Countdown Poker Basics
As mentioned, Countdown Poker is most often played as a game of Seven Card Stud or Texas Hold’em. These games have very different rules, but there are some common concepts that are first worth explaining.
To begin with, there are various different betting structures that can be used, Fixed Limit, Pot Limit and No Limit:
- Fixed Limit – Players can choose to call, bet or raise, but only by a fixed amount. The amount for any given betting round is set in advance.
- Pot Limit – Each player can bet or raise by any amount up to and including the size of the entire pot at that time.
- No Limit – Players can bet and raise by any amount up to and including their full stack of chips in any betting round.
When playing Countdown Poker, you will usually be playing Fixed Limit games, and examples of this will be given later on.
Furthermore, in the betting rounds, players will have the same options:
- Call: This means that a player is matching the previous bet to have been placed.
- 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. In a Fixed Limit game, raises can only be a predetermined amount.
- Fold: A player may fold if they wish to abandon the hand without placing any more bets.
- 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.
- Bet: The first person to place chips into the pot in a betting round is placing a bet.
How to Play Countdown Texas Hold’em Poker
When playing Countdown Texas Hold’em, the aim of the game is to build the best five-card poker hand using a combination of hole cards (those dealt to the player) and community cards (those dealt to the dealer). Players receive two hole cards while the community cards are dealt over the course of a series of betting rounds.
At the start of a round, the two players sitting immediately to the left of the dealer need to place the small and big blinds. These are compulsory bets to ensure that there is a pot to play for. The small blind is usually half of the big blind, for example, in a €1/€2 Texas Hold’em game, the small blind is €1 and the big blind is €2. From there, the betting happens at predefined moments known as streets, the Preflop, Flop, Turn and River.
The player who placed the small blind receives their first card and the dealer then deals clockwise around the table until each player has their two hole cards.
The first betting round then takes place and players can Call, Raise or Fold. In a Fixed Limit game, the raise amount will always be twice the big blind. When all players have finished, the Preflop ends and the game progresses to the flop. At this point, the first three community cards are dealt and the second betting round takes place. It begins with the first active player to the left of the dealer. In this round, players will have the option to Check if no bets have yet been placed.
Following the Flop, the Turn takes place. The fourth community card is dealt and betting begins. Once the round is over, it is time to determine the wild card. As mentioned above, the wild card is set by how many players remain. The final community card, the River, is dealt and the final betting round takes place.
Any players left in the game then reveal their cards and the winner is determined.
How to Play Countdown Seven Card Stud Poker
The aim of this game is to build the best possible five-card hand using the seven cards dealt to you. The game starts with all players placing an Ante bet, which again serves to ensure that there is a pot to play for. A typical Fixed Limit game may be €1/€2, and the Ante is normally between 10% and 25% of the low-end table stakes, so in this instance it would be between €0.10 and €0.25.
Each player then receives three cards. The first two are hole cards, so they are dealt face down, while the third is dealt face up. The player with the lowest value face up card then begins the first betting round by placing a Bring In Bet. The Bring In bet is usually set at half of the low-end table stake, so in the above example, it would be €0.50, but players may raise it to equal the low-end stake.
A betting round then takes place in which players may Call, Raise or Fold. If any player chooses to Raise, then all other players must Call to meet the Raise, re-Raise or fold.
When the first betting round ends, players receive a face up card called the Fourth Street. The player with the best hand then begins the second betting round, in which players may Check, Bet or Fold.
The game then continues with Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Streets, each followed by a betting round. There are a few things to know about each of them:
- Fifth Street: The player showing the best hand (from their three up cards) begins this betting round. From this round onwards, all the bets and raises must be equal to the high end of the stakes.
- Sixth Street: 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. It is at this point that the wild card is determined, and again it is set by the number of players left in the hand. 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.
Countdown Poker Hand Rankings
It is very easy to learn how to play both forms of Countdown Poker. However, if you are to win, then you must be very familiar with the different types of poker hands, so that you can spot what options are available to you. Both games use the standard poker hands 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.
Countdown Poker Strategy
A huge amount has been written about poker strategy and it can take years to master. However, there is one aspect of Countdown Poker strategy that requires some extra thought. As most poker games have a table of up to seven players, it is safe to assume that only a low card is going to be the wild card. The challenge then becomes trying to bet strategically to force the number of people left in the game for the showdown to be to your advantage.