With thanks to Gregory Gauthier for introducing me to the version of Poker Bull described on this page.
This is a game of bluff, similar to the Latin American game of Dudo (or Perudo or Liars Dice) but played with poker hands.
Players and Cards
The game is best for 5 to 8 players. It is possible, though less interesting, for 3 or 4 to play. During the game, players are eliminated one at a time until only the winner remains.
A standard 52-card deck with no jokers is used. Cards rank from high to low A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2.
The deal and play are clockwise.
Any player may deal the first hand, giving just one card face down to each player. The players look at their own cards.
In subsequent hands, the loser of the previous hand deals and receives one more card than before. Players gain a card for each hand they lose, so a player who has lost N times is dealt N+1 cards. The maximum hand size is five cards for a player who has lost four times. A player who is dealt five cards and loses a fifth time is eliminated from the game. When a player is eliminated the player to the left of the loser deals the next hand to the remaining players.
A call is a claim that a particular combination can be made from the combined cards that were dealt to all players. The dealer (the loser of the previous hand) begins by making a call. Then each player in turn has the opportunity to make a higher call than the previous player. This continues around the table for as many circuits as necessary until some player ends the hand by challenging the previous player's call.
The combinations that can be called are loosely based on poker hands, hence the name of the game. The possible types of call, in order from lowest to highest, are:
- One card.
- The rank of the card is named - for example 'one Jack'. The call is valid if at least one card of the named rank has been dealt.
- One pair.
- The rank of the pair is named - for example 'two Eights'. The call is valid if at least two cards of the named rank have been dealt.
- Two pairs.
- Two different ranks are named - for example 'two pair, Nines and Fours'. The call is valid if at least two cards of each of the named ranks have been dealt.
- Three of a kind.
- The rank of the triplet is named - for example 'three Tens'. The call is valid if at least three cards of the named rank have been dealt.
- Full house.
- Two different ranks are named - for example 'Aces full of Fives'. The call is valid if at least three cards of the first named rank and at least two of the second named rank have been dealt.
- Four of a kind.
- The rank of the quadruplet is named - for example 'four Queens'. The call is valid if all four cards of the named rank have been dealt.
- Straight flush.
- A sequence of five consecutive cards of a suit. All five cards must be identified by naming the highest card and the suit, for example 'straight flush to the King of clubs' and the call is valid if all five of these cards have been dealt.
A higher call is either a call of the same type with higher cards, or any call of a higher type. For example a pair of Kings is higher than a pair of Fives because King is higher than Five, but a three Fives are higher than a pair of Kings because three of a king is higher than a pair.
As in poker, between calls of two pairs, the higher rank is compared first, then the lower rank. So Nines and Twos are higher than Eights and Sevens, and Nines and Threes are higher than Nines and Twos.
Between full houses the triplet is compared first, then the pair. So for example Sixes full of Twos beats Fives full of Jacks.
Between straight flushes, the one with the higher top card is higher. An Ace can be counted as low to make a straight flush to the Five (5-4-3-2-A), which is the lowest ranking straight flush. As in poker there is no suit ranking: all the suits are equal.
In this game, unlike poker, there are no 'kickers' or extra cards. For example 'three of a kind' is just a declaration of three cards: there is no call of three Nines with an Ace, and so on.
Challenges and Elimination
A challenge is a claim that the previous call cannot be made from the cards that were dealt. When a player challenges, all players show their cards. If the called combination can be made from the cards on display the challenger loses. If it cannot be made the player who called it loses.
Note that as long as the appropriate numbers of named cards are present, it is irrelevant whether a higher combination could have be made from them.
If the loser had a hand of four cards or fewer, the loser gathers up all the cards, shuffles and deals the next hand, giving him- or herself one more card than before. If the loser had a hand of five cards, the loser is eliminated from the game and the next player to the left deals to the remaining players.
When all but one player have been eliminated, the last remaining player wins.
Gregory Gauthier describes a variant in which deuces are wild. A two can be used as a substitute for any card needed to make a called combination. This enables a set of up to eight of a kind to be made, and straights and flushes are also allowed. The types of call from, lowest to highest, are:
- One card
- One pair
- Two pairs
- Three of a kind
- Straight: any sequence five consecutive cards. The rank of the top card is named, e.g. 'straight to a Nine' for 9-8-7-6-5. Suits can be mixed but the call is valid even if all five cards are the same suit.
- Flush: any five cards of the same suit. The rank of the top card is named, e.g. 'Flush to the queen of diamonds'. For the call to be valid the specific named card and four lower cards of the same suit must be present.
- Full house
- Four of a kind
- Straight flush
- Five of a kind: the rank is named, for example 'five Eights'. For the call to be valid least five cards of that rank must be present - at least one of them will of course be represented by a wild deuce.
- Six of a kind
- Seven of a kind
- Eight of a kind: for which you need all four cards of the named rank and all four deuces.
The two can be used in its natural position in a straight or straight flush, so it is legal to declare a straight or straight flush to a five or six, though it is doubtful whether it would ever be wise to do this.
In a flush, the specific named card must appear (or be substituted by a deuce), as must four cards of the same suit of lower rank (higher ranking cards may not be used to complete the flush but do not invalidate the hand). For example, if the only hearts in play are K, Q, 10, 7, 6, 4, and there are no deuces, calls of a king of hearts flush and a queen of hearts flush are good, but calls of ace of hearts flush and ten of hearts flush are no good.
For a shorter game (an 8-player game lasts about 90 minutes), you can start each player with two cards instead of one.
Often Poker Bull is played starting with five-card hands. The loser of each hand is dealt one card fewer from then on. This is closer to the procedure in Dudo / Lairs Dice. The loser is handicapped by seeing one fewer card rather than helped by being dealt an extra card as in Gregory Gauthier's version. A version of the game like this is described on Nicholas Cheung's Poker Bull page (archive copy), where many further variations are included. One important difference in Nicholas Cheung's version is that the calls are actual poker hands: five card hands in which kickers may be significant. A call is higher if the hand is higher or the same rank and more specific. For example in the following sequence of calls each call is higher then the previous one:
- Three Queens
- Three Queens and a Nine
- Three Queens, a Nine and a Four
- Three Queens, a Nine and a Five
- Three Queens and a Ten