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HOURGLASS POKER


How to Play Hourglass Poker

 

HOURGLASS POKER: Deal each player 4 hole cards. The board cards are placed face down and consist of 8 cards arranged in 3 horizontal levels or rows. The bottom level has 3 cards, the middle level 2 cards and at the top level is 3 cards. Players make their hand by using exactly 2 of their hole cards plus just 1 card from each of the levels (ie. 1 card of 3 from the bottom level, 1 of 2 cards from the middle level plus 1 card of 3 from the top level.) Reveal each level starting with the bottom 3, then middle 2 and, finally, the top 3 cards, with a round of betting between. May be played high-low split.

Summary of action
Deal 4 hole cards to each player. Arrange board cards.
Bet
Reveal 3 cards of the bottom row.
Bet
Reveal 2 cards of the middle row.
Bet
Reveal 3 cards of the top row.
Bet
High only or Hi-Lo Cards Speak: Showdown
High-Low Declaration: Declare
Bet
Showdown


Playing Tips for Hourglass Poker

 

In Hourglass poker players have a choice of 2 cards in the middle row and 3 cards in each of the top and bottom rows. This makes a total of 18 three card combinations on the board. With that many combinations in play there are many opportunities to draw the cards you want and it is easier to draw big hands, both high and low. It also gives more opportunities for what started out as the best hand to be counterfeited, especially for the low hand. On the other hand, with so many common cards to choose from, even a mediocre starting hand can emerge a winner. Hourglass poker can be a crap shoot.


Starting Hand Selection

 

As with most high-low split games you want to have been dealt a hand that gives multiple possibilities of winning so combining elements of good starting low and high hands gives you the best shot.

For high having one or two high pair is a good start. (You will be dealt any 2 pair about 3% of the time and any one pair about 30%.) Should you then flop a set you now have a good draw to a full house or better. This will require that an eligible pair appear on the board. (An eligible or qualifying pair is one where the 2 paired cards appear in different rows.) But, proceed carefully if that pair is of a rank higher than your trips. Several connected cards are helpful for straights and a straight is often the best possible hand. Flushes occur infrequently so suited cards, though better than unsuited, are only marginally more valuable. If you catch a flush that is not the nuts be careful. Trips in your hand are worthless since you can only use 2 cards.

For low 2A is the best start. 3A or 32 gives you a one card draw to the nuts. In fact, in Hourglass having low cards that are even a 2 card draw to the nuts (4A, 42, 43) can be worth playing. Unfortunately, having only 2 low cards in your hand is a very vulnerable hand. There is a good chance that one of them will appear on the board. With all the cards out there that may not necessarily ruin your low, but there is a good chance it will. It is especially true if one of your 2 low cards appears in the middle row and the other card is of a high rank. For that reason a protected low like 32A or 42A is a far better starting hand. Whenever you hold one of these low hands with an ace you'd prefer the ace to be suited to one of your other cards to add flush potential potential.


Low Hole Card Probabilities

 

Approximate chances of these LOW hands being dealt to you as your 4 hole cards.

4 Card HandPercent ProbabilityOdds Probability
A2XX7.2%13:1
A3XX or 23XX14.4%6:1
---
A23X1.2%82:1
Any 4-low (3 cards)3.6%27:1
Any 5-low (3 cards)7.2%13:1
---
A2340.09%1110:1
Any 5-low (4 cards)0.36%277:1
Any 6-low (4 cards)0.9%110:1



The Board Cards

 

There are a high number of hand combinations available in Hourglass poker. It can be complicated and you need to pay close attention. You must also be aware of all the board cards in order to help you in assessing the likely winning hands. How coordinated the board cards are will dictate what is the likely winner will be, so pay careful attention. Board cards with straight possibilities are very common (but often not the best hand), while flushes are a bit less frequent. There is a good chance that a playable pair (or 2) will appear on the board, which means full house or quad possibilities (making flushes unlikely winners). A qualifying set of trips appearing on the board is a big longshot, but it bears mentioning this. If you hold a pair of aces in your hand you have a good full house but it may not be enough. With 8 players there are a total of 28 cards held by the other 7 players so there is a good possibility (about 70%) that one of them has the case card in their hand. Additionally, if there is even 1 other card on the board that is of a rank higher than the trips a bigger full house is possible.

While Hourglass poker should be considered a variation of Omaha there is an important difference to consider. The difference is in how the board cards are revealed. Omaha high-low is a great game for a loose, low stakes home poker game. With 4 hole cards and only one betting round before seeing the 3 cards that make up the flop most players will stay in with almost anything to see what happens. With a miracle flop you could end up with anything from trips, a straight, flush, full house, quads or even a royal flush. Even without such miracles you might have a good drawing hand with 4 to a straight or flush.

Now, compare Hourglass to Omaha. Yes, after the first betting round you see 3 cards from the bottom row. But, you can only use one of those cards. The very best hand that anyone can have at this point is a set. Just a single pair is the second best hand. Should you be fortunate enough to get a set the next row could give you quads (22.5:1 or about 4%) but any other improvement is still a 2 card draw away. You will have to go through up to 2 additional rounds of betting to find out if you make that draw. For this reason routinely seeing the flop with any random 4 cards in your hand is not a good strategy.


Additional Thoughts

 

Remember that you can play only 1 card from each row. Do not be fooled when you see a pair appear in the same row as you can use only one of those cards.
Since Hourglass plays like Omaha you can determine with certainty what the best possible hands are, both high and low.