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Wild card (poker)

Poker games may contain one or more cards designated as wild. These may be jokers, or they may be normal ranked and suited cards pressed into wild card duty ("deuces wild" is a common variant). There are two rules in common use regarding wildcards: fully wild cards and the bug.

A card that is fully wild can be designated by its holder as any card he chooses with no restrictions. Under this rule, for example, a hand with any natural pair and a wild card becomes three of a kind. The common rule in casinos is that a wild card plays as a Bug, which is given the rank of ace unless designating it as a different card would complete a Straight, Flush, or Straight flush. Under this rule, a hand such as K-K-Joker-5-2 is just a pair of kings (with an ace Kicker), but any four same-suit cards with a bug make a Flush, and a hand such as 7-Joker-5-4-3 makes a straight.

Two exceptions to standard poker practice sometimes seen in home games are the Double-ace flush rule, and the natural wins rule. The latter rule states that between hands that would otherwise tie, the hand with fewer wild cards wins. This is not common in casinos and should be treated as an exception to standard practice (as is the double-ace flush).

There is a tendency among some players to regard wild cards as "impure" or treat wild card games as silly or amateurish. While it is certainly true that a game with too many wild cards can become so random that all skill is lost, the occasional use of wild cards is a good way to add variation to a game and add opportunities for skillful play. In particular, Five-card draw is traditionally played with a joker in California (which plays as a bug), and also plays well with deuces fully wild. Seven-card stud plays well with one or two bugs, especially when played High-low split. Other games such as Texas holdem and Omaha[?] do not play well with wild cards. The problem with wild-card games is that the winner is almost always the hand with the most wild cards, making the other cards irrelevant, and making skill less important.

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