Dealer's Choice Poker
Dealer's Choice is a popular format for home poker games. Although money is involved, dealer's choice games are often played mainly for entertainment rather than for profit. The essence of the game is that on each deal a different poker variant, chosen by the dealer, is played. Please refer to the page giving general rules of poker for poker basics. This page covers only the specifics of the Dealer's Choice game.
Dealer's Choice works best with 5 to 7 players, the ideal number being six. With more players, the range of playable variants is restricted; with fewer many of the variants become uninteresting.
A standard 52-card pack without jokers is used. As in any poker game, it is best to have two packs with different coloured backs, so that one can be shuffled ready for the next hand while the other is being dealt. This reduces the amount of down time between deals.
The ante and betting limits should be agreed among the players, and all players should buy at least an agreed minimum amount of chips - say 50 times the minimum bet - or if using cash for betting (less convenient) should bring at least this amount to the table.
The first dealer is chosen by some random process, such as dealing cards clockwise face up until a jack appears. With one exception, mentioned later, players take turns to deal, in clockwise order around the table.
Before beginning to deal, the dealer chooses and announces what poker variant will be played. The main requirement is that the dealer should be able to explain the game clearly and concisely, remembering to deal with any options or special rules that may be needed. Most groups that meet regularly establish a range of variants that they like to play. These known games, and slight modifications of them, can be chosen without fuss. But since the variety of games played provides part of the entertainment, most groups will be willing to try unfamiliar variants occasionally, and dealers sometimes introduce their own inventions, hopefully having carefully thought them through in advance to be sure that they will work.
To help the game run smoothly, players should try to decide in advance what variant they are going to call when it is next their turn to deal. Then they can specify the game without hesitation and the game can continue without delay.
If any problems occur, such as ambiguities in the rules, or mistakes in the deal or sequence of play, it is the dealer's reponsibility to fix them in a way that is fair to all players. The principle that once significant action has occurred the game must continue applies here as in other poker games. Once two or more players have had a turn to bet, throwing in the cards and starting again is not an option - the problem must be solved in a way that allows the deal to be played out.
There are some variants that inherently last for more than one deal. For example they may be designed to continue until the pot is emptied, which may take several deals. In many cases, it would be unfair for the player who called the game to keep dealing, because the dealer often has a positional advantage. So the turn to deal should pass to the left until the variant is completed. It then returns to the player to the left of the one who called the multi-deal variant, who calls and deals the next variant.
There is an ulmost unlimited range of variants to choose from. A selection of them will be found listed on the poker variants page. Stud poker games with various enhancements seem to be among the most successful, but there are also draw and shared card games that work well. In addition, it is quite common to allow games that are not strictly forms of poker - not only games like Badugi, which uses different hand types, and Guts, which uses a different form of betting, but also games like 7-27, Bourré and Acey Deucey which have nothing much to do with poker, apart from being gambling games suitable for a similar number of players.