. 3-card guts is more popular online, so you should be able to recognize all the possible types of hands that you can make with three cards.

Some poker rooms are prone to changing their guts rules. For example, in some, you can build flushes or straights out of three cards. That doesn’t happen often, but you should still take note of it and focus on high cards and pairs.

All in all, we advise you to pay attention to this when playing. That way, you can avoid any confusion.

Guts Strategies

Guts is a pretty straightforward game, but there are some strategies that can prove to be beneficial. First of all, make sure to know how much money you want to spend once you start playing. A game of guts is played quickly, so you can end up matching a lot of money to the pot if you’re not careful.

If you’re looking for a more specific strategy, take a look at the table below. It shows the minimum hand to go in with, depending on the number of players in the game.

Number of players Raise on
2 K97
3 AQ8
4 Pair of sixes
5 Pair of nines
6 Pair of jacks
7 Pair of kings
8 Pair of aces
9 9-high flush
10 Jack-high flush

Final Thoughts

Since guts is not challenging to master, it’s perfect for home parties and online poker games. What’s more, there are free online versions of the game you can try out before investing your hard-earned money.

When it comes to a standard game of guts, this article will be enough to get you started and possibly help you make it big. If you’re interested in more advanced guts variations, leave a comment, and we’ll discuss them further. Until then, good luck!

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