By Sarah Ollove, Assistant Director/Dramaturg/Amateur Cultural Anthropologist.
The goal of poker is win all the money in the room by playing as many >hands, or rounds, as it takes to either go bust (broke) or win it all. The game in The Seafarer is a variation on the standard poker game 5 Card Draw. The rules of 5 Card Draw are as follows:
Players organize themselves in a circle. Before the game begins, everyone wishing to play must ante up, which one accomplishes by putting a small designated amount, such as two euros, into the pot, a term for in the middle of the circle. Once one has put money into the pot, the only way to get it back is to win the hand.
One person is designated as the dealer. After the cards have been properly and exhaustively shuffled, the dealer deals 5 cards clockwise around the table. Each player may look at his own cards (his hand), but not those of the other players. Starting with the person left of the dealer and proceeding clockwise, each player can either fold, check, or bet. Folding means quitting, checking means passing to the next person. If everyone checks, then play is moved to the next stage. If someone bets, then those wishing to stay in the game must match the amount of money he puts into the pot or they can raise (bet higher than the initial bet). Once all bets have been seen, or met, play continues to the next stage.
Now each player has the chance to trade in unsatisfactory cards. Typically, a player will trade in no more than three cards – if he needs to trade in more, he probably should have folded in the first hand. Again, play starts left of the dealer and proceeds clockwise. Once all players have their new cards, a second round of betting takes place where players again choose to fold, check, or bet. Sometimes if a player reaches this stage and realizes that he cannot win, he will choose to bluff rather than fold. Players bluff by pretending he has a higher hand than he does, and betting accordingly. The goal here is to raise the stakes (or bets) so high that all the other players will fold. Otherwise, he will lose in the end.
After this round, players show their hands. The order of victory goes as follows, twos being the lowest numbers and aces the highest.
Type of Received Hand (Odds That You Get This Hand)
One Pair or Higher (1 in 2)
Pair of Jacks or Higher (1 in 5)
Pair Aces or Higher (1 in 9)
Two Pair or Higher (1 in 13)
Three of a Kind or Higher (1 in 35)
Straight or Higher (1 in 275)
Full House or Higher (1 in 600)
Four of a Kind or Higher (1 in 4,000)
Straight Flush (1 in 65,000)
The Seafarer Variation
The gentlemen in The Seafarer play a game very similar to 5 card draw, with a few variations. The most notable is the order of betting. Rather than the traditional clockwise rotation, the order is determined entirely by the dealer. When determining betting order, the dealer should aim for that which yields the highest dramatic or comedic effect. As much tension as possible should be maintained at all times. The other most important variation on traditional five card draw is that once someone is out of money, they can bet with anything they like such as a boat or the truth. So next time you have your friends over for poker night, consider making it more interesting by trying out the Seafarer Variation – you’ll soon find old secrets aired and friendships tested. If you play your cards right, you may even end the night with a year’s supply of beer, courtesy of all the losers.