Home Games: Bullet
by Chad Holloway of Predictem.com
Bullet is one of the favorite games played at my local home game. The game begins with each player anteing and then being dealt three down cards. In this game, threes and nines are wild and flushes and straights do not count; therefore, only pairs and three-of-a-kind count (in our game three aces is the highest whether it is natural or made with wilds). Action begins with the player to the dealer's left and continues clockwise. In turn, each player decides whether he is in or out. If a player stays in, he is allowed to draw (also in turn starting from the dealer's left and working around clockwise) in order to make the best three-card hand. In the end, the winning hand takes the pot while the losing hand(s) pay the pot. This means that if more than three players stay in, the pot will be twice as much as it was during the first hand. If no players stay in, the dealer automatically wins the pot and the game ends.
On the next hand, the deal transfers clockwise to the left and all players are dealt another three-card hand (even those who folded the previous hand are dealt back in provided they paid the initial ante at the beginning of the game). The game continues until only one player stays in, in which case they swipe the pot, or until action gets back to the original dealer. If this happens, it is the last hand and instead of the losing players paying the pot, they pay whoever wins the hand (if it gets to this last hand, it can become quite profitable).
The most exciting, and dangerous part of Bullet is the size of the pots. At our home game we only ante a quarter but have had pots grow in upwards of a hundred dollars. It all depends on the cards and the gamble of the players. For example, some players commit their initial ante and patiently wait until they are dealt a premium hand such as three-of-a-kind or two wilds (or a super-tight player can just wait to be dealt the unbeatable three aces) while other players are willing to stay in with a natural pair of simply one wild card. Many factors come into play such as the size of the pot (which you must match if you lose), the tendencies of the remaining players, and position. Because the dealer will be awarded the pot if no one stays in, a popular move is to stay in regardless of your cards if everyone folds and you're the only player left to act before the dealer; that way, you represent a big hand and put your opponent to the test.
Bullet is sometimes played without wilds (which is also known as "Three-Card Charlie"), but that version usually does not inspire as much action.
Another twist we sometimes put on the game is to take away the clockwise decision-making and make all players decide at once. We accomplish this by placing a quarter in front of each player and having everyone decide whether they are in or out based upon their coin (I.e. heads you're in, tails you're out). Each player secretly makes their decision, covers their coin, and then reveals their decision. This tactic does not allow players to make informed decisions based upon who or how many players are already in the pot and inspires insane action.
One final twist we often add is that the players who stay in must not only defeat each other, but a blind hand as well. This blind hand is dealt face down in the middle of the table and is not allowed to draw. If the blind hand wins (which it rarely does) then all the players who stayed in and lost to in must pay the pot. Whatever variation is played, Bullet is a fun game to include in any home game.
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