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Using wild cards

Wild cards can be used in all forms of poker.  Originally the Joker was added to the pack and used as a wild card, i.e. the holder of the joker (usually called ‘the bug’) could use it to represent any card he wished.

Nowadays it is more common to specify all cards of a particular rank as wild.  In the Draw Poker variation Split in the Ocean, all cards of the rank of the split are wild.
            Most commonly it is the 2s that are specified as wild- ‘deuces wild’.  If only two wild cards are wanted, either black 2s or the ‘one-eyed’ Jacks (♥ J and ♠ J) are used.  If three wild cards are wanted, then all ‘one-eyed’ picture cards are used, adding the K to the ♥ J and ♠ J.

PROBABILITIES

Using wild cards upsets all the probabilities of holding specific hands, shown in the next chapter.  It also alters the values of particular hands and in some cases reverses them.  For instance, with deuces wild three of a kind becomes a more probable hand to be dealt than two pairs, and four of a kind more likely than a flush.  If a hand contains one wild card, it is impossible for the hand to be two pairs but no better, because for the hand to be two pairs it must include one natural pair, and if it includes one natural pair the wild card makes the pair into three of a kind, i.e. if you had ♥ 9, 9, ♠ 8, ♠ 2 and 3, it would be better to add the deuce to the pair of 9s and make three of a kind rather than two pairs.


            But despite two pairs without a wild card being more difficult to achieve than three of a kind, the ranking of the hands does not change.  As a guide to how playing poker with deuces wild affects the probabilities of being dealt certain hands, Table 2 opposite shows how dramatically some of them have changed.
            When assessing hands in games where deuces are wild, it is worth knowing that with five or six players, the average winning hand is three Aces, one of which will be a wild card.  It is also worth bearing in mind that holding a ‘natural’ combination will not be so good as holding the same combination with a deuce or two, because your holding a deuce reduces the number of wild cards available for other players and increases the odds against them holding one.  In fact with four wild cards in the pack it is seldom worth contesting a pot oneself without holding a wild card.  The probability is that the pot will be won by at least three of a kind, so it is not wise to call with anything less.

WHAT BEATS WHAT?

It is essential when using wild cards to agree on ‘tied’ combinations of the same rank.  There are two schools of though:

  1. This school values any hand at face value as if it did not include a wild card thus for example 9-8-W-6-5 is a straight, nine high, and beats 7-6-5-4-3, which is straight, seven high
  2. This school values a hand without  a wild card higher than a hand which contains a wild card, and would thus say that where straights are concerned 7-6-5-4-3 beats 9-8-W-6-5.  It would also say that a hand with one wild card beats a similarly ranked hand with two wild cards, thus A-A-W-6-3 beats A-W-W-10-4, whereas the first school would say the latter was better.  In fact those who rate hands with the fewest wild cards as high within each rank of hand would say 7-7-7-Q-8 would beat both poker hands containing three Aces, since the hands with the Aces required more wild cards.

These are questions that have to be agreed before play it is likely to cause problems if the only decision is ‘deuce wild’, because that will soon lead to the question of how to compare hands like those listed above.

WHAT CAN WILD CARDS REPRESENT?

If wild cards are used, another question must be decided can they be used only as cards which the holder does not already hold, or can they be used to duplicate a card.  At the beginning of this book it was stated that in some schools a wild cards.  However, some players prefer a wild card to represent any card, even one already in the hand.

FIVE OF A KIND

This preference introduces a new hand, i.e. five of a kind.  A player who holds four 8s and a wild card, or three 8s and two wild cards can announce a hand of five 8s.  As there are only four suits, two of the 8s must be of the same suit.  So where does five of a kind rank among the classes of hand?  Some schools rank five of a kind as the highest hand, and others rank it as second to a royal flush (A, K, Q, J, 10 of a suit).  This classes a royal flush as a separate class of hand to a straight flush, whereas of course it is in fact the highest straight flush.  So that is illogical.
            When one wild card is used the Joker or bug it is even more illogical to rate the royal flush as higher than five of a kind since it is the commoner hand by a ratio of 24 to 13.

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