Poker Menteur

This page is based on a contribution from Jean-Pierre Coulon

Poker Menteur (= Liar Poker in English) is the card equivalent of a dice game known in Britain as Liar Dice.

Cards

One regular 52 card deck, plus 2 jokers acting as wild cards.

Although this game is not really a poker variation, it uses the usual poker hands with the same ranking. If you are not familiar with these, refer to the Poker Hand Ranking page.

Players

2 to 8, or even more players, but the game is best for 3 to 5.

The Play

Play proceeds clockwise. One player volunteers to start the first round and five cards are dealt to this player only. The player examines his hand without showing it, and declares a poker hand (see below for details of the possible declarations). The second player (the player to the left of the first player) has two options:

  1. he may accept it, saying "OK", or "yes", or "I'll take it", etc.
  2. he may challenge it, saying "liar!", or " I doubt it!", or "bullshit!", or "go to hell! " etc.
(Most often he will accept at this early stage of the game)

If the second player challenges, there are two cases:

  1. The first player's declaration was genuine in the sense that his hand contains the combination he declared. He proves it by showing sufficient of his cards to everybody to prove that he has what he claimed. The doubter loses one point.
  2. The first player's declaration was fake, in the sense that his hand does not contain the cards he claimed, so he surrenders by giving his hand back to the dealer, and loses a point. Like a player who "folds" at real poker, he is not required to show his hand.

If the second player accepts the declaration, the first player passes the hand to him, of course without showing it to the other players. The second player examines the hand, and may try to improve it by exchanging from 0 to 4 cards, just as in Draw Poker, by discarding that number of cards, and receiving replacement cards from the dealer. Then he must declare a poker hand higher than that previously declared, whether it was genuine or not (see below for details of what counts as higher). The third player (the next player in rotation) may either accept this declaration by saying "OK", or challenge it by saying "liar".

The round continues clockwise as long as players say "OK", with the cards being passed around the table and the declarations going always up and up. When a round is interrupted by a player doubting, the player who loses the point has the advantage of starting the next round; the cards are shuffled and a new five card hand is dealt to this player. The player who starts a round may not draw cards at his first turn - he must immediately declare a hand.

The game continues until one player has reached an agreed number of penalty points, and loses.

Shuffling

After each challenge, the whole deck should be shuffled before a new five card hand is dealt, rather than continuing to deal new hands from the deck until it is exhausted. In any case, it is not considered a fair practice to memorize cards shown in previous rounds to help you guess if a declaration is genuine or not (as with card counting at Blackjack). Shuffling after each challenge prevents this.

Declaration and ranking of hands

When announcing a poker hand you must say which of the eleven types of hand you are claiming (see the poker hand ranking page for an explanation of the types - five of a kind is highest, beating a royal flush, because there are wild cards). You may in addition specify the rank of the combination, and if you do this you may also specify the rank of some of the other cards. Examples of possible declarations are:

  • a pair
  • a pair of nines
  • a pair of nines and a six
  • a pair of nines, a six and a four

When deciding what announcements are legal for the next player (who must go higher), a higher poker hand beats a lower one, and a more specific declaration beats a less specific declaration of which it is an example. For example:

  • "a pair of nines and a six" beats "a pair of nines and a four" (higher hand);
  • "a pair of nines, a six and a two" beats "a pair of nines and a six" (more specific).

Note that if you are challenged, you have to produce the actual cards you declared. For the following examples, suppose that your real hand is 9-9-9-4-4, and you are challenged:

  • if you announced a pair, you can show two fours or two nines and you win the challenge;
  • if you announced a pair of nines and a four, you can show these cards and you win;
  • if you announced a pair of fives, you do not have any fives to show - you are a liar and you lose;
  • if you announced two pairs, you show two fours and two nines and you win.

Newcomers to this game who are unfamiliar with regular poker should note how the hand ranking is affected by the side cards that go with a combination such as a pair or three of a kind. For example: 9-9-9-A-2 is higher than 9-9-9-K-Q, because the Ace beats the King.

Note also that there is no ranking of suits - all suits are equal.

Variations

Some play that a Flush beats a Full House. Some players do not count straights or flushes at all in this game. These variations must be agreed before the game starts.

There are several alternative ways of determining the end of the game, and the result:

  1. continue until one player has reached an agreed number of penalty points, and loses;
  2. continue until the sum of all penalty points has reached an agreed total;
  3. continue until all players present agree to stop playing for any reason.
The second method can be used as a friendly way to share the price of drinks between the players, in proportion to the number of penalty points scored.

In the Guide Marabout de Tous les Jeux de Cartes, Frans Gerver gives an alternative method of scoring which leads to a single winner. Each player starts with an equal number of positive points and loses one point for each lost challenge. When a player has no points left he drops out of the game. This continues until there is only one player left in - the winner.

