While traditional games like Texas Hold ’em and Omaha are fun, they get a bit samey after a while. Hand after hand of solid preflop strategy takes its toll on a player, and sometimes you want to mix it up and have a little fun. So step forward, Irish Poker – a mix of Omaha and Hold ’em that’ll be sure to make your next home game very interesting.
What is Irish Poker
Irish Poker is like the pantomime horse of poker games – Omaha in the front and Hold ’em in the back. Players are dealt four cards like in Omaha, but after the flop betting round is over, all players must discard two cards from their hand before the turn is dealt. The turn and river are then played like Hold ’em, with players being allowed to use any combination of cards between their remaining two card hand and the board. While it’s not a commonly played game in casinos, it’s a very popular game to play at home.
The Rules of Irish Poker
The game starts as all Hold ’em/Omaha games begin, with players drawing cards for the button. The player that draws the highest card starts with the button, and the two players to the left of the button post the small and big blind. The cards are then dealt one at a time, face down, starting with the player in the small blind. Then the cards are dealt clockwise around the table until each player has four cards.
Most Irish Poker games are played with a No-Limit betting format, even though Omaha is often played as a Pot Limit game. The action starts with the player to the left of the Big Blind, who can call, fold, or raise. If the action has not been raised, the player in the big blind has the option to check and go to the flop.
When the preflop betting round has been completed, the first three community cards, called the flop, are dealt face up in the middle of the table. After that, there is another betting round, starting with the player to the left of the button. If no betting action has been made, players have the option to bet or check. If a betting action has been made, players have the option to fold, call, or raise. Once the flop betting round is completed, each player must discard two cards from their hand before the turn is dealt.
Once the turn has been dealt, the game plays out like a hand of Texas Hold ’em. This includes the showdown rules, where players can use any combination of their hand and the board.
Irish Poker Starting Hand Strategy
As Irish Poker is a rather unique game, you may want to get a headstart in the strategy before you introduce it to your friends. One of the essential parts of the game is knowing which starting hands to play preflop. While the game may seem similar to Omaha, the fact that you must discard two cards before the turn makes it more of a Hold ’em game in nature. This means you ideally want to have two good Hold ’em hands within your four-card hand when you play. Look for hands like these:
- Double big pairs (AAKK, KKJJ, KKTT, QQJJ, etc.)
- Pairs with connectors (QQ76, 55KJ, 77JT, etc.)
- Double suited hands (AhJhKc6c, Kd9dAc4c, etc.)
- Double connected hands (QJ43, 76KQ, JT54, etc.)
You want hands that will have the possibility of making strong Hold ’em hands by the river. Hands that are often good in Omaha, like JT98, might look good preflop but lose a lot of their value when you throw half the hand away. This is why it’s best to play “split” hands, which give you the chance to make a good hand on two different board types.
Irish Poker Discard Strategy
As the number of cards you’re given preflop increases, so does the average hand strength by the river. This means that hands that are valued highly in Hold ’em, such as top pair, aren’t as strong in Irish Poker, as the four preflop/flop cards give people more possibilities of making strong hands.
This isn’t to say that you should throw hands like top pair away. Your decision-making will have to be made based on the action in front of you. If there’s a lot of betting and raising, your top pair hand is likely beat, but if there isn’t much action, then your top pair is probably worth keeping.
This is a game where drawing the importance of drawing to the nuts is much similar to Omaha than it is to Hold ’em. The four preflop cards give people more chances of making higher flushes and higher straights, so if you have the “dummy-end” of a flush or a straight, don’t go broke when facing a lot of action.
While there aren’t many strategy articles dedicated to Irish Poker, it’s a pretty intuitive game to pick up, and once you’ve got a few hands under your belt, you’ll start to see the kinds of hands that win and the kinds that don’t.
The Irish Poker Drinking Game
If your home game likes to get a little rowdy, you may consider playing the Irish Poker drinking game instead. This game doesn’t play like the poker game we just outlined above, but it’s easy to pick up.
Here’s what you need.
- A 52-card deck
- Alcohol (Beer for newbies, Spirits for experienced players)
- 3-10 players
The drinking game is straightforward to deal and play (which is lucky considering the amount of drinking). Given the number of times you have to take a drink, it’s recommended that you use a beverage like beer, but if you want to ratchet things up, you can crack open that bottle of spirits.
- Deal two rows of four cards face down in the middle of the table.
- Deal four cards face down in a line to each player.
How To Play
The aim of the game is to correctly guess the characteristics of the cards in front of you. If you get it right, you’re allowed to “give” another player drinks, but you have to “take” drinks if you get it wrong.
The characteristic you must guess is set for each round, with the game getting progressively more challenging. As the game gets harder, the number of “gives” and “takes” awarded for each guess increases. Let’s take a look at what those rounds are.
- Round 1– Color of the card – 2 gives/takes.
- Round 2 – Card value is higher or lower than the first card – 4 gives/takes.
- Round 3 – Card value is inside or outside the first two cards – 6 gives/takes.
- Round 4– Suit of the card.
The game begins with the player to the dealer’s left, who guesses the color of their first card. If they get it right, they get to give two drinks. They can give these drinks to the same player or share them with other players. However, they must take all the drinks themselves if they get it wrong. Once that player has finished their go, the player to the left gives their guess. When every player at the table has guessed the color of their first card, we go back to the first player, who then starts Round 2, as shown above. This continues until each player has made their guess on all four cards.
Once everyone has made their guesses, we move to the cards in the middle of the table. The top row of cards represents “gives,” and the bottom row represents “takes.” The first card of the top row is turned over, and if any of your cards are the same value, you get to give two drinks. The next card is then turned over; if you match that, you can give out four. If you match the third card, you can give out six; if you match the last card, you can give out eight. The exact format is repeated for the second row, but remember, this time, you take drinks if you match the card that’s turned over.
If you and your friends aren’t drunk enough after that, shuffle up and deal another game!
Irish Poker FAQs
Yes, two people can play Irish poker together. However, the most common number of players you’ll see is between six and nine.
Players start with four cards in Irish poker, but two cards are discarded after the flop betting round has been completed.
Aces can be high or low in Irish poker. However, they’re only low when making the low straight (A23); at all other times, it is considered high.
The best hand you can make in Irish poker is a royal flush.
There is both an Irish poker drinking game as well as a standard form of poker.