I’ve been playing in a small local poker game for quite some time. In fact, we recently celebrated 10 years of our weekly traditional game. It started innocently enough, just No-limit Texas Hold’em. Then, occasionally someone would deal Pot Limit Omaha Hi-Lo or even Big O. But as the weeks and months rolled by, two distinctly homegrown variations of poker had arisen from our little suburban game. In keeping with poker tradition, both were given local names: Atlanta & Cocktail Cove. We’ve been playing these poker variations for years now, but it recently occurred to me they are probably not documented anywhere. So now, for posterity and to claim their origin, I will attempt to succinctly describe the rules and gameplay of our favorite homegrown poker variants.
Atlanta is a four hole-card poker game with a high-low split pot, very similar to No Limit Omaha High-Low. The only difference is there are no restrictions on which cards you can make your final hands with. You can play the board, or all four of your own cards and a single communal card to make the best 5 card hand, and you can of course play 5 completely different cards for each half of the potentially split pot. The high is won by the player with the highest value traditional 5 card poker hand, while a low hand must have 5 non-pairing cards 8 or under, with the lowest cards being the best value. For instance A-2-3-4-5 would be the best low hand possible. 2-3-4-5-7 beats 2-3-4-6-7, but both would be beaten by 2-3-4-5-6.
The easiest way we’ve come up with to calculate the winning low hand in the chaos of a showdown is to convert the cards of a hand to digits of a five digit number, lowest to highest, and the smaller number wins the low (23,457 being less than 23,467). If no one can make a qualifying low hand, the entire pot is awarded to the winner of the high hand.
The timeline of a hand of Atlanta will be nearly identical to that of Omaha. The dealer demands a small and big blind and deals four cards to each player at the table. There is a round of betting where all players can call, raise or fold. Once the pot is correct and everyone still playing has matched the bet, the dealer burns a card and turns up the next three cards as the Flop. Another round of betting ensues. The dealer burns a card and turns up the Turn. Another round of betting ensues. The dealer burns a final card and turns up the fifth communal card, the River. A final round of betting ensues and any callers force the better to show their cards at the showdown.
Atlanta can be tricky on the high as often a player that uses four cards from their own hand can come out of nowhere with a Straight, Flush, Full House, or even Four-of-a-Kind. I’ve seen seen may boats sunk by a pocket pair or set completing Four-of-a-Kind.
And if that weren’t crazy enough, we went and invented the Cove. Cocktail Cove is just a small variation away from a hand of Atlanta, but as the saying goes “you’d better bring a boat!”
A round of Cocktail Cove begins with each player being dealt five cards! After the flop and before the turn, each player must discard (face down) a single card from their hand. As a courtesy when dealing, we loudly announce the rule before dealing fourth street, but any player found with five cards after the Turn shall be automatically and immediately folded and disqualified from the hand.
The remainder of the round of Cocktail Cove plays exactly as a hand of Atlanta. There can be a high and a low with no restrictions on which cards can be used to make each hand. But with each player starting with five hole cards and eight visible at the flop, monster high hands are inevitable!
In summation, my friends and I have invented a few poker variations. If you’re crazy enough to give ‘em a try, I sincerely hope you enjoy them. Good luck!