Irish Poker Rules – How to Play This Drinking Game

irish poker rules

10 minutes

Last Updated: November 19, 2022


A social drinking game can really electrify a house party or turn a regular hangout into an evening to remember. Card games, especially, can bring an element of strategy and excitement that will guarantee a great time for all participants.

And, one of the best social drinking games that involve just a standard deck of cards is Irish poker. In this guide, we’ll help you learn Irish poker within minutes, but also briefly go over an identically-named game with significantly different rules.

What Is the Irish Poker Card Game?

Before we go into how to play Irish poker, the drinking game, it’s essential to make one key distinction.

Irish poker is a name used for both the drinking game (to which we’ll devote most of this guide) and a regular poker game, similar to Texas Hold’em and Omaha.

The classic Irish poker game and the drinking game have many differences, as the latter is a very simplified poker variation played solely for entertainment and testing the limits of how drunk you can get.

So, to understand the difference between the two, let’s first go over how to play the Irish poker card game.

How to Play Irish Poker

irish poker drinking game

The standard game of Irish poker is played similarly to most other popular poker variants but is probably the most similar to Omaha poker. Every player starts with a four-card hand and must discard two after the flop.

It uses the dealer button and blinds, which rotate around the table in a standard fashion. With that in mind, if you’ve ever played a popular poker variation, you’ll immediately find a lot of similarities.

As Irish poker resembles Omaha, especially in pre-flop, you should maintain a similar way of thinking. During pre-flop, there are several poker hands that you should look for to increase your winning possibilities.

Considering that, you shouldn’t force staying in the pre-flop round unless you have a solid hand.

Naturally, the strongest hands will be those including high pairs like Aces and Kings. Moreover, hands that offer you the possibility of lining up a straight or flush are also highly desirable.Even a high pair with connectors opens up multiple winning opportunities.

With this in mind, how do you play Irish poker post-flop? The best rule of thumb for Irish poker post-flop strategy is to play it like a Texas Hold’em hand.

In other words, if you’re unsure which cards to keep and which to discard, focus on your best two-card hand and have the same strategy you would in a Texas Hold’em game.

Irish Poker Drinking Game – The Better Known & More Fun Version

irish poker card game

Knowing Irish poker rules, we can differentiate the fun (drinking) version from the above-mentioned one. So, how does the Irish poker drinking game unfold, and is it difficult to learn?

Here’s a comprehensive overview of everything you need to know before you start playing the Irish poker drinking game:

Irish Poker Rules – Ready, Set, Drink!

Like regular poker, Irish poker can be played anywhere without much preparation. Moreover, you don’t even need a table setup.

All you need is a deck of cards, one or more friends, and enough alcohol to last for the entire evening.

As the Irish poker drinking game uses a standard 52-card deck and every player gets four cards, there can be up to 13 players if you use just one deck. Of course, there’s no limit, as you can include even more players by adding a second deck.

However, the game is at its best when there are between three and six players. Such a number is guaranteed to ensure a relatively fast pace and keep it exciting and flowing well.

Every game follows a predictable pattern, so it doesn’t take much to get into it and follow the gameplay through the rounds, even when you’re getting from tipsy to completely drunk. With that in mind, here’s how each of the four rounds of the Irish poker drinking game plays out:

1. Guess the Color

Every game of Irish poker begins with the dealer distributing four cards to each of the players. All cards are dealt face down, so no one can see anyone else’s cards.

Moreover, you can’t look at your hole cards, as it defeats the goal of the game.

Once everyone has received their cards, the player on the dealer’s left side is the first to act. In the first round of the Irish poker drinking game, the objective is to guess whether their first card is red (hearts/diamonds) or black (clubs/spades).

The first player will call out what they think their first card’s color is and then turn it over for everyone to see. If they make the right pick, they can choose two players to take a shot. If they made the wrong pick, they have to gulp down the two shots by themselves.

The first round then proceeds clockwise until all players have had their turn and flipped over their first card.

2. Guessing the Number

In the second round, the objective is to guess whether your second card holds a higher or lower value than your first card.

For example, if your first card was a 9, you can say that your second card will be higher (10, J, Q, K, A) or lower (8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2).

irish poker

It’s generally accepted that Aces are high, much like in most other poker variations. While this doesn’t have to be the rule for your game, it’s best to precisely define whether Aces are high or low to avoid any confusion and drunken arguments.

