Guts is a comparing card game, or family of card games, related to poker. Guts is a gambling game involving a series of deals of 2, 3, or 4 cards. Hand are ranked similarly to hands in poker. The betting during each deal is simple : all players decide whether they are "in" or "out", and announce this at the same time. Each deal has its own showdown, after which the losers match or increase the pot, which grows rapidly. A round of the game ends when only one person stays in and wins the pot.
In "Two-Card Guts", each player is dealt down, two hole-cards, at the beginning of a new deal. Two Card Poker rankings apply; Pairs are ranked over high cards; however there are no 'straights' or 'flushes' in two card guts (or two card poker).
One variation of 2-card guts, ranks 23 (of any suits) as the highest ranking hand, trumping AA (pocket aces). Even though getting dealt 23 is more probable than AA (16 possible combinations of 23 compared to only 6 combinations of AA, or 1.2% vs 0.45% respectively), rather, it's the role reversal of the worst hand in heads-up, two-card poker. The name for the 23 hand, in this variation, is called the "Royal Crumpler", among other names.
All players have a chance to say 'in' or 'out' at the same time by holding out one or two fingers, or holding a chip or nothing in their hands; those who are 'in' have a showdown.
Each round starts with an ante. The players then play a series of deals; after each one, the winner takes the existing pot and the losers match it, so that the pot or some multiple of it carries over to the next deal.
For example, if the pot is $5 and three people stay in, then one player will receive the $5 pot and two players will be forced to add $5 each to the next pot, escalating the size of the pot for the next deal. Then the hand is re-dealt, and all players (even those who were "out" in the last round) can participate again. The round ends when only a single player has the guts to stay "in", and thus the pot is taken without replenishment.
Declaring "in" or "out" is similar to declaring high or low in high-low games. Each player takes a chip, places their hands under the table, and either places the chip in one fist or not. Each player then holds their closed fist above the table, and the players simultaneously open their hands to reveal their decision (a chip represents "in", an empty hand represents "out").
One of the characteristics of guts is that the pot grows quickly. As it can double or more each round, pots of 50 or 100 times the original ante are possible.
There are many variations. Sometimes only the single player with the worst hand (who stayed in) must add to the pot, but they must double the pot rather than match it. In an especially vicious variation, nobody wins the pot unless nobody else stays in. This can degenerate quickly, when one player must add a large amount to the pot, and decides to stay in until he wins it back. Thus the game continues indefinitely, with one player continually adding larger and larger amounts to the pot. The pot may grow so big that no player has enough cash to match it, leading to arguments about how to end the game. (This variation is not recommended when playing among friends. Often this variation is abandoned after the first really big pot leads to conflict.)
One solution to the exponentially growing pots is to cap them at 50x or 100x the ante. That is, if there are 5 players with an ante of $1, the pot started at $5. If there were 3 doublings, the pot is now at $40. Suppose the "cap the pot at $50" rule were in force. Then, if another doubling occurred, each loser would pay $40, but the pot would now be at $50 and the extra $30 would be set aside as the ante once there's a hand with a winner and no loser.
There is a variant of Guts called Nuts. Each player is required to place a certain amount of money in the pot. For example, the bet starts with one dollar. With five players, there would be five dollars in the pot. Each player is dealt two cards, and the lowest cards win (Pairs are strong). If a player is "in" and no other players are, the player gets a "nut." If two players go in, then neither gets a nut. These two players have to compete their cards against each other. The lower cards win, and the loser has to pay the winner money equivalent to the pot, in this case five dollars.
When the third card is dealt, the best cards are the highest cards. Here the process of in and out is repeated. With the fourth card, the low cards are the best. Then with the fifth and last card, the higher the better. When a player gets three nuts, he or she will get the pot. If three nuts are not awarded within the first round, a second round is needed. With the second round, each player adds a dollar to the pot, so the pot doubles. This continues until someone gets three nuts, and thus the pot.
There are a few other games which share the geometric pot growth and in/out betting of guts.
Toh is a high-card game in which players act in order to decide whether they are in or out, as in guts. There is a balance between the number of players and the number of points/cards needed to win; this number of points is announced before the game begins. The game is designed for 4 to 10 people. 4 players might play to 5 points, 8 or more players to only 3 points.
The rules of the game are as follows: the pot is seeded with a penny. Each hand, every player is dealt one card face down. The deal rotates. After each deal, discards are kept in a separate discard pile; as long as there are enough cards in the remaining deck to deal the next hand, there is no reshuffling. (In a friendly game, the last hand before a reshuffle may be announced as such.) Each player in turn announces whether they are in or out. If only the dealer stays in, players have a second chance to stay in as well.
At the showdown, the losers match the pot, and the winner keeps the high card face up next to her. High card wins; card value increases by suit, club-diamond-heart-spade. The first player to reach the declared number of points wins the game, and takes the pot.