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A Look at House Rules: Exposed Hole Cards

  • Linda GeenenLinda Geenen
A Look at House Rules: Exposed Hole Cards 0001

Obviously there are a number of ways hole cards could be exposed. There have been times in our playing career that sending our hole cards spiraling through the air like the acrobats at Cirque du Soleil would have accomplished a release of frustration and tension — and would also expose our hole cards to most of the poker room if we put the right amount of velocity into the launch.

To make sure your hand is live when the final betting round is complete, do not expose your hole cards at any point during the hand, even in a heads-up scenario. Most card rooms will rule your hand dead if you expose it, the one exception perhaps coming in an extremely high limit heads-up game. Don’t gamble on a ruling that could remove all possibility of you taking the pot. Protect your hand!

What if your hole card is exposed on the deal by the dealer? Or you’re dealt too many cards? Or the card is boxed in the deck (face up)? Or hole cards end up off the table? How are such situations handled?

We’re here to help.

Boxed Cards

In most card rooms a “boxed card” is considered to be non-existent — even if you offer to pay the dealer to leave it in play. Of course, we’re joking about paying the dealer.

Here’s how situations involving boxed cards are usually handled:

  • If a boxed card is noticed before the deal begins, the deck is simply reshuffled and the hand proceeds in standard fashion.
  • If a boxed card is spotted after the deal begins, it is treated as if it were a “piece of paper” and after it is shown to all active players, it is sent to the muck (dead card pile) and the deal continues. Note: The only game format that a boxed card would not affect the deal is in a hand of Chinese Poker in which the boxed card would be dealt as part of the hand.
  • If two or more boxed cards are in the deck on the initial dealing round, the hand is declared a misdeal.

Cards Dealt Off the Table

If you’re playing a game using a button and a hole card is dealt off the table, dealing the rounds of down cards continues in normal fashion with the player whose card was dealt off the table then receiving his or her last card from the top of the deck after the dealing round is complete. The exposed card then becomes the burn card. However, if one of the community cards (the flop or board cards) is dealt off of the table, it will remain in play.

A ruling concerning a card dealt off the table in a stud-based game will vary depending which card is exposed. If it is the first or second round of cards (the down cards), the exposed card will be turned up as if it were the player’s door card (the first up card) and the remaining cards will be dealt face down. If an exposed card occurs on both the first and second round because of dealer error, the hand is treated as a misdeal. If the dealer exposes two cards to the same player on the initial dealing rounds, the player’s hand is dead and his or her ante is returned.

Hole Cards Exposed by the Dealer

If the game is a button game and a player’s hole card is exposed by the dealer during the initial dealing rounds, the exposed card will become the burn card and the player whose card was exposed will receive his or her final down card after the dealing round has been completed. Meanwhile if more than one hole card is exposed, the hand will be declared a misdeal.

In a stud-based game if a hole card is exposed in the initial dealing round of down cards, the exposed card is turned up as the player’s door card and the other two cards are dealt down. But if more than one hole card is exposed, the hand is declared a misdeal.

If in a stud game a player’s final down card (seventh street) is exposed and that player is all in, the card will remain up while all other players’ final cards will be dealt face down. In the event that the first player to receive the final card is not all in and his or her card is exposed, all players still in action will receive their last card face up also. The player who was first to act on sixth street will then start the action when all players receive their final card up.

Draw games have a different ruling for exposed hole cards by the dealer depending on whether the game is high or low:

  • If the game is lowball draw and a card is exposed on the initial deal and it is a wheel card (an {A-}, {2-}, {3-}, {4-}, or {5-}), the player will keep the card. Any other exposed card will be taken back and used as the burn card after the dealing round is complete. If a card is exposed on the draw, the player will receive the next card off of the top of the deck after the dealing round is complete and the exposed card will become the burn if there are more drawing rounds.
  • If the game is high draw, an exposed card on the initial dealing round will not be replaced and is kept by the player. If a card is exposed on the draw round, it is replaced by the next card on the top of the deck after the draw round is complete. This ensures that each player (other than the player with the exposed card) receives his or her correct draw card.

Hole Cards Exposed by the Player

We’ve already covered the fact that you are not allowed to show any of your hole cards until the final action is complete or your hand will be declared dead. But what if you accidentally turned over one of your hole cards while looking at them or you were reaching for your hole cards as the dealer was dealing the first rounds and your card hit your hand and flipped up? Thirty days in the electric chair is the normal penalty (kidding, of course).

Actually in such a case you must keep your cards in the event that you accidentally expose your hand. Of course you are not obligated to play the hand — you can fold, and our recommendation is that you probably should fold unless you managed to turn the exposed card down without anyone else seeing it.

Home Games

In our “A Look at House Rules” articles we have repeatedly stressed the fact that home games are ruled by the host and there are often many variables in play, some of which can be unique. Home games are played with fierce competition and bragging rights on the line, but they are usually fun and crazy and any number of circumstances can come into play.

If you play in a home game that has a ruling on exposed cards other than what we’ve listed above, please leave us a comment and explain what the rule is. We’d love to hear from you.

Online Poker

Online poker is still king when it comes to house rules. Exposed hole cards are never part of the game and you will simply have to play your best game to conquer the field rather than having the advantage of knowing a certain card cannot come into play because it was exposed on the initial dealing round.

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