The 'Other' Games of Poker: Pineapple
Throw the structure of hold'em and the volatility of Omaha into a blender and you'll end up with a cool, refreshing game of pineapple. With more action, bigger pots and even more thrilling suckouts, this flop game with the silly name might look a lot like your regular limit hold'em game with its button and blinds, but contains two key twists: (1) players receive not two, not four, but threei hole cards and (2) one of them will end up in the muck before the hand is over. Pineapple is not just for home games either. Its spread online at Ultimate Bet with every conceivable limit, and spread live in low and mid-limit mixed games at the Wynn, MGM Grand, and Treasure Island in Las Vegas as well as at a number of the larger Southern California card rooms including the Bicycle Casino and the Commerce Casino. Though pineapple is typically played as a limit game ($3-6, $5-10, etc.), it easily translates to a no-limit or pot-limit structure.
Pineapple poker has three different variations: pineapple, crazy pineapple, and crazy pineapple hi/lo 8 or better. In "regular" pineapple each player is dealt three hole cards to start, followed by a pre-flop round of betting. Each player must discard one of their hole cards before the flop is dealt. The flop, turn, and river betting rounds then proceed exactly as in Texas hold'em. In the more popular "crazy" pineapple variant, players wait until after the flop betting round is complete to discard one of their hole cards, creating a dramatic strategic adjustment. At this juncture, players usually face a decision whether or not to keep a made (but vulnerable) hand or to draw to an even stronger hand like a straight or a flush. Crazy pineapple is often, but not always played hi-lo split, where the best high hand and the best 8 or better low hand are each awarded half the pot. Any combination of a player's hole cards and the board can be used to make their best five-card hand.
Basic Strategy/ Starting Hands
Pineapple is definitely an "action game" and pots are almost always contested multi-way. As the three hole cards create many more hand possibilities, even conservative players will tend to see a lot more flops. Like in Omaha, hand values increase significantly. While one or two pair is usually enough to take down a hold'em pot, one needs a much stronger hand to survive the showdown in pineapple—typically the nut straight or flush. Someone will almost always flop a flush draw in a multi-way pineapple pot, and the odds to chase it are usually there. Hands like top pair top kicker, or a pair slightly smaller than top pair (J-J-X on a K-8-9 flop) are therefore much more vulnerable than they would be in hold'em.
A quality starting hand in pineapple contains a big pair as well as a big suited draw. Ah-Ad-Qd, Jd-Jh-Kh, and Tc-Th-Jc are all excellent hole card combinations as they give players flush and straight possibilities to go along with the pair. Three suited connectors with a two-flush such as Jd-Qd-Kh are also valuable as well as suited aces with straight possibilities such as Ac-Jc-Td. Small pairs can be playable if they come with other draws (6c-6d-Ac), but do not fare well on their own (4s-4h-Qd). Big offsuit aces, like A-K, A-Q and A-J might be premium hands in hold'em, but they are marginal at best in pineapple without another draw for backup. Three cards from the same suit can also be a trouble hand, as one of your all-important flush outs is already gone.
A player's biggest decision in crazy pineapple happens after the flop, when one hole card must be tossed away. For example, if I have the Kh-Kc-Qh on a flop of Tc-Jh-6h, I need to decide whether to keep my pair of kings intact and discard the Qh, or go for the possible straight or flush by discarding the Kc. In a heads-up pot, it might feel safer to keep the kings, but facing multi-way action, the combination draw holds much more value.
Sound crazy? It is! But it's also a whole lot of fun and an instant cure for the hold'em doldrums. Start small on Ultimate Bet and get ready for some huge action. Or, the next time you're at your local cardroom, ask the floor if they can spread pineapple or add it to a mixed game. It's sure to add spice to any grinder's day.