• August 3, 2021

What are Wild Cards?

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Wild cards may be used to represent playing cards to substitute for any other cards the player needs to form a hand.
So if in a game where deuces or 2s are wild and you have Ace-Ace-2-2-Queen, you can decide the 2s are Aces and instead of having two pair, aces and twos, you have four of a kind, aces!
Jokers are also always considered wild cards, and you can include one or two of the jokers that come with a deck of cards in a game to include a wild card element to a game.
If a wild card or joker is refered to as a bug in a home game or (more commonly) in a casino, the wild card cannot stand for any card you choose, but is considered an ace UNLESS you can use it to complete a flush or straight. For instance, if you have 3-4-5-6-Joker, you can use the joker as a 7 to make a straight, but if you have 3-3-4-5-Joker, you have 3-3-4-5-Ace. The joker can only be an ace, not a 3.
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Many professional poker players consider wild card games as amateurish, and even though too many wild cards can reduce skill usage, they do ensure more action in the game. Also, casinos avoid wild card games as this can increase confusion, increasing distraction and altering game play too much. Due to the amounts involved casinos rarely like to keep their rules this flexible.
The concept of bug, or semi-wild cards, is generally in casino poker games such as Draw Poker or Lowball. It basically involves shuffling one or two jokers are shuffled into a fifty-two card deck, the standard deck, to make a fifty three or fifty four card deck. Unlike the usual rule which requires that the bug will be an ace unless it can complete a flush or straight or straight flush, in Lowball, the bug can only be the best possible low card in the hand. For example, suppose Player A has cards 6-5-Joker-2-A, then in Lowball, the Joker will be designated as 3, which then makes 6-5-3-2-A.
The fully wild cards are mostly prevalent in home games, but even there they can be a little difficult to handle. Players mind end up with five of a kind combinations, which might have been impossible without wild cards, and cleaning out other players. Obviously five of a kind is the highest ranked hand possible, and will even beat down a straight flush. So even though they are immensely helpful in getting some action started in a tight game, they can prove too much to handle for normal light games.
Wild cards actually increase the strength of the average hand, which is directly proportional to the number of wild cards introduced. For example, in a game with no wild cards, a two pair hand is considered to be of medium strength, but in a game with multiple wild cards, the chances of this hand winning are much lower.
All wild card selections are done before the start of the game, and in some games, an entire rank of cards is chosen as wild cards. If less than four are chosen, they need to be picked in such a way that these cards can be recognized easily and have distinct values, such as Suicide King – K ♥. Jokers are extremely popular as wild cards in home games, and are often shuffled into the standard deck. But on the whole it is important to remember that wild cards should only be used to introduce some action into tight games, otherwise they may dilute the natural skill level of a game.
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Steve Carr

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