Guts is a card game that combines aspects of comparing and trick-taking games. The game could be considered a combination of Poker with trick-taking game mechanics, although no tricks are actually taken.
Guts is a fairly simple game to play, and its rules can easily be understood within one or two games.
How to Play Guts?
The Guts card game is played using a standard deck of 52 cards in the Anglo-American pattern.
Deal and Setup
The Players will determine a Dealer, as in a normal game of Poker, by random or whatever the Players’ preference. Once a Dealer has been selected, they can shuffle the deck and wait for each Player to pay in their required Ante.
An Ante is simply an equivalent wager that all Players must make at the start of the hand. Unlike other games in the Poker family, Antes in Guts are not necessary every single round, and only come when a round starts with an empty pot.
Once each Player has put in the required Ante, the chosen Dealer will begin to deal packets of 2 cards, one card at a time, to each Player starting from the Player to their immediate left. This Player is called the Eldest Hand, and starts the hand with their turn.
The Eldest hand looks at their two cards, and decides if they will “Stay in” or “Go out”. These are essentially the Guts terms for Standing and Folding in other Poker games.
Players that Stay in, or stand, believe that their cards are strong enough to win the pot, and avoid being forced to pay into it.
Folding, on the other hand, saves the Player from paying additional losses from losing the game, even though it surrenders their Ante. Players that have folded cannot win the pot, even if their cards would have won had they not folded.
The objective of the game is to have the highest ranking pair possible, with Aces being the highest card rank in the game, down in regular order to the 2s as the lowest ranking card.
Players that cannot form a pair try to win from the highest unpaired card, which is always an ace down to the 2s.
Showdown and Pot Distribution
The Players that folded do not participate in the showdown, but of the Players that do, the winner takes the whole pot at the time of the hand. In the event of a split pot, the pot will be split between the two winners, and neither winner must pay into the pot.
The losers, on the other hand, that did not decide to Go Out before the showdown began, are forced to pay in the total value of the pot at the time of their loss to the pot for the next round.
For example, the pot is 10 chips.
- Player 1 wins.
- Players 2 and 3 lose.
- Player 4 had already gone out.
- Player 2 and Player 3 must both pay in 10 chips each, making the pot for the next round of games 20 total chips.
Players cannot ante up when there are chips already in the center-pot from the previous game.
In the case of all but one Player deciding to Go Out, that last remaining Player will take the whole remaining pot for themselves. However, as all the other Players at the table went out, rather than playing through to the showdown, the pot will be empty.
Refilling the Pot
In order to refill the Pot, Players will be forced to pay their Ante as they did in the first hand of the game with each Player paying a small equal wager into the pot simultaneously. Just as in games of Poker, the dealing position moves around the table counter-clockwise, with the Player to the immediate left of the old dealer becoming the new dealer.
The game continues repeating this until all Players choose to leave the table, or all but one Player runs out of money.
- Players must pay the Ante if the pot is empty at the start of a round.
- Players are attempting to form the highest possible pair, a pair of Aces. A pair of Aces cannot lose, and can only tie against another Player with a pair of Aces.
- Split pots are paid to each winning Player, with each remaining losing Player paying the value of the pot.
- Players that lose their hand must pay the value of the pot at the time of their loss into the pot.
Hand Rankings and Scoring
As Guts is only a 2-card game, the hand rankings do not require a table. Instead, simply understand that:
- Aces are the highest card.
- 2s are the lowest card.
Players are attempting to form a pair where they can.
A pair will always beat an unpaired high-card, even if that high-card is greater in rank than the pair. For example, a pair of 2s will always beat an Ace-King hand.
The game is scored, as in most gambling games, using the amount of money in a Player’s possession at a given time. If you have more money when you’re leaving the table than you approached it with, your score is positive. Less money when walking away means a negative score.
Imagine the following is your hand in a game of Guts:
This is an unpaired hand, but the 10 is a very high-card. With a bit of luck, you might still win. Suppose the pot is currently 20 chips and that you play it out.
Each Player shows their hand, with Players 2 3, and 4 having the following respective hands:
- Player 2: 6♦ 8♠
- Player 3: J♠ Q♦
- Player 4: 2♥ 2♦
Now, here is the problem with standing on a 10. Even though you are higher ranked than any other numbered card, the face cards make up 25% of the deck. The odds that out of 8 cards, none of them would be face-cards of any kind, is rather low.
A pair of 10s has a fairly good chance of winning, but a single 10 on its own will lose to any face-card in another Player’s hand, making it risky to play with.
Guts is basically a game of luck, however, there are some things that you can do to help control the flow of your money.
- As stated above, standing on games where you do not have a pair of any kind, and only have a high-card, can be very risky if you do not have at least a Queen. With a Queen, you will only lose to King and Ace high-card hands. If you cannot form a pair of any kind, consider folding seriously.
- As there is no wagering in Guts unless you lose, it is always better to fold than it is to play with a risky hand. If you fold on weak hands, at worst, you will lose the small price of an Ante, and at best, you will lose nothing because the pot was paid into by other Players.
How many cards do you get in Guts?
Each Player gets dealt 2 cards at the start of each game, face-down, that only they are allowed to look at until the showdown comes.
What is the best hand in Guts?
The best hand in a game of Guts is unequivocally the Ace-Pair. The Ace-Pair cannot be beaten by anything, and can only tie against another Ace-Pair.
What is 3-card Guts?
3-Card Guts is a game variation on the traditional 2-card game, where Players are dealt 3 cards instead of 2. Instead of trying to form the best 3-card hand, Players instead form the best 2-card hand possible out of their 3 total cards.