Guts Poker Games

In this category of poker games, players must decide, upon the completion of the deal whether they are ‘in’ or ‘out’ of a given game. Only players who are ‘in’ may continue on to compete for the pot. Upon completion of a round, the player with the strongest hand may collect the pot while all losing ‘in’ players must contribute an amount equal to the pot for the next hand. With this larger pot in play, the same game is dealt again until only one player remains in; this player wins the final pot. These games are typically far more expensive than average Draw or Stud games. There are a wide variety of different Guts games.

The following are a few of the defining features of a Guts poker game:


Because of the dangerously exponential nature of Guts Poker pots, a dealer may choose to impose a ‘cap’ on the pot. The cap determines the maximum amount that a player can win or have to contribute on any given round. For example, if a game has a cap of $200, 4 players are in and there is a pot of $1100, the winner may only withdraw $200 from the pot while the losers collectively contribute $600 to make a pot of $1500 for the new round. If only one player was in on the same game (with a $200 cap and an $1100 pot) the player would only be allowed to remove $200; $900 would remain and the play would continue. This contradicts the nature of a Guts game since the game should be over when only one player goes ‘in’. It also greatly extends the length of the game as it takes so much longer to clear a pot.


The ‘Kitty’ is an extra hand that may be dealt face down and only rolled at the end of the game. Those players who go in must not only beat the other ‘in’ player’s hands in the round but the Kitty hand as well. If the Kitty hand is the best hand, all of the players must contribute the required amount and no one collects from the pot.

Declaration of Intent:

In a traditional Guts game, the players declare their intent (that is, make it known whether they are in or out for the round) in sequence starting left of the dealer and ending with the dealer. This creates a chain of advantage/disadvantage as the first player must call blind while each successive call may be made from a more informed standpoint. In order to declare intention simultaneously, players may take a marker (such as a coin or chip) in one hand and place both hands under the table out of sight of the other players. When all players are prepared, the dealer gives a signal and all players simultaneously declare their intent by showing either a marker (in) or an empty hand (out). This eliminates the difficulties posed by sequential declaration as everyone declares at the same time and there is no opportunity to recant.

All Ante:

This is a variant that may apply to any Guts game. At the beginning of every single round all players must ante (including the previous winner). This ante is in addition to the pot match amounts paid by the losing players of a given round.

The Chicken Rule:

The Chicken Rule (a.k.a. Best-Hand-Pays, or High-Hand-Down) is provender for a round where no one goes in. Instead of redealing the cards immediately, all players must show their hands; the player with the strongest hand must ante for the entire table before the next game is dealt. This rule discourages bashful play and can really spice up a game.

Examples of Popular Guts Poker Games

Standard Guts:

Each player is dealt two cards. The best hands are pairs; otherwise, the hand is rated according simply to the individual card values. As described above, the players declare their intent. Only players who are ‘in’ may continue on to compete for the win. Upon completion of a round, the player with the strongest hand may collect the pot while all losing ‘in’ players must contribute an amount equal to the pot for the next hand. With this larger pot in play, the game is dealt again until only one player goes in; this player wins the final pot. Standard Guts is often played with one or more of the above mentioned features.

Monte Carlo:

Monte Carol is similar to Standard Guts except a three card hand is dealt to each player. The major difference is in the hand rankings for this game. Possible hands are, a pair, three of a kind and also three card straights and flushes. Because this creates a list of possible hands that is unlike those in standard poker rules, the dealer must clarify the order of hands before dealing. A common list of hands in order from lowest to highest value for this game begins with High-card (i.e., a non-patterned hand where the highest card alone defines the value), Pair, Straight, Flush, Three-of-a-Kind, Straight Flush.


This is one of the longer and more involved Guts games, which traditionally requires 5 Legs to win (the dealer may choose a different number of legs at their discretion). It is vital to note that, in order to win a leg, the player in question must be the only player “in” on any given round. Unless he is winning the last leg, he collects no money at that time since there is no losing player.

To begin, a large ante is collected from all players. The dealer then deals three cards to each player. In the three-card round, Threes are wild. Players declare their intent according to the dealer’s specifications (one confusing quirk of this game is that, in the case of non-simultaneous sequential declarations, a player who has declared Out may change their declaration if the player to their left declares In; players who initially declare In may not change their declarations). The players who are In pass their cards around to each-other until all In players have seen each-other’s hands (Out players do not get to see the in-play hands).

The winner of the round is paid by the loser an amount equal to what is in the pot after which everyone who is In is dealt two more cards to add to the original three for a five card round. The play is the same as the three card round except that Fives replace Threes as the wild card. At the end of the five card round, another two cards are dealt to all In players for a seven card round where Sevens replace Fives as the wild card and all In players may show their hands to the table and again the loser pays the winner. The cards are then collected and the game is re-dealt. This goes on until a player wins the requisite number of legs and sweeps the pot.


This is a five card Guts game in which all players start off with three cards. Only those who declare themselves In receive the other two cards after which there is a round of betting starting with the In player to the left of the dealer. As in most Guts games, the winner takes the pot and the losers match it until a player is the only one to declare In and sweep the pot.