If you enjoyed the popular television program “High Stakes Poker” back in the industry’s boom era, you probably noticed superstar pros like Phil Ivey, Daniel Negreanu, and Patrik Antonius furiously scribbling in a notepad after every flop.
These poker prodigies weren’t taking scrupulous notes on their opponent’s play though, they were simply enjoying a side session of prop betting to spice up the game.
Anyone who has played enough real money poker games over the years knows that an average session can involve dozens of idle hands in between the actual action. In other words, you’ll be folding far more hands pre-flop than you play, which leaves a ton of time to kill until you find cards worthy of continuing onward.
From there, once the parties involved agree upon the terms of a prop bet, these fun-filled side wagers can add another dimension to a poker game, even your own home game.
If you’re like millions of other Americans who host or participate in a regular home poker game, adding a few basic prop bets to the proceedings can be a great way to liven things up.
As I mentioned already, the standard variant of No Limit Texas holdem is defined by boredom. In order to give your home game guests a taste of what poker in Sin City is really all about, why not try a few of the fun prop betting ideas listed below?
1 – Pay Any Player Who Wins a Pot With 2-7
Perhaps the most popular poker game prop bet of them all, the 2-7 game (also known as the “Deuce-Seven” game) challenges players to do the seemingly impossible. Win a hand using the very worst starting hand in Texas holdem.
Statistically speaking, the 2-7 is the most unlikely of all 169 possible two-card starting hand combinations you’ll be dealt. For that reason, almost all players participating in a standard cash game or tournament will avoid playing 2-7 at all costs. Unless they’re taking a free flop by checking their big blind option, or going for a blind steal by raising the button, the vast majority of poker players ditch 2-7 as the ultimate “junk” hand.
For that reason, 2-7 makes the perfect hand to put a special winner’s bounty of sorts on.
In a blog post about the 2-7 game, poker reporter Robbie Strazynski described how his home game guests constantly requested that the prop bet be put into play:
“I played poker a few nights ago and one of our game’s regular players asked ‘is the deuce–seven game on?’
Mind you, we weren’t playing 2–7 triple draw; we were playing Texas holdem.
The deuce–seven game started to become popular a couple years ago after millions of poker fans saw it being played during the huge cash game sessions on High Stakes Poker.”
Before starting up your home game, let everyone know straight away that the 2-7 game will be in effect. From there, everyone can negotiate a bounty amount which all players must pay to whomever turns over 2-7 before dragging the pot.
Remember, you don’t have to reach the showdown with 2-7 to earn this bounty, so bluffs work just fine. As long as you claim the pot and table 2-7, you’ll force everybody else to chip in a bounty that goes straight into your stack.
Thanks to the 2-7 game, “High Stakes Poker” actually gave rise to one of the most infamous bluffs in televised poker history. Phil Hellmuth is known as “The Poker Brat” because he’s extremely tight in terms of the hands he plays, which results in the occasional bad beat, to which Hellmuth is prone to shout and berate the lucky winner.
So, imagine the table’s surprise when Hellmuth attempted to run an epic bluff against nemesis Mike Matusow holding the lowly 2-7 rags? Let’s just say, adding the 2-7 game to the mix had even a bunch of grizzled poker vets laughing and cheering Hellmuth on.
The beauty of the 2-7 game for casual home games, or even more serious competitive affairs, is that a deceptively simple rule can have several impacts on the overall experience.
First of all, anybody who picks up the 2-7 will immediately put chips in the pot instead of folding. This increases the action level ever so slightly, as one specific hand that would almost never get played winds up getting played every time.
Secondly, because everybody knows their opponent might just be bounty hunting by bluffing with the 2-7, players are far more prone to calling down on the river.
And lastly, knowing just one well-played 2-7 can bring back big bucks offers the short stacks a lifeline that can arrive on any random deal.
If you like back and forth banter and juicy bounties, trust me when I say the first time you play the 2-7 game won’t be your last.
2 – Bet One-on-One Based on the Flop’s Dominant Color
The main staple of “High Stakes Poker” prop betting, the one which sent Ivey and Daniel Negreanu scurrying to the pencil and pad after every flop, is a mano a mano competition between two players who are backing red or black.
