Chicago Poker Game — What The Buzz Is All About?

Chicago Poker Game

Today’s the day we talk about a game, said to have been born in a secret poker club at Hammarbykajen, Stockholm, Sweden, owned by the Russian mafia. This game is a twist on a Swedish card game called Fem-kort. Today, one of the most loved card games in Finland is a poker-related one named ‘Chicago’. It’s different because players keep score instead of betting money, making it suitable even for places like schools where gambling isn’t allowed. With so many versions of the game around, let’s focus on a basic one and explore some possible changes.

Scores for Hands Every hand in the game has its own point value, shown in this table:

  • One pair – 1 point.
  • Two pair – 2 points.
  • Three of a kind – 3 points.
  • Straight – 4 points.
  • Flush – 5 points.
  • Full house – 6 points.
  • Four of a kind – 7 points (with some exceptions).
  • Straight flush – 8 points (with some exceptions).
  • Royal Flush – 20 points (with some exceptions).

Basic Rules

Chicago uses a standard 52-card deck. Each player gets five cards. The goal is to reach or exceed 52 points.

Exchanges and Scoring

Players can swap any number of their cards. If a player wants to change only one card, they can choose “one up,” which means they get one card face up and can either keep it or take the next card unseen. After swapping, the player with the best hand gets points. Then there’s another round of swapping, but no scoring.

The Game

One player starts by playing a card. Normal whist rules apply, but each player keeps their own cards. The player who wins the last trick gets 5 points. Also, the player with the best hand (whether it’s the same player or not) gets points. Once a player reaches 42 points, they can’t swap cards as usual. Instead, they get dealt 6 cards at the beginning and must discard one before scoring. No more swapping is allowed.

Chicago Any player can decide to play Chicago at any time. They promise to win all the tricks. If they succeed, they get 15 points, but if they fail, they lose 15 points.

Blind Chicago

In addition to regular Chicago, a player can choose Blind Chicago. Like regular Chicago, they promise to win all tricks, but they declare this before seeing their cards. A Blind Chicago can only be announced right after the dealer deals the last card. Succeeding in a Blind Chicago gets the player 30 points, with a loss deducting 20 points. During a Blind Chicago, no player gets points for their hands. The player attempting Blind Chicago can swap cards as usual. If a player completes a Blind Chicago with a deuce, they get 60 points, winning the game automatically.


Some let players with five cards under ten swap them before the usual swaps. Instead of two swaps, some games allow three, with scoring happening after each swap. Some games skip the “one up” rule. In some games, a player must declare “Chicago” to win, whether they win or lose the five tricks. Instead of 7 points for four of a kind, some give 8, and for straight flush, some give 11. A royal flush might win the game outright.

Some poker variations award more points for four of a kind and straight flush, even reaching an immediate win. Disagreement exists about scoring in Chicago. Some say only +15 or -15 points are given, while others award additional points. The +5 for the game can’t be added to the +15 for Chicago. Another variation gives +13/-13 points for Chicago, with the declaring player starting first, but only if they’ve reached 13 points to avoid negative scores.

Some games forbid players with 45 points or more from swapping cards. After reaching 52 points, some require a player to win one more game to officially win, in case multiple players reach 52 points in the same hand. For certain actions like winning the last trick with a deuce, some games award more points, like 10 instead of 5, and 30 for ending a Blind Chicago with a deuce.


Before starting, each player puts in a small bet called an ante, usually 10% of the minimum bet.

Third Street

After the ante, the dealer gives each player three cards. Two are face-down, and one is face-up. The player with the lowest face-up card starts the betting by paying the bring-in bet, which is half the minimum. Betting continues clockwise, with players calling, raising, or folding.

Fourth Street

Each player gets one face-up card from the dealer. Another round of betting begins, following the same rules as before.

Fifth Street

Players receive another face-up card. Betting happens again.

Sixth Street

Players get another face-up card, and betting starts again.

Seventh Street

The dealer deals the last face-up card. The final round of betting begins.


All active players reveal their hands. The player with the best hand wins half the pot, and the player with the highest or lowest spade as a hole card wins the other half. If one player has both the best hand and the spade, they win the whole pot or share it with the player with the second-best spade.

What do you think?

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