The gameplay is identical to the first round, with one main difference. This time, the player on the dealer’s right side is the first to act. Also, there’s a ramp-up in the number of shots or sips players take.

If you make the right guess you choose four players. But, if you make an incorrect pick, you’ll have to take four shots.

Additionally, if you’re unlucky enough that your second card is of the same value as your first one, you automatically have to down four shots.

3. Inside/Outside

After every player has revealed their second card and likely consumed a generous amount of alcohol already, it’s time to up the ante for round three. In this round, you add two more drinks to the tally.

So, if you make the right pick, you pick other players to take a combined six shoots. Make the wrong choice, and that’s six more shots lined up, just for you.

For this round, you have to pick whether the third card’s value will be inside or outside the first two cards’ value.

Logically, the choice will be more difficult depending on the value of your first two cards.

For instance, if your first two cards were a 2 and a 5, your third card is most likely outside this range. However, if you have a wider range, let’s say from 5 to J, the chances of the card being inside or outside are nearly equal.

4. Guess the Suit

If you’ve made it to this round and your brain is still functioning properly, by the end of it, you’ll make sure that this isn’t the case.

Staying true to the ongoing formula, round four sees you increasing the number of shots to eight. Making a wrong pick at this stage is sure to wobble even those with the highest alcohol tolerance, as eight shots in a row isn’t a joke by any means.

And, just to spice it up, this round requires making the most challenging pick. Out of the four suits, you have to predict your fourth card’s suit. It’s the most difficult round, but also one that involves some strategizing.

This is because you can gaze over other players’ cards and see which suits appear the least. If there are more players, the sample will be larger, and you’ll have better chances of making the right pick.

Creating Your Own Version

how to play irish poker

With all of the above rules in mind, you don’t need to blindly follow everything, as many people tweak the game to make it more suitable for their night.

For instance, you can add an extra shot for a specific card or reduce the number of shots per round. If you decrease the number of shots only by one each round, you won’t get as drunk as you would playing by the original rules.

Also, you should think about the type of drinks you’ll use. With strong alcohol, you might get drunk after a few shots. So, it’s important to drink responsibly and within your limitations.

That way, you’ll be able to enjoy the game for longer and have less severe consequences when you wake up the following morning.

Although it’s one of the most popular drinking games, Irish poker is far from the only drinking game you can play with cards. For example, the Ride the Bus drinking game uses a similar premise and structure.

In Ride the Bus, you also have to answer identical questions as in Irish poker, just with some variations and extra gameplay elements. So, if you’re eager to explore several drinking games, this one is also worth checking out.

Is there Any Strategy for the Irish Poker Drinking Game?

When playing the drinking version, the strategy shouldn’t be imperative, as the goal of this game is to have fun. Plus, as the evening unfolds and you get more inebriated, following a strategy will only get more challenging.

For starters, a useful thing to remember is that it’s still a poker game. This means that you can also get a mental edge over your friends, just like you would in more complex poker versions.

You can try to subtly get other players to pick one player if you want to get them drunk. That said, if someone reads through your intentions, the game can be easily turned against you so that all players start picking you as the designated shot-taker.

Again, there’s nothing to lose except your sobriety, and it all depends on your overall alcohol tolerance.

Moreover, there are certain strategies that can help you slightly, depending on which round of the game it is. In the first round, you can’t do much, strategy-wise.

In the second round, a good tactic is to choose lower if the card is a nine or higher and go higher if the card is a seven or lower. As for the gap in between and a number eight card, we leave that up to your judgment.

In the third round, it’s all about sizing the gap. This is a more arbitrary standard, but it’s smart to only pick the outside option if the gap is narrow.

Lastly, in the fourth round, you can evaluate the suits of previous cards, to see which suit appeared the least.

Statistically, that will give you the best chance of getting it right. But, since there are still many cards in the deck, it depends almost as much on your luck as it does on skill.

Playing Irish Poker Online or With Friends

irish poker with friends

To sum up everything from above, Irish poker is undoubtedly a great game to add to your poker repertoire.

Although it may not be as popular as Omaha or Texas Hold’em, it’s still a superb choice to have available when you want to mix things up.

You can find it in a handful of land-based and online casinos and, in some places, even lucrative Irish poker tournaments.

Of course, in the context of this page and what most people associate Irish poker with, this game is best played in a casual drinking format with friends.

In that case, it plays differently than the real-money version. It’s a simple and entertaining card game that is guaranteed to provide you and your friends with a great time and get all of you drunk in a blink of an eye!

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