You get three hole cards? Now that’s crazy!

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The pained look on her face summed it up.

Karen, a player in our home game, agonized over her decision. The clock ticked. Players got restless. The clock ticked some more. And Karen was no closer to figuring out what to do.

In the end, she broke her made set, tossing one of those sevens into the muck to try to complete her flush. We all knew it, too, by her shrug of disgust as nary a heart appeared on the turn or the river.

Welcome to the wacky world of Pineapple.

If you take up this crazy game, you’ll surely find yourself in Karen’s shoes early on. But that anguish is all part of the fun of this “three-card, then discard” poker variation.

I call Crazy Pineapple often in our home game. It’s an action game, and a good change of pace from Texas Hold’em that actually helps you fine-tune your hold’em skills. It’s also good training wheels for my favorite game: Omaha/8 or better.

A couple of things to keep in mind the first time you deal yourself in:

With three starting cards, hand values go up: Don’t get married to top pair, top kicker.
Adjust your game depending of the number of players: Heads up, that pair might be safe. But against multiple players, consider going for that draw.

Remember that discard: If you have three spades in your hand, you’ll have to give one up. That’s one less card that can complete your flush.

Oh, and here’s one final story of caution.

At the Bicycle Casino in Los Angeles, I once sat down and turned a straight on my first hand. The dealer barked out: “Jack-high straight for high …. no low.”

Oops. I probably should have asked the dealer whether we were playing high-low before I sat down.

How to play

Pineapple comes in three main flavors, but all are based on Texas Hold’em with one big twist: You’re dealt three hole cards instead of two. The rest of the game is played just like hold’em with a three-card flop, one-card turn and one-card river with betting rounds after each. It can be played high-low split, too, with the highest hand taking half of the pot and the lowest hand taking the other half. The flavors:

Pineapple: Discard one of your cards after the preflop betting.
Crazy Pineapple: The most popular flavor, you discard one card after the flop-round betting.
Tahoe: You never discard, but you can’t use all three cards in your hand at showdown.