To set up this running prop bet, two players agree to wager a set amount of money on either red or black. On the next flop, and all flops going forward until one party bows out, whomever has the dominant color from those three cards wins the dough.
The beauty of this prop bet is that every flop will come with a dominant color. You might have two clubs and a heart out there to give black the win, or two diamonds and a spade for a red winner.
To ramp up the action, you can also add bonus payouts based on certain stipulations. The most common “add-ons” used when playing the flop color prop bet pay double when your color goes three-for-three on the flop, and triple when you score a tricolored flop that happens to be suited.
With this continual prop bet in play, you’ll have a genuine sweat to savor on every single hand that goes to the flop. And because of the binary coin flip-like aspect of the wager, the variance tends to balance out so that one player doesn’t inflict too much financial damage on their opponent.
3 – Play the “Pick a Card, Any Card” Game
A variation on the flop-based prop bet, “Pick a Card, Any Card” is a game in which two or more players call out a card rank before the deal begins.
This part is rather crucial too, as you don’t want players calling for cards that are actually in their hand. Instead, have everybody taking part in the prop bet call their cards before the deal commences, thus ensuring game integrity once the actual hand begins.
Let’s say I’ve chosen the seven, you take the 10, and our pal rolls with the king. We’ll assign a $10 bounty for this example. So, whenever a called card arrives on the flop, the other players participating in the prop bet must pay the winner off.
Should the flop come 7-6-2, you and our friend would owe me $10 apiece. And on a flop of 10-4-3, you’d collect $10 each from myself and the third player. Finally, with a flop like K-Q-5, you and I would slide the third player a 10-spot each.
Ramping the action up even further, you can designate bounty payouts for the rare occasions when a player nails multiple called cards. On a flop of 7-7-2, for example, you might make it $25 going my way – $10 for each of the two 7s, plus $5 more for hitting two at a time. And on a gin flop like 7-7-7, maybe you’d jack the stakes up to $50. $10 for each of the three sevens, plus $20 for hitting the trifecta.
Let’s say we see a flop like 10-7-3, meaning both you and I have hit our called cards. The third player would pay us $10 apiece as per usual, while you and I would swap $10 bills in a cancelled out payment.
The more the merrier in this prop bet, so feel free to invite the entire table to take part in the fun. And naturally, when you have a full table involved, hitting your called card can quickly generate a hefty payout from eight opponents.
4 – Use “Bingo” Scoring and Race to Complete Major Poker Hand Ranks
This one’s a little more complicated than the others, but I’m quite partial to playing “Poker Bingo” during my home games.
To start the bet, all players participating must chip in a set amount of money to build a prize pool which is separate from the actual poker session. As an example, let’s use the same $10 increment as before, with a full nine-player ring game taking part to put $90 in the prize pool.
From there, the objective is to fill out your imaginary bingo card by completing most of the major poker hand ranks. That is to say, one pair, two pair, three of a kind, straight, flush, and full house.
I tend to leave four of a kind, straight flush, and royal flush off of my Poker Bingo board, simply because these hands are so rare that you might not see them at all during a single session. But you can feel free to tweak the guidelines in this regard as you see fit.
As the game progresses, players will call out how many hands they have left to hit, while taking bold lines with drawing hands in hopes of completing their last rank.
And in the end, just like in standard bingo, whomever can call out “Bingo!” first by landing all of the designated hands will scoop the entire prize pool.
5 – Start a Bad Beat Jackpot Fund
Suitable only for serious players who meet on a regular basis, the “Bad Beat Jackpot” prop bet co-opts a classic casino card room promotion.
You’ll want to organize a prize pool collection as per the previous entry, with everybody participating asked to chip in a set amount of money. Once the prize has been determined, the objective here is to hit a qualifying bad beat to trigger the jackpot.
Most casinos opt for a very strict threshold, something like aces full of kings beaten, or any four of a kind hand beaten. But this part is all up to you. Whatever bad beat you choose, however, the players involved in actually making the hand happen will wind up splitting the prize on a top-heavy basis.
Prop betting and poker games go hand in hand, what with a group of diehard gamblers assembled around the table with money to burn. Given the often slow pace of No Limit Texas holdem, adding one of the five fun prop bets listed on this page to your home game mix is a great way to keep everybody on their toes and having a blast in between hands.