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Swingo Poker

Introduction

Swingo Poker was invented by Steve Albini in December 2007 and developed to its current form by the members of the Alliance-X poker group In Chicago. It is named after named after a classic Chicago punk song by the band Naked Raygun.

In this game players bet on who can make the best 5-card poker hand, for which they can make use of

  • their own five cards (three of which are exposed),
  • a single shared face up card in the middle of the table, and
  • their choice of any one exposed card belonging to another player.

Players, Cards and Stakes

A standard 52-card international pack without Jokers is used. The game is best for around 5 to 8 players. The direction of play is clockwise.

Before playing the stakes should be agreed. The game has been found to work best with blinds and pot limit betting. See the poker betting page for details of how this works.

Deal and Betting

Before the deal, the player to dealer's left places a small blind, and the following player places a big blind (twice the value of the small blind).

The cards are shuffled and cut and the dealer deals five cards to each player, face down. The players look at their cards and there is a first betting round, begun by the player to the left of the big blind.

Now each surviving player chooses two of their five cards to keep as 'hole cards', which are unknown to the other players until the showdown: their other three cards will be their 'board cards'. When all are ready, all surviving players expose their three board cards, placing them face up in front of them.

Now there is a second betting round. This is begun by the player with the highest ranking set of board cards. For this purpose pairs, two pairs and triplets count in their normal poker order - so for example 3-3-3 is higher than 7-7-8, which is higher than A-K-Q. Incomplete straights and flushes do not count. If there is a tie it is resolved by comparing the suits of the highest cards in the tied hands using the ranking order clubs (low), diamonds, hearts, spades (high).

If there is still more than one player who has not folded, the dealer deals a single shared card, known as 'the river', face up to the centre of the table. Then there is a third betting round, again begun by the surviving player with the highest ranking set of board cards (the river card is not taken into account when deciding who begins this betting round).

Note. When a player folds, their hole cards and their board cards are discarded face down. In this game a player is only allowed to fold if another player has placed a bet or raise that they are unwilling to call. A player who already has as much in the pot as the latest player who bet or raised is not allowed to fold. This is important because another player may be relying on one of their board cards to complete a hand. The dealer must ensure that no player who has not folded mucks their board cards or mixes their board cards with their hole cards until the result of any showdown has been determined.

Showdown

If at any stage all but one players have folded, the last surviving player collects the whole pot and need not show any further cards.

If more than one player survives the final betting round, then the surviving players show their hole cards. Each player makes the best 5-card poker hand possible from a total of seven cards: their two hole cards, their three board cards, the river card, and any one card from another player's board. The cards 'speak for themselves' - all players are obliged to help each player to determine the best hand that can be made from the cards available to them. Note that there is no obligation to use the river card or another player's board card if not needed - any five of the seven cards can be used.

The player who makes the best poker hand takes the pot. In the event of a tie for best the pot is split (there is no order of suits at this point and no tie break).

If players are reluctant to show their hole cards, the players expose their hole cards in clockwise order beginning with the player who most recently bet or raised. A player may surrender during the showdown by mucking their hole cards without showing them, but their board cards must remain in place and available to the other players.

Example

Suppose that at the start of the third betting round there are three surviving players, and the cards are as follows.

Player Hole Board River
A ace of clubsqueen of spades king of spadesqueen of clubs4 of hearts 8 of diamonds
B jack of heartsjack of clubs 9 of diamonds8 of spades2 of clubs
C king of hearts10 of clubs queen of diamondsjack of diamonds10 of diamonds

If all three players stay in for the showdown, C's straight flush will win, beating B's full house (Jacks full of Eights) and A's three Queens. But all the players can see the straight flush, and A can change the situation by betting in the third round.

If A bets, B's only logical action is to fold, because if B calls C will also call and win. But B's fold causes the 9 of diamonds to disappear. Now if C calls, A's three Queens win the showdown against C's two pairs (Kings and Tens).

If B were to call A's bet, that would be a blatant act of collusion. B loses less money by folding than by calling, and it is a basic principle of Poker that each player must play alone, in his or her own interest only. It is illegal for one player deliberately to lose money to help another player to win a greater amount.

Variations

Sweet Chariot is a lowball variant of Swingo. It is played exactly like Swingo, but in the showdown the lowest hand takes the pot.

David Bass reports that Swingo also works well as a high-low game with limit betting and a declaration of high/low/pig before the showdown.

References

Steve Albini's article on Swingo at pokerlistings, including a couple of interesting example hands.

A Swingo wiki on the assembla website, apparently part of a project to create a computer app to play this game.

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This page is maintained by John McLeod, john@pagat.com   © John McLeod, 2021. Last updated: 3rd May 2021

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