Chicago Poker Basics
As mentioned, there are two forms of this game, Chicago High and Chicago Low. Both games are played with one pack of cards and there may be up to eight players in a game. In both games, at the end of a hand the pot is split in half and won by two players. In Chicago High, the player with the best hand wins half of the pot while the player with the highest Spade hole card wins the other half of the pot. In Chicago Low, at the end of a hand, the player with the best hand still wins half the pot while the other half goes to the player with the lowest Spade hole card. In both instances, it is important to remember that the Spades must be hole cards. Furthermore, it should be agreed in advance whether the Ace of Spades counts as the highest value card or lowest.
Both forms are normally played with a Fixed Limit betting structure. This means that when raising the bet, the raise amount is predetermined. For instance, in a €1/€2 game, during the first two betting rounds the bets are raised in €1 increment, so it would start at €1, then be raised to €2, then €3 and so on. In the final three betting rounds, the bets are raised in €2 increments, i.e. bet €2, raise to €4, re-raise to €6, etc.
How to Play Chicago Poker
It is very easy to understand the structure of a round of Chicago Poker. At the beginning of a hand, all players are required to place a small Ante bet into the pot. This is done in order to ensure that there is always some money to play for. The size of the Ante may vary slightly, but normally it is set at between 10% and 25% of the low-end table stakes. Therefore, if you are playing a €1/€2 game, the Ante will be between €0.10 and €0.25.
Once the Ante bet has been placed, each player is dealt three cards. The first two cards are dealt face down. These are the hole cards and you will want to keep an eye out for any Spades that you are dealt as it will give you an idea of your chances of winning half of the pot. The third card is dealt face up. Once again, you should be aware of any Spades dealt to the table. The face up card is also called the “door card”.
The face up card is not only important in regards to the Spades. The player with the lowest value door card is required to start the first round of betting by placing the Bring In bet. If two or more players have cards of the same value, then it is determined by suit. The suits are ranked lowest to highest in alphabetical order, so Clubs, Diamonds, Hearts and Spades.
In most games, the player placing the Bring In bet will have the choice of either placing a bet equal to half of the low-end stakes, so in a €1/€2 game this would be €0.50, or raising the bet to equal the low-end stake.
Once the Bring In bet has been placed, betting then continues clockwise around the table. Players have the option to Call, Raise, Fold, or go All-In.
- Call: This means that a player is matching the previous bet. For instance, after the Bring In bet has been placed, a player who Calls will be placing a bet equal in size to it.
- Raise: Players may choose to raise the bet if they have a strong hand. It means that a player first Calls the bet and then increases it. As mentioned, in a Fixed Limit game, the amount a bet can be raised by at once is defined in advance.
- Fold: A player may fold if they wish to abandon the hand without placing any more bets. When a player folds, he/she should keep their cards face down so that the other players do not see them.
- All-In: If a player does not have enough chips to cover a bet then they can go All-In by betting their remaining chips. The chips must be placed in a separate stack near the centre of the table. If the player then loses, they are out of the game. If they win, then they can only collect chips from each player that are equal to the amount of the All-In bet.
If any player at the table makes a Raise, then all the other players at the table must either Call that Raise, re-Raise or fold.
Once the first betting round is over, each player receives another face up card, known as the Fourth Street. The player who has the best hand showing then begins the second betting round. In the second betting round, players may Check, Bet or Fold:
- Check: If no bet has yet been placed in a betting round, then it is possible to Check. This means that a player does not Bet or Fold. Rather they continue in the hand without betting anything. However, if a later player bets, then any player who has checked will be required to Call the bet or Fold.
- Bet: The first person to place chips into the pot in a betting round is placing a bet.
Once again, betting continues until all players who wish to remain in the hand have placed an equal value of bets in the pot. Those who do not want to must Fold and wait for the next hand.
The game then continues with the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Streets. Each of the three cards are dealt individually and there is a betting round after each.
- Fifth Street: Each player receives a fifth card, face up. There is then a betting round that is the same as the last. Once again, it is started by the player showing the best hand (from their three up cards). From this round onwards, all the bets and raises must be equal to the high end of the stakes.
- Sixth Street: Each player is dealt a sixth face up card. Another round of betting starts, once again with the player showing the best hand from the four face up cards.
- Seventh Street: Each player receives a seventh and final card, but this time it is face down. The player who began the previous betting round begins the final round, as the face up cards have not changed.
Any players left in the game then enter the Showdown. This means that they must reveal their cards and the hands are compared. If at any point during the betting rounds all players but one fold, then that player will win the entire pot.
When playing Chicago High, the player with the best poker hand, using any five of the seven cards, will win half the pot. The remaining half goes to the player showing the highest spade hole card (this can be the same player).
When playing Chicago Low, the player with the best poker hand, using any five of the seven cards, will win half the pot. The remaining half goes to the player showing the lowest spade hole card (once again, this can be the same player).
Chicago Poker Hand Rankings
It won’t take you long to understand the above rules. However, if you are to play successfully, you must become very quick at identifying what hand you are holding and what it has the potential to develop into. Therefore, it is essential that you become familiar with the standard poker hands, which are as follows:
- Royal Flush– This is the strongest hand possible and it contains the cards 10, J, Q, K and A all from the same suit.
- Straight Flush – This is five cards in numerical order from the same suit; for example, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 of Clubs.
- Four of a Kind – This is a hand that contains four cards of same value, such as 3 Diamonds, 3 Clubs, 3 Spades, 3 Hearts.
- Full House – This is a hand that contains three of a kind together with a pair, for example, three 5s and two Jacks, the suit is irrelevant.
- Flush – This is a hand of five cards all from the same suit, for example, 4, 6, 8, 9 and Queen of Spades.
- Straight – This is five cards in numerical order, the suit is not important. For example, 4 Diamonds, 5 Clubs, 6 Hearts, 7 Spades, and 8 Diamonds.
- Three of a Kind – This is three cards of the same value and two unrelated cards. For example, 7 Clubs, 7 Diamonds, 7 Spades, 2 Spades and King Hearts.
- Two Pair – This is a hand that contains two individual pairs of cards and one unrelated card. For example, 6 Spades, 6 Hearts, 9 Diamonds, 9 Spades, 2 Hearts.
- Pair – This is a hand that contains two matching cards and three unrelated cards. For example, Jack Spades, Jack Clubs, 4 Diamonds, 6 Clubs, 8 Hearts.
- High Card – If a hand does not contain any of the above, then it is judged according to the highest value card in it.