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How to Play Indian Poker

Shane C

Dec 29, 2023

Man Holding A Card With A Question Mark

When it comes to the most played card games in the world, poker is definitely out there - not only because it's a classic that's been around for centuries but also due to how many poker variations there are. One of them is called Indian poker.

What Is Indian Poker?

Indian poker, also known as "blind man's bluff" or "Oklahoma forehead", is a rather unconventional way to play poker. Instead of holding their cards in their hands, Indian poker players hold them to their foreheads. This results in them being able to see almost every card in the game - except their own card.

Now, about the name. Contrary to what you might think based on the name of this fun game, Indian poker has no connection to the country of India. It is more likely that this variation of poker got its name because of the fact that when the cards are held close to the forehead, they resemble the Indian feather that the Native American headdress is made of.

How to Play Indian Poker?

It's important to know that there isn't a single way to play Indian poker, as the term does not refer to a specific game. Instead, it's simply used to describe multiple games that use the same card-holding mechanism. However, that's not to say that there aren't variations that are more commonly played than others - there are, and the most common one is one-card poker.

One-Card Poker - Basic Rules

To start playing Indian poker, you only need one deck of cards and a dealer. If you're playing among friends, you can switch the dealer up every game so that everyone has a chance to play this rather interesting poker variation.

The Start

The game starts when the dealer, after shuffling the deck, deals one card to each of the players - this needs to be done face down so that the player does not see the card. Once everyone has their card, they need to place them on their foreheads.

The Betting Phase

When that is done, the betting round of a poker game can begin. All the bets players have made are kept in the pot at the centre of the poker table, which will be given to the winning player.

Like in other variations of poker, you have three options to choose from - call, raise, or fold.

  • Call - If a player calls, it means that they are betting the amount that has been wagered by the previous player.

  • Raise - If you are very confident in your card, you can raise the bet. You can only raise by the current wager. So, for example, if the current wager is $10, the raised amount is $10, so the total would be $20. If a player wants to remain in the game, they need to match it. If you raise, and a player after you does as well, it's called a re-raise.

  • Fold - If you fold, you can take your card off your forehead. You don't have to put money into the pot, but at the same time, you don't win anything as you forfeit your right to the pot. If you wagered any money, you lose it.

The betting round continues until all of the players have made their decisions. If a player raises, and all the other players fold or call, and there has been no other raise, the betting round ends.

The Showdown

After the betting phase, the showdown commences. During this part of the game, the remaining players show their cards. The player with the highest ranking card takes the pot.

Hand Rankings

Hand Rank
2, 3, 4, 5 Low
6, 7, 8, 9, 10 Medium
Jack, Queen, King, Ace High

What If There's a Tie?

If two players have cards with the same rank, then they both win the pot and have to split it with each other. While generally speaking, suits have no importance in Indian poker, there are some variations that use it to decide a winner.

If you want to play with suits, before starting the game, rank the suits from the most powerful to the weakest one. The decision is completely up to you, and to make it more interesting, you can even change your ranking every game. If two players tie, then the suit would determine who gets the pot.

Are Joker Cards Used in Indian Poker?

Typically, Joker cards are left out during Indian poker. However, a lot depends on the specific game you're playing because, as we mentioned, Indian poker is more of an umbrella term than a name for a specific game. There are variations of Indian poker where the Joker is actually the most valuable card.

Examples

Empty Poker Table

Example 1: Let's imagine five people meeting up for a game of Indian poker. The dealer distributes the cards, and no one folds. Player one has an Ace, player two a 5, player three a Queen, player four a 2, and player five a 9. Who wins in this situation? According to Indian poker rules, both player one and player three win, as their cards have the highest rank.

Example 2: Now, let's imagine the same situation but player three folds. Who wins in this case? Player one, as player three forfeited the right to win when they folded, so even though they, too, have a high-ranking card, they do not win anything.

Example 3: Continuing with the same example, let's say that both player one and player three folded. That leaves players two, four, and five. Considering two players with the highest ranking cards, who wins in this case? Out of the three, player five has the highest ranking card, as it falls in the medium rank category, while the others have a low rank.

Example 4: Finally, let's say the five people decided to use the Jokers in their game. The four players have the same cards as before, but player five has a Joker. Who wins in this case? If you decided beforehand that the Joker would be the highest-value card you could get, then player five would be the winner. But, if you have decided that the card is worth as much as an Ace or a Queen, then players one, three, and five all win the pot and have to split the winnings between each other.

Other Common Indian Poker Variations

Playing with a single card is the most common way of playing Indian poker, but it is not the only one. Here are some others you should try out during game night.

Match Pot Betting Indian Poker

In this variation of Indian poker, instead of going one by one, all players announce whether they call or fold at the same time.

Multi-Card Indian Poker

In the multi-card variation of this card game, when dealing cards, the dealer gives more than one card to every player - it could be two, three, four, or more, depending on how many you want to have in the game. However, only the highest card wins. So, let's say you got three cards - 3, 5, and Queen. In that case, the 3 and 5 are disregarded during the showcase phase, and only the Queen card is taken into account.

Indian Stud Poker

The rules in Indian Stud poker are the same as in seven-card stud, with the difference being that the players are dealt only one card during the first round and place it on their forehead without looking at it.

Indian Texas Hold'em

In Indian Texas Hold'em, the gameplay is exactly the same as in regular Texas Hold'em, except the fact that the player can't look at their hole cards, as they will be placed against their forehead. The strategy you use will also be different, as in the Indian poker variation, the game's objective should be to make it seem like your opponent's cards are very good so that they bet more and, therefore, increase the pot amount you can win.

Indian Poker - Frequently Asked Questions

How many players need to play Indian poker?

As long as there's more than one, you'll be good to go. Indian poker will be a great game choice regardless of whether two or ten people are playing. Just make sure you have enough cards for everyone.

Do you have to play poker games for money?

No! While many people play poker for money, it's not a requirement. Truthfully, you can use anything you want in the pot. And if you're having a party soon, you can also transform it into a drinking game! Simply forget the betting round (or not, it's up to you) and play a game of Indian poker with your favourite drinks.

Is there a way to win the "blind man's bluff"?

Poker games, whether we're talking about Indian poker or traditional poker, are a game of chance. There's no way of predicting what cards the dealer will deal to you. The only thing you can do is master reading body language as well as your poker face so that you can make better decisions, but it still won't guarantee a win.

Is there a maximum or minimum bet when playing Indian poker?

No, the first person to bet can bet as much or as little as they wish - unless you and other players decide differently, but that's an individual decision and not a requirement.

The Bottom Line

Poker is, no doubt, a popular card game. As it's been around since the XIX century, quite a few variations came to be - and one of them is Indian poker.

As mentioned above, Indian poker involves holding the card in a way that allows you to see your opponent's card but not your own. The game is divided into three phases - the start when the dealer distributes the cards, the betting phase, and the showcase. The player with the highest value card wins the pot. Pretty easy, right? And it's that easiness that makes it a perfect choice for parties and why so many like to switch it up and play it as a drinking game rather than for money like traditional poker.

Poker is a very interesting game, and if you want to learn more about it, we recommend checking out our Poker School - it has everything you should know about this card game if you want to become an expert.

And in the meantime - why don't you try your luck at Asia's largest online poker room? 

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