Here's a game I learned when I was in jail on a trespassing rap back about 30 years ago. I hadn't thought of it until recently when I was watching a TV show with a prison scene. It's one of those games that's great for players who really like to make choices during the play of the hand. It gives them illusion of power and control. The real power and control is in the betting and in the observing of the cards and the actions of other players. But don't fill them in. Take their money instead. It's legal robbery.
This version of Grab Bag plays like 6-card stud with a replace. However, the up cards aren't dealt directly to each player. They're dealt in the middle, for each player, in turn, to pick. This is a $1,2,3,4,5 version. Bets increase $1.00 on each round. The dealer starts off with an ante of $1.00.
Start by dealing one down card to each player.
Then deal the up cards in the middle. Deal one upcard per player in the hand. Starting to the dealer's left, each player may pick one of the middle cards for his own hand. The player literally grabs the card and places it with his down card.
This is followed by a betting round, as in any stud game.
The second group of up cards is dealt in the middle. The option to pick the card begins with the player two to the left of the dealer. Similarly, this option moves clockwise around the table, to give each player a turn at picking first.
Following the fourth up card, there is a down card and then a replace option – each player pointing simultaneously to the card they want replaced (paying $5.00 into the pot if they replace a card). A round of betting follows this.
Here's a sample game, with the hole cards exposed.
The initial deal:
The following five upcards are dealt in the middle. Since Gunner was the dealer, Roscoe gets first pick.
Roscoe picks the to go with his
Sap is disappointed. He would have loved that card. Even so, he picks the .
Swag picks the to go with his
Tommy picks the
Gunner, last to pick, is left with the
Their hands after the first round are:
Roscoe has the first betting action. He bets $1.00. Everyone calls.
The second round of upcards are as follows:
Sap picks first this round:
Sap picks the , pairing his board.
Swag picks the , pairing his hole card.
Tommy picks the , giving him an inside straight draw to an open ended straight draw.
Gunner picks the .
And Roscoe, last to go, ends up with the .
Their hands after the second round are:
Sap is high and bets $2.00. All but Gunner call. Gunner folds, not liking his possibilities.
The third round of cards is dealt face up in the middle. This time only four cards are dealt because there are only four players remaining. The picking begins with Swag.
Swag picks the , pairing his fourth street card and giving him trip 6s.
Tommy doesn't like any of the cards but picks the .
Roscoe doesn't care for any of the cards either, but picks the .
Sap is left with the .
Their hands are as follows following the third round of the deal:
Swag is high on board with his pair of 8s. He decides to go for a check raise, to put Swag to the test. He checks. Swag bets $3. Tommy, with nothing, folds, as does Roscoe. Sap raises to $6, representing trip 8s. Swag just calls, figuring he might be second best.
Two players remain. The deal is as follows:
Sap picks first. He picks the .
Swag ends up with the . Their hands are as follows:
There's a round of betting. A down card and a replacement and then a final betting round will follow it.
For this round of betting Sap bets $4, continuing his bluff. Swag calls the $4.00
The last card is dealt face down.
SAP: () ()
SWAG: () ()
Sap isn't helped with the but Swag fills up with the .
There is a replace round for $5.00.
Sap desperately needs help. He thinks that one of the two 8s will help him. He doesn't know that he's drawing dead. He elects to replace the . He draws the . No help.
Swag elects to replace the , just in case Sap is drawing to trip 8s and makes 8s full. Maybe Swag will hit four 6s. He draws the .
Following the replace round their hands are:
SAP: () ()
SWAG: () ()
Sap is high and makes a desperate attempt at a bluff, betting $5. Swag, concerned that he might be second best to an 8s full house just calls the $5.00. They turn over their hands and Sap concedes.
When you feel comfortable playing Grab Bag, you can move on to some interesting variations like Grab Bag Hi-lo. Or Grab Bug – played with the Joker.