Celestial Poker / Sviten Special Shared Card Poker

Celestial Poker / Sviten Special Shared Card Poker

Celestial Poker / Sviten Special


This Poker variant is a cross between Five-card Draw and Omaha. Players are dealt five cards each, and a there are five face up shared cards on the table. After the first three shared cards (known as the flop) have been dealt, players can discard some of their hand cards and obtain replacements. The pot is split between the best five-card hand and the best Omaha hand. This mixture of games guarantees action and is normally played quite aggressively.

As reported by Jonas Uebel, this game has become very popular in the Nordic countries under the name Sviten Special, and is widely believed to have originated in 2004 in Anders Bengtsson's legendary Sviten poker club in Stockholm, as described for example on this festival page. However I am told by Sebastién that an identical game was played in French Canada in the 1980's where it was known as Celestial Poker (or in French, Céleste). The 'festival page' article also mentions that a similar game is played in the USA under the rather clumsy name 'Drawmaha'. It may well be that over the course of a quarter century or more this same idea has arisen independently in several widely separated places.

Players, Cards and Stakes

A standard international 52-card deck is used. The optimum number of players is 5 or 6. It is possible for up to 9 to play, but then you often have to recycle cards discarded by the earlier players to be drawn by others.

Players agree the size of the small and big blinds, and the betting limits. Sviten Special is preferably, and in its original format, played as pot limit.

Deal and Betting

As in any form of poker, the cards are shuffled and cut. The structure when it comes to blinds, order of betting and the way the communal cards are dealt are identical to ordinary Texas Hold’em and Omaha.

The player to the dealer's left places the small blind and the player to the small blind's left places the big blind. The dealer then deals five cards to each player, and there is a betting round, beginning with the player to the left of the big blind.

The dealer then burns one card and deals a three-card flop face up to the table. There is a second round of betting in which the player to the left of the dealer acts first.

After the second betting round, each player can discard any number of cards - from zero to five - and receives an equal number of replacement cards from the dealer, as in five card draw poker. If the deck runs out at this point the muck (consisting of earlier players' discards, the burn card, and the cards of any players who folded in the first betting round) is shuffled to form a new deck from which to deal replacement cards to the later players.

The dealer burns one card and deals one card (the turn card) face up to the table. There is a third round of betting beginning with the player to the left of the dealer.

Finally the dealer deals a fifth face up card (the river) to the table, and there is a fourth round of betting beginning with the player to the left of the dealer.

The Showdown

If any betting round results in all players but one folding, the last surviving player immediately takes the pot without showing any cards, and this ends the hand.

If more than one player survives the final round of betting, all surviving players show their cards, and the pot is split between:

Normal poker hand ranking applies. It is of course possible for the same player to win on both criteria, and take the whole pot. However, it is common for the pot to be split.


A popular variation of Sviten Special allows an extra possibility when exchanging cards. If you decide to exchange only one card, you can ask the dealer to give you a replacement card face up. You can either accept this card, which everyone has seen, or reject it and ask the dealer to deal you another card face down, which you must then accept.

Sebastién describes three versions of the one-card exchange rule played in Celestial Poker in Canada:

  1. The player simply receives one replacement card that is not shown to the other players and has to accept it - i.e. the same as when exchanging two or more cards. This is rarely played.
  2. The player is dealt one card face up, which they can reject and take a face-down card in its place, the same as in the Sviten Special variant above.
  3. The player is dealt two cards face down, keeps one of them without showing it, and discards the rejected card face up. This third version is the most popular. Sviten Special is most popular to play as pot limit and in cash games. However, there have been successful tournaments of Sviten Special and even some players that like to play it as no limit (but then the game tends to become quite crazy).

Communist Pot is a Celestial Poker variation in which everyone at the table has to place an ante of 5× the big blind. There is no betting round after the first 5 cards are dealt: the dealer immediately deals the three-card flop. The game then continues in the normal way.

There are several Roll Your Own versions of Celestial Poker. The most usual is for each player to reveal one of their five cards when the turn card has been dealt, before the third betting round, and a second when the river card has been dealt, before the final betting round.