For those who grew up playing penny-ante, dealer calls and wild card games, "Indian Poker" may be among the wildest. This game may not have the most politically correct name and isn't on the 888poker client, but it brings plenty of smiles and fun at the tables—for a lark and a few bucks on the line.

Check for any real skill advantages at the door in this one. In this rare game, you can see all your opponents' cards—just not your own.

Keep reading to learn how to play Indian poker and learn more about this crazier game than 3 card poker!

Indian Poker - The Basics

Each player places an ante at the start of an Indian Poker game. The dealer distributes each player a single card, but they can’t look at them.

Once all the cards are out, the dealer signals everyone to raise their cards to their forehead without looking at their own card.

A poker cheat sheet wouldn’t work in this variant, as everyone sees everyone else’s cards.

Indian Poker - The Basics
Indian Poker - The Basics

Each player can see everyone else’s hand except their own. That single card on the forehead is thought to look like a single feather that a Native American warrior was known to wear, hence the name “Indian Poker.”

Some players cover one of their eyes without looking at their own cards and refer to the game as Cyclops. This beast from Greek mythology had only a single eye on his forehead.

Some of the other names for this silly poker variant include:

  • Blind Man's Bluff
  • Squaw Poker
  • Oklahoma Forehead
  • Indian Head.

Whatever your group calls the game, the basic fundamentals are the same. Once all players have their cards on their foreheads, there is a round of betting.

Players do not bet on the strength of their own cards but gauge the strength of others.

Indian Poker - Strength of Opponents' Cards
Indian Poker - Strength of Opponents' Cards

With betting complete, players show their cards – seeing their own holdings for the first time. The player with the highest card then collects the pot. Plenty of laughs are part of the process.

A poker hand of Indian Poker is a great way to break up any serious action during a night of card playing with friends.

Indian Poker - Gameplay Alternatives

Players might consider a few alternatives to playing Indian Poker. While the traditional game involves a single card on the forehead, some players use two or three cards or more.

Some may even extend the game and grow the pot by dealing each card individually, followed by a betting round. Based on even more cards visible from their opponents, players can decide to keep calling or fold.

Using more than three cards may become cumbersome and cause cards to fall from everyone’s forehead, defeating the point of the game. Another alternative is to play a low-ball version, with players hoping to draw the weakest poker combo to scoop the pot.

Indian Poker - Gameplay Alternatives
Indian Poker - Gameplay Alternatives

A stud version of the game has players receiving a few cards to look at while also showing a few “hole cards” that only opponents can see. This variant creates and intriguing traditional poker hybrid.

Indian Poker - Strategy Considerations

Players can’t see their own cards.. However, they can determine their potential chances of winning by assessing other players’ hands and the poker board. Seeing face cards on opponents’ foreheads makes the chance of winning much less likely.

  • Seeing aces, kings, queens, or jacks may mean folding your hand.
  • However, seeing opponents mostly with lower and middling cards might be worth calling a bet. Or even raising if all cards look pretty weak and you have a “positive feeling about your luck.
Indian Poker - Strategy Considerations
Indian Poker - Strategy Considerations

Raising the action may force even better hands to exit if all cards are relatively weak or middling. This game isn’t deep-thinking. However, a few considerations might register you a win.

Indian Poker in Pop Culture and Tournament Series

While this game may be more of a lark than a real game of poker, Indian Poker has been featured on television on occasion. In the U.S., three Big Brother cast members played the game on the show’s livestream in 2020. Most players can’t play the game without laughing.

Even the World Series of Poker featured a six-handed Indian Poker tournament for ESPN cameras in 2004, referring to the game Blind Man’s Bluff. It also featured a Texas Hold’em version, with each player receiving two cards and then betting on the flop, turn, and river.

Amir Vahedi, Layne Flack, Scotty Nguyen, Clonie Gowen, Mike Matusow, and Phil Gordon battled for a $3,000 prize pool, with Vahedi eventually coming out on top.

In 2010, the Irish Winter Poker Festival held the €100 Blind Man’s Bluff World Championship, adding a unique element to the series. The event attracted 47 players, and after seven hours of action, Russia’s Pavel Pravdukhin came out on top, winning the title and €1,985 top prize. This win may not have been the biggest of his career, but it was possibly the most fun.

“This is a complex game with a lot more skill involved than one might initially think,” a representative involved with the series noted in announcing the event.

“Poker players like to think they can read their opponents – let’s see how good they really are at judging a situation without knowing what cards they hold in their hat. This World Championship event promises to be totally crazy, probably a bit chaotic and definitely great craic (Irish for “a good time”)!”

Sean Chaffin is a poker writer who appears in numerous websites and publications. He is also the host of the True Gambling Stories podcast