What The L?—a Dealer's Choice Poker Game

Updated on January 10, 2017
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I'm a neighborhood card player. It's social and competitive at the same time. I love a new game variation when it's Dealer's Choice.

The Board Layout Tells the Story

Several community game variations use a nine card board but how you lay out those nine cards makes a big difference!

Give each player five hole cards. Layout nine cards in an L formation; one center card and four more straight up and four more straight across. This is usually played as a 3-2 game, so you can throw away weak starting cards (see below) and get away from a probable loser.

Lots of players hold out for the river card, then melt away when that center card betrays them!

What The L?

Starting Board For This 3-2 Variation
Starting Board For This 3-2 Variation | Source

Playing "What the L?"

What the L? is usually played as a 3-2 game. You use three cards from your hand to combine with two cards from the board to make your five card hand. Both two cards must come from the same straight leg of the L, both vertical or both horizontal, The center common card can go either way. We play it as Hi Lo. You can play High and Lo from the same leg, or either leg.

The Deal

See the accompanying photos for the steps of the deal:

  • Deal each player five cards.
  • Layout nine cards in an L shape, five cards up and five across.
  • A round of betting.
  • Turn the two end cards, followed by a round of betting.
  • Turn the next two down cards, followed by a round of betting.
  • Turn the next two down cards, followed by a round of betting.
  • Turn the center card, the river card, and pause for groans from the players. Then comes the last round of betting.

Poker Term - "The River"

The River card is the last community or center board card to be exposed. At this point a player finally knows all cards in the hand.

Turn The Cards Please

Click thumbnail to view full-size
1st Turn2nd Turn3rd Turn4th TurnRiver Turned
1st Turn
1st Turn | Source
2nd Turn
2nd Turn | Source
3rd Turn
3rd Turn | Source
4th Turn
4th Turn | Source
River Turned
River Turned | Source

The Winner Is...

In this example:

A Club Flush - One hand holds the Ace, Nine, Eight of clubs to play with the King, Seven of clubs from the vertical leg of the L.

A Lo - Another hand holds the Two, Five, Seven to play with the Ace, Four from the horizontal leg of the L.

A High Hand And A Lo Hand

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The Final BoardA Typical High Hand and a Lo Hand.
The Final Board
The Final Board | Source
A Typical High Hand and a Lo Hand.
A Typical High Hand and a Lo Hand. | Source

Strategy in "What the L?"

Since this is a 3-2 game, you need one or more combinations of three connected cards, or a pair or two. A very good starting hand is three connected cards for high and three connected cards for low.

Trips in your hand is ideal since you just need one pair to show on either leg of the L for a full house, or better yet the fourth card for quads!

Flushes and straights are common.

Don't play weaker starting hands because two pair is generally not going to win high. Three low cards in your hand are essential for a Lo.

Variations in "What The L?"

This can also be played as a 2-3 game, using any two of your hole cards with three from either leg of the board.

Here you have a wider range of starting hands because a pair in your hand can fill out with a match and another pair in a leg of the board. Also, it's a lot more likely to hold 2 low cards and thus have a shot at a Lo.

Dealer's Choice Poker Games

Number of Players
Extra Cards
(The) Bridge
10 (10x4=40+7=47)
10 (10x4=40+5+3=48)
Crazy Pineapple
10 (10x3=30+5+3=38)
Crazy Pineapple, Double Board
10 (10x3=30+10+6=46)
10 (10x2=20+5+3=28)
09 (9x4=36+4+9=49)
Double Cross
09 (9x5=45+6=51)
Criss Cross
09 (9x5=45+5=50)
09 (9x5=45+5=50)
(The) Z
09 (9x5=45+4=49)
08 (8x5=40+9=49)
2-2-1 from 6, 3
08 (8x5=40+9=49)
08 (8x5=40+9=49)
Round The World
08 (8x5=40+8=48)
2-2-1 from 4, 3
08 (8x5=40+7=47)
2-2-1 from 4, 4, 4
08 (8x5=40+12=52)
The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
08 (8x5=40+12=52)
Double 32
08 (8x5=40+10=50)
Take Away
08 (8x5=40+10=50)
3 Card Stud
08 (8x3=24+8+8+8=48)
Temple Of Doom
08 (8x5=40+6=46)
Double Hand Omaha
07 (7x6=42+5+3=50)

A Word or Two About Dealer's Choice

Most player's first experience with poker was in local dealer's choice games. At home, or in a college dorm, or a back room somewhere, the "next" dealer sat with deck in hand pondering, "what haven't we played?" The choices got a little crazy back then, with a wild card or two often thrown in for more action.

Over the years, the wild card games have, thankfully, become a memory. There are enough board game variations to satisfy the average poker player. There's lot's of room for game strategy to be a factor and for poker skills to have value.

Closing Theme of the 1974-75 Game Show "Dealer's Choice"

Questions & Answers


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