The game of 'Balls' is much like any other game that makes use of wild cards - very juicy. The game is a variation of 5 Card Stud, with the only real difference being that all twos in the deck are wild. Before the game begins, the dealer must also choose another card (value) in the deck to be wild. This extra wild card does not need to be the same card all the time and can change before the start of each hand. The choice is completely down to the dealer but must be selected before the shuffle and deal. If you are playing in a home game, the dealer will be the player who has the button.
All players are dealt five cards (face down). There is also a "Ghost Hand" dealt. Simplistically, this hand belongs to an imaginary player and also consists of five cards (we will get onto how this hand plays it's part). We'll get to the importance of this dummy hand later in this guide.
After the initial deal, all players in the game hold their cards in the middle (off the table). There is differing variations of the game, where the dealer counts to 3, 4 or 5 however this isn't necessary to play the game. All players who want to fold their hand, drop their cards and sit out. Keeping your cards elevated indicates that you want to stay in the hand.
If there are multiple players who remain in, the player with the best five card poker hand (to refresh on how hands are ranked, see our poker hand rankings) has a chance to win the pot whilst the losers would each replace the value of the pot. A 'loser' is defined by as a player who stays in the hand but do not have the best hand. Another difference is that having the best hand isn't enough to win the pot. The player with the best hand must also compare his/her hand to the Ghost hand. If the player beats the Ghost, the hand is won and the game begins again. If the ghost hand is beaten, the player(s) must match the value of the pot (before losing players added to it). When the pot is won and the game begins again, the dealer should pick a new wild card (2's remain wild).
If the Ghost hand wins, all players who were left in the hand (these are the players who kept their cards elevated) must match the pot). If the pot had £50 and three players stayed in the hand, should two players lose, they would both put £50 in the pot. If the player with the best hand also loses (.i.e. fails to beat the Ghost), he would also put £50 to the pot. Juicy, is probably a gross understatement. The game can amass pretty hefty pots which in turn encourages players to stay in the hand to try to win it.
The game repeats and the pot grows until a player beats all the players and the Ghost to take down the pot. The game is fairly aggressive by nature in that you don't want to be playing average hands as the cost to a player should he lose, can be substantial. The game is often played with a more aggressive blind structure to ensure that there is plenty of temptation in the early rounds of the game.
Sadly, this isn't one that's likely going to make an appearance online, however, it's a great game to play at your home game.
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