In the popular imagination, the term poker conjures images of stone-faced Texas holdem players tangling in high-stakes tournaments. But while that No Limit variant is surely the most well-known worldwide, dozens of different poker games have been developed over several centuries of play.
Your grandparents probably passed a few bucks back and forth between pals during weekly Seven-Card Stud games, while today’s college kids prefer the action-packed Pot Limit Omaha.
Poker truly is the most eclectic branch of the gambling family tree, so much so that it’s even inspired several successful table games. But for every Three-Card Poker and Caribbean Stud, you’ll find your fair share of clunkers like the poker table game failures found below.
1 – Tequila Poker
Released in 2005 during the height of the “Poker Boom,” Tequila Poker was conceived by designers at the Delaware-based Alma Gaming LLC. The game made its debut at the Hard Rock Casino Las Vegas, and despite never catching on in live casinos, Tequila Poker was added to the Playtech iGaming software suite one year later.
The underlying concept of Tequila Poker is quite honestly one of the more interesting I’ve come across while covering the casino industry.
Here’s how it works… To begin a hand of Tequila Poker, the player antes up with a mandatory wager before receiving four hole cards face down. A standard 52-card deck is in play, but as you’ll see, those cards can hold different values depending on the player’s preference.
With your four-card starting hand now in place—we’ll say you got the Jh-10h-Ah-As for demonstration’s sake—the fun really begins.
The dealer will then ask which secondary wager you’d like to place, the Tequila Poker bet or the High Tequila bet. You can only choose one and the bet size must match your Ante.
As the name suggests, the Tequila Poker bet uses a standard five-card poker hierarchy to determine your payout. Royal flushes pay 200 to 1, straight flushes are good for 50 to 1, four of a kind returns 15 to 1, a full house brings back 8 to 1, a flush pays 7 to 1, a straight offers 5 to 1, three of a kind 3 to 1, two pair 2 to 1, and one pair (of aces) pays even money.
With your Jh-10h-Ah-As in the hole, you’ve already locked up an even money payout with the pair of aces. And after making the Tequila Poker bet, you’ll draw not one but two additional cards with which to try and improve—a likely bet given your pair, three-card flush draw, three-card straight draw, and three-card royal flush draw.
On the other hand, you might prefer the High Tequila bet, which utilizes blackjack scoring to set its own pay table. Using the usual blackjack points system, your Jack-10-Ace-Ace is worth 42 points, with two 10-value cards and two 11-value cards locked in.
You need at least 46 points to win even money on the High Tequila bet. Check out the payouts below:
- 49 points – 2 to 1
- 50 points – 3 to 1
- 51 points – 4 to 1
- 52 points – 7 to 1
- 53 points – 15 to 1
- 54 points – 200 to 1
As you can see, the worm can turn rather quickly at the Tequila Poker table… The strategic implications in a game like this are massive. Just consider the example hand’s possible scenarios to see what I mean.
The Jh-10h-Ah-As gives you a longshot chance to score that royal flush payout for 200 to 1 in Tequila Poker. You can also hit a full house for 8 to 1, a flush for 7 to 1, a straight for 5 to 1, three of a kind for 3 to 1, or two pair for 2 to 1.
Meanwhile, on the High Tequila side, you’ll have two aces left in the deck to move from 42 to 53 points and score 15 to 1, while any 10-value card gives you 52 points for a 7 to 1 win.
Of course, you could swing and miss altogether by drawing a 2 or 3, leaving you with a worthless 44 or 45.
You can still find Tequila Poker floating around on obscure Playtech iGaming platforms, but in the live arena, the glass ran dry over a decade ago.
2 – Pyramid Poker
In order to understand the doomed Pyramid Poker concept, you first have to learn about one of the most popular table games played today, Pai Gow Poker.
Players are dealt seven cards before “setting” them in two hands, a five-card high hand and a two-card low hand. Both hands are then compared to the dealer’s dual arrangement, and the player only wins when both of their hands are best.
Poker pro Tom Franklin conjured up Pyramid Poker by making a just single adjustment to the Pai Gow Poker framework. Instead of using seven cards to set your two hands, Pyramid Poker only sends three cards the player’s way.
From there, you simply size up the three-card slate before setting a two-card high hand and a one-card low hand. The only requirement for these hands is that the high hand outrank the low hand. Suits and straights aren’t relevant in this game, so it’s a simple pair and/or high card affair.
Take a three-card deal like A-Q-8 for example. Here, you could place the A-Q together as a likely High hand, winner, but that 8 isn’t a favorite to win the low hand. The better play would be to use A-8 in the high and Q in the low. Now, you have ace-high to work with on one side, and the second-best low hand with a queen.
The dealer must follow the “House Way” with their hand, a holdover from Pai Gow Poker, so they have to use the middle card in any unpaired hand as their low. With something like A-7-3, they’d wind up with a slightly worse A-3 in the high and a pipped 7 in the low—sending you both halves of the pot.
Pyramid Poker was approved for live play in Washington state, but no casinos ever took Franklin’s bait. That led to a brief run in the online realm, but once more, players decided to bury Pyramid Poker once and for all.
3 – Criss Cross Poker
If you’ve ever played the popular Mississippi Poker table game, you’ll pick up Criss Cross Poker rather quickly.
Game designer Ronald Laduca adapted Mississippi Poker, in which players take two hole cards and hope to make strong hands by combining them with three community cards, to create Criss Cross Poker.
Laduca may have gotten a little too creative, as the unusual two-pronged betting approach combined with a bizarre community board setup ultimately doomed the game.
Criss Cross Poker players place two wagers to ante, the across bet, and the down bet. After taking two hole cards, the player then watches the dealer put out five cards as so:
Next up, the player uses their two hole cards in conjunction with the three horizontally aligned cards to form the across hand, plus the three vertically aligned cards to form the down hand.
4 – Lunar Poker
TCS John Huxley launched Lunar Poker in 2009, and the game became an immediate flop.
With esoteric game play elements such as the Super Bet—and its payouts for weird hands like Five Face Cards and Five Cards of the Same Color—Lunar Poker wasn’t poker as most players knew it.
And in the base game, options like “Buy” and “Exchange” are similarly foreign.
Lunar Poker was an example of an overly ambitious project that tried, and failed, to reach the stars by bundling too many odds and ends into a single product.
5 – Q Poker
This game is nothing more than Three-Card Poker for players who don’t know how to play Three-Card Poker.
In a Q Poker hand, everything plays out identically to Three-Card Poker except for one caveat— you don’t choose between folding or playing, you choose between surrendering or standing.
With a higher overall house edge than its superior predecessor, Q Poker was destined to disappoint.
Poker’s multidimensional format and multitude of variants makes it a perfect vehicle for table game adaptations. Indeed, the Three- Card Pokers, Casino holdems, Pai Gow Pokers, and Caribbean Studs of the world have become certified staples on most casino floors.
Nonetheless, not every hand can wind up a winner, and the five poker-based table games showcased above provide ample proof.
The next time you see a strange new table game using poker as its foundation, play a few hands to try it all. Because as these busts make clear, you may not ever have the opportunity again.