Maxime Boisset reports yet another way of counting points. At the beginning of the game, each player gets 50 chips. After each challenge, the loser gives n-1 chips to the player that made him lose and one chip each to the other players (n being the number of players). For example, if there are 5 players, the loser gives 4 chips to the player that made him lose and 1 chip each of the 3 other players. With this scoring scheme, there is a premium for the player who is good at deceiving other players.

Strategy of Poker Menteur / Liar Poker

This advice was written by Jean-Pierre Coulon.

General Principles

Pay full attention to the declarations of the other players, not only those of your right hand neighbour, to help you guess until which moment declarations are genuine. Also pay attention to the number of cards exchanged. Do not lose track of the progression simply because a player suggested opening the window.

As we shall see, the strategy often needs be adapted to the number of players involved in the game.

The card exchange strategy may be somewhat different from that of regular Draw Poker. For example, if you have just accepted two pairs and a pretty high card, it is wiser to exchange three cards to try to get Three of a Kind, rather than exchanging one card to get a Full House. Needless to say that once you have accepted a fake Three of a Kind, you won't exchange more than two cards (except in a game for two players).

Do not take the risk of saying "liar" simply because you think a declaration is likely to be fake (except with two players); you must also evaluate the likelihood of getting a genuine, higher hand after the draw. Does your left hand neighbour have good reasons for also suspecting the declaration? Saying "liar" is a sort of sacrifice for the community at this game, so leave it to others when possible.

Which player should you cause to lose the round when possible?

There is an important strategy point that will dictate the next few ones: assuming the game is played clockwise, choose your declarations so as to cause one of your closest right hand neighbours to lose the round, rather than your left hand neighbours. The loser will start the next round, and if the loser is to your right, when the cards reach you, they will be relatively fresh, and your left neighbour will have few clues about that hand. The more a hand has been played before it reaches you, the more difficult to play it will be for you.

With a large number of players, do not lie more that necessary. There will be enough times where you are forced to. You are not there to give penalty points to your left hand neighbour, but to any other player.

How precisely should you declare your hand?

Consider that adding some precision to the last declaration is a valid declaration. Examples: "Three Eights" following "Three of a kind" is valid, so is "Three Eights, and a Queen" following " Three Eights", or "Three Eights, Queen, Seven" following "Three Eights, Queen". So if you want to allow your left side neighbour to stay pat (i.e. exchange no cards), and add some precision to your declaration it is your problem.

When to declare a hand much lower than that present?

This is a tremendous favour to your left hand neighbour, but it helps to create confusion between the subsequent players when someone will drastically raises his declaration. But beware of the following: your left hand neighbour may say "liar" even for the small declaration. If the small declaration is not actually present in the hand, you will be considered a liar. Example : "two Queens" when there are actually four Queens is not a lie, but "two Queens" when there are actually four Kings is a lie, unless the fifth card is a Queen and there is wild card involved in the four Kings.

Sabotaging a hand

For example assume Three Aces have been around for a while, with both side cards slowly going up and up. When it is your play, discard two aces instead of the two side cards, and declare something likely. If the hand continues around as far as your right side neighbour, you will have a tremendous advantage. But beware that is not unfair for other players to memorize card positions in the hand, and observe which ones you are discarding. Shuffling the hand before discarding, or hiding it under the table obviously betrays your plans.

When you start a round after having lost the previous one, resist to the temptation of having your revenge by starting with a gross lie like "Three Aces" : experienced players have notions about Poker hand odds. There is nothing dishonorable in declaring just a single high card.

Players acting as partners and ethics

If you have agreed to finish the game when one player has reached a fixed number of points, it is the common interest of the other players to give penalty points to that player, by using underdeclaring and lack of precision. Beware that this may fail if this player is skilled, and you may be the victim. Are you sure that the other players understand the plan?

It is possible for a group of players sitting together to help each other from the beginning of the game. Such an alliance is definitely considered unethical in Poker Menteur.

Courtesy at Poker Menteur

  1. Do not speak when not involved in the current hand transaction.
  2. Declare side cards that go with a Pair or Three of a Kind in decreasing order, to facilitate comparisons.
  3. When you declare, do not pause between the words; it is unethical to trap your left neighbour into saying "OK" before you have finished declaring.
  4. Announce the number of cards you wish to exchange aloud, when you lay them face down on the table.
  5. When you get caught after having declared a fake, high hand, do not irritate the other players by laying the first three or four genuine cards of the declaration face up one by one, to create some "suspense".
  6. When a round finishes, do not reveal information about what was in the hand when you held it.