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How to Play Pyramid 1-2-3 Poker


PYRAMID 1-2-3 Poker: Deal each player 4 hole cards. The board cards are placed face down and consist of 6 cards arranged in the shape of a pyramid of 3 horizontal levels or rows. The bottom level has 3 cards, the middle level 2 cards and at the top is a single card. 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 the sole card at the top level.)
Reveal cards in the following order. 1st: 1 card from the bottom level. 2nd: 1 card from the bottom level and 1 card from the middle level (ie. 2 cards total). 3rd: 1 card from bottom level, 1 card from middle level and the single top card (ie. a total of 3 cards). There is a round of betting between. May be played high-low split, but avoid 8 or better versions as a qualifying low is completely dependent on the single top card.

Summary of action
Deal 4 hole cards to each player. Arrange board cards.
Reveal 1 card from the bottom row.
Reveal 1 card from bottom row & 1 card from middle row (2 cards total)
Reveal 1 card from each row (3 cards total)
High only or Hi-Lo Cards Speak: Showdown
High-Low Declaration: Declare

Playing Tips for Pyramid 1-2-3 Poker


In Pyramid 1-2-3 all hands must include the single top card of the pyramid so that card assumes the greatest importance of all the board cards. Because of that it is often more difficult to draw to straights or flushes. That single top card will usually dictate the winning hand and it seems just as often ruins a promising draw as it makes it. Additionally, the way that the board cards are revealed means that nearly no hand is made or safe from counterfeiting until all 6 cards are revealed.

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 in which the 2 paired cards appear in different rows.) But, proceed with care 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, which you will hit about 40% of the time (but, your hand could still be ruined if one of your 2 hole cards appears on the board-especially the single top card). Unfortunately, when you have only 2 low cards in your hand there is about a 60% probability that one of them will appear on the board and counterfeit your low. For that reason a protected low like 32A or 42A is a far better 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.

Low Hole Card Probabilities


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

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

The Common Board Cards


There are a high number of hand combinations that can be made with the common board cards in Pyramid 1-2-3 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. As an example, if the bottom row contains all high cards (eg. JQK) or all low (eg. 246) and the two cards from the middle row or single top card come out just the opposite any possibility of a straight is gone. A similar scenario exists for flush cards.

Subject to the cautions above board cards with straight possibilities are fairly common, while flush possibilities are less so. 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 67%) 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. When the board is not coordinated and no qualifying pair appears the winning hand is usually trips.

While Pyramid 1-2-3 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 Pyramid 1-2-3 to Omaha. The board cards are revealed slowly and no entire level is completely revealed until the end. After the first betting round you see only 1 card from the bottom row. 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 reveal could give you quads (45:1 or about 2% chance as you will only see 1 of the cards from the middle row) 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. Remember also that every player must use the single top card in their hand so it can change what was a decent start into a loser.
Since Pyramid 1-2-3 plays like Omaha you can determine with certainty what the best possible hands are, both high and low.