Thorin Style Liarís Poker
LIARíS POKER is an entertaining card game based on poker that I learned many years ago. It uses many of the same basic mechanisms as poker, but is not properly speaking a poker variant, because it does not involve betting. It can be played with a group of any size, and since it is a very quick game and involves only a single hand of cards which is passed from player to player, it can be played almost anywhere, such as in a restaurant or on a road trip.
The name Liarís Poker also applies to a game played with dollar bills, which involves their serial numbers and is related to Liarís Dice. Both games involve bluffing, psychology, and raising the bid, but that is where the similarity ends.
What follows are the rules to my own home-brewed version of Liarís Poker.
A standard 52 card deck. Jokers are optional.
One player draws a hand of five cards from the deck. He then declares what the hand contains, in poker terms, being as vague or as specific as he wants. He may, of course, be lying.
The player with the hand of cards is called the active player. The next player is said to be under the gun. The player under the gun decides whether the active player is bluffing or not. He may either take the hand or challenge.
If he takes the hand, he becomes the active player. He may discard as many cards as he likes and refill his hand to five. He then makes a new declaration of what the hand contains. The next player must now decide whether to take the hand or challenge.
If, on the other hand, he challenges, the active player reveals the hand. If it is as good as the active player declared it to be or better, the player under the gun is out of the game. If it is worse than the active player declared it to be, then the active player is out of the game. In either case, the round is over and a new round begins. The player who won the challenge begins the next round.
The only restriction on the active playerís declaration is that the hand he names must be better than the hand the last player named. To be more precise: The worst possible hand the active player could hold and still be telling the truth must be better than the worst possible hand the previous active player could have held and still be telling the truth.
Example: Annie is the active player and declares that she holds two pairs. Bart accepts this and takes the hand. He discards and draws one card, and then declares that he holds two pair, sevens over threes. This is a legal declaration because the worst hand he can hold and be telling the truth is 7-7-3-3-2, which is better than the worst hand Annie could have held and be telling the truth, 4-3-3-2-2.
So, in general, to say the same thing as the last player but be more specific is legal. Note that the only two pair hand Bart could not have declared is threes over twos, because this would necessarily be any better than 4-3-3-2-2.
Chrissie accepts the declaration and takes the hand. She chooses not to discard any cards. She declares that the hand is, in fact, sevens over threes with a jack kicker. Since this is better than 7-7-3-3-2, it is a legal declaration.
Dirk accepts this and takes the hand. He discards and draws three cards and then declares that he has three of a kind. He doesnít need to name any specific cards because any three of a kind is better than two pair.
Ellie doesnít think Dirk is on the level. She challenges, and he reveals Q-7-7-6-2. Ellie was right, so Dirk is out. Because Ellie was correct, she begins the next round.
RANKS OF HANDS:
Hands are ranked as in standard poker, with two exceptions: the color flush and color straight flush. Hand types are ranked below from lowest to highest, along with descriptions of which hands outrank other hands of the same type. (Because declarations of hands in Liarís Poker often change only slightly from player to player, the tiebreak rules come into effect much more often than for ordinary poker.)
HIGH CARD: None of the other hand types apply. The rank of the hand is determined by the highest card, and ties are broken by the second-highest card, and so on. Thus, a declaration of "king high" can be followed by a declaration of "king-ten high," because this guarantees a better hand than "king high" guarantees. "King-ten high" cannot be followed by "queen-jack high," because that describes a worse hand.
PAIR: The hand contains two cards of the same denomination. The rank of the hand is determined by the rank of the pair, and ties are broken by the other cards, or kickers, in order from highest to lowest.
COLOR FLUSH: All five cards are the same color. The rank of the hand is determined by the ranks of the individual cards from highest to lowest. The existence of a pair in a color flush is irrelevantóthus, Q-J-9-4-2, all red beats Q-10-10-4-2, all red. It is irrelevant whether the hand is red or black. Thus, if the last player declared Q-J-9-4-2, all red, then if you want to declare an all-black hand, it must be better than Q-J-9-4-2.
TWO PAIR: The hand contains two pairs. The rank of the higher pair is the first priority in ranking the hand, followed by the rank of the lower pair, and finally the rank of the kicker.
THREE OF A KIND: The hand contains three cards of the same denomination. The rank of the hand is determined by the rank of this set of three, followed by the two kickers in order.
STRAIGHT: The five cards are of consecutive denominationsófor example, a 4, a 5, a 6, a 7, and an 8. The rank is determined by the highest card.
FLUSH: All five cards are of the same suit. The rank of the hand is determined from highest card to lowest card.
FULL HOUSE: Three cards are of one denomination are two are of another. The rank of the hand is determined first by the group of three, then by the group of two. So, 8-8-8-4-4 beats 7-7-7-Q-Q.
COLOR STRAIGHT FLUSH: All five cards are the same color and are of consecutive denominations. The rank is determined by the highest card.
FOUR OF A KIND: The hand contains four cards of the same denomination. The rank of the hand is determined by the rank of the group of four, followed by the rank of the kicker.
STRAIGHT FLUSH: The five cards are all of the same suit and are of consecutive denominations. The rank is determined by the highest card.
FIVE OF A KIND: All five cards are the same denomination. Obviously, this is only possible when there are wild cards in play. The rank of the hand is determined by the denomination.
The worst possible hand you can have is 7-5-4-3-2. The first playerís declaration must preclude his holding this hand. Therefore, the lowest declaration the first player can make is 7-6 high.
Aces are generally high, but can be low as part of an A-2-3-4-5 straight.
If jokers are used, they are wild.
Remember, if you challenge a player and he is lying, youíre still out if his hand is better than he said it was.
Some hands can easily be improved upon (such as "three of a kind"), and some canít (such as "three fours and an ace-king.") If the active player names a hand thatís difficult to improve on and youíre under the gun, you should usually challenge.
The flip side of this is that it sometimes pays off, when holding an easily improvable hand, to name a worse but less improvable hand in hopes of getting the next player to challenge. For example, instead of declaring 10-10-5-5-2, you might declare 10-10-A-K-J.
It often helps to have a plan in mind when you accept the cards. If youíre forced to bluff, it wonít look so contrived.
If you want to try and knock out a player several seats away, try making an easily improvable bluff early in the round. The bluff may remain mostly unchanged until it stops being improvable, in which case someone is getting caught.
Another funny trick you can pull is to discard cards that are part of a set, and then name the same set with improved kickers, assuming the next player will routinely accept it, and planning to challenge if it gets around to you again.
If you accept a hand and it turn out that youíve been lied to, you will often find it better to discard fewer cards and pretend the declaration was true than to discard more cards in hoping of genuinely improving the hand. This works better the more players remain.
To add another dimension to the game (and make it last a little longer), give each player one "pass." The player under the gun now has three options: Take the hand, challenge, or pass. If the player under the gun passes, the next player in clockwise order goes under the gun. If all players other than the active player pass, the hand is thrown in and the active player starts a new one. Each player can only pass once per game, which you may keep track of by giving each player a token of some kind.
In friendly poker games, the dealer is often given the choice of what variant to play. You can do something similar with Liarís Poker. Before starting a new round, the active player gets to name variations on the rules in effect for that round. The following suggestions can also be used as permanent variants.