Fireplace Poker

An exciting poker/rummy/beating game hybrid contributed by Tuomas Korppi .

1. Requirements

  • 2 players
  • 5 decks of 52 playing cards
  • 62 poker chips

2. Object of the game

To form poker hands that are good enough to score for several rounds and destroy the opponent's poker hands before they themselves are destroyed by the opponent's higher poker hand . (If you are unfamiliar with poker hands, see Section 8.)

3. Setup

Five decks (no jokers) are shuffled together to form a huge deck. Each player is dealt a hand of 13 cards. The rest of the cards are placed face down to form a draw deck. Each player is given 31 poker chips. The poker chips are stacked so that they can be counted easily.

4. Turn

Turns alternate between players. Each turn consists of the following phases

  1. Steal
  2. Meld
  3. Discard
  4. Score
  5. Draw

The player whose turn it is, is referred to as "you" in the descriptions of the phases.

4.1 Steal
You steal 0-5 cards from the opponent's melds. Only one card can be stolen from each meld.
Note that in order to steal, you must be able to use the stolen cards in a meld that is higher than the melds from which cards were stolen. See the next phase.
4.2 Meld
You meld one poker hand, in which you use all the stolen cards plus possibly some of your hand cards so that the meld consists of five cards. If you did not steal any cards, then you form the meld using your hand cards only. The meld has to satisfy all of the following conditions:
  • There cannot be two or more identical cards in the meld. (For example no two eights of hearts)
  • The melded poker hand must be a pair of jacks or higher.
  • If any cards were stolen, the melded poker hand must higher (as a poker hand) that those melds from which cards were stolen.
The meld is placed face up on the table. The meld is placed so that it can be easily seen which player has made the meld.
4.3 Discard
The remaining cards of any melds from which cards were stolen are discarded. Discarded cards are collected face down in a trash pile.
4.4 Score
If you have more melds than your opponent, you get one point for each meld you have more than the opponent.
Note that only the player whose turn it is may get points.
The poker chips represent "minus" points. Whenever a player earns points, he removes one of his poker chips for each point he earns.
4.5 Draw
You draw cards from the draw deck so that you have 13 hand cards.

5. End of game

The game ends immediately when a player gets rid of all of his poker chips. That player wins the game.

6. Special situations

These situations are rare in practice, but since they are theoretically possible, we give rules for them.

6.1 A player is unable to do phases 4.1 and 4.2 so that a legal meld is formed.
The player shows his hand cards to his opponent, and the opponent decides how the player plays phases 4.1 and 4.2. The opponent is not bound by the "no two or more identical cards in a meld" and "at least a pair of jacks" -rules.
6.2 The draw deck runs out of cards.
The game continues, but new cards are not drawn. If a player has fewer than 13 hand cards, he may pass instead of playing phases 4.1 and 4.2. The game ends when both players pass on consecutive turns. (However, scoring takes place as usual at the end of the last turn.) Then the player with fewer poker chips wins. If both have the same number of chips, the player with more melds wins.

7. Four-player variant

Although Fireplace Poker is intended to be a two-player game, the following variant can be played by four. The players are divided into two teams of two, and they are seated so that everyone sits between two opponents. Team members are not allowed to communicate with each other in any way.

The game proceeds like the two-player game, with following exceptions. The melds of each team are common, so it does not make a difference which member of a team made a meld. Each team also has poker chips in common. (Each team is given 31 poker chips in the beginning of the game.)

If a player cannot make a legal meld, he shows his hand to the left-hand opponent, who decides how the player makes the meld. If the draw deck runs out, the game ends after four consecutive passes.

8. Poker hands

Each poker hand consists of five cards. Here they are from the highest to the lowest. Any hand of a higher category is higher than any hand of a lower category. How to rank hands of the same category is explained in the entries for categories. In these comparisons, ace is the highest card, then king, then queen and so on. Suits are not ranked.

8.1 Straight flush.
Five consecutive cards of the same suit. To compare two straight flush hands, compare the highest card of each hand. An ace can be either 14 or 1 in a straight flush. However, when it is 1, it is the lowest card when comparing two straight flush hands.
8.2 Four of a kind.
Four cards of the same rank and one additional card. To compare two four of a kind hands, compare the quadruplet of each hand. If the quadruplets are equal, then compare the additional cards.
8.3 Full house.
Three cards of one rank and two cards of another rank. To compare two full house hands, compare the triplet of each hand. If the triplets are equal, compare the pairs.
8.4 Flush.
All the cards are of the same suit. To compare two flush-hands, compare the highest card of each hand. If the highest cards are equal, compare the second highest cards and so on.
8.5 Straight.
Five consecutive cards regardless of suits. To compare two straight-hands, compare the highest card of each hand. An ace can be either 14 or 1 in a straight. However, when it is 1, it is the lowest card when comparing two straight hands.
8.6 Three of a kind.
Three cards of the same rank and two additional cards. To compare two three of a kind hands, compare the triplet of each hand. If the triplets are equal, compare the highest additional cards. If they are also equal, compare the remaining cards.
8.7 Two pair.
Two cards of one rank, two cards of another rank, and an additional card. To compare two two-pair-hands, compare the highest pair of each hand. If the highest pairs are equal, compare the low pairs. If also they are equal, compare the remaining cards.
8.8 Pair.
Two cards of the same rank plus three additional cards. To compare two pair hands, compare the pair of each hand. If the pairs are equal, compare the highest additional cards. If also they are equal, compare the second-highest additional cards, and if also they are equal, compare the remaining cards.
8.9 High card.
No combination mentioned above. To compare two high card hands, compare the highest card of each hand. If they are equal, compare the second-highest cards and so on.

9. Strategy tips

The cornerstone of strategy is hand management. You want to save cards that can be used in high poker hands and get rid of cards that are useless. In particular, it is a great idea to get rid of duplicate cards, which do not offer new possibilities to form poker hands.

To get rid of cards, you can meld a high pair and with it three unwanted cards. Also, a three of a kind lets you get rid of two additional cards, and two pair lets you get rid of one additional card. Also, four of a kind lets you get rid of an additional card.

Cards cannot be stolen from the highest poker hand, royal flush (that is, a straight flush AKQJ10). Hence, it is a good idea to always be collecting cards for one royal flush.

The full house is the most important meld of the game. It is relatively easy to collect, and high full houses tend to score many rounds before they are destroyed. Hence, a three of a kind is often better used to form a full house than as a three of a kind. It is a good idea to save pairs in your hand so that they may later be turned into three of a kinds to be used in a full house.

When you get lucky, you get to form a four of a kind, but it is often better to meld a full house than wait for cards to form a four of a kind. Four of a kinds, however, have the advantage that you can steal the fifth (unmatching) card from any of the opponent's full houses or lower four of a kinds.

Stealing cards from the opponent's melds is in general advisable. It is the only way to prevent the opponent from getting points. Sometimes, however, the opponent's melds contain a card that matches a high poker hand you're collecting. Then it might be a good idea to wait until you can use the card in your high poker hand rather than steal it to use in some lower meld.