Italian Poker Draw Poker

Italian Poker Draw Poker

Italian Poker


Poker all'italiana (Italian poker) is one of many variations of poker. It is based on 5 Card Draw but it is played with a reduced deck, includes additional betting options, and features a somewhat different hand ranking system. In Italy the game describes on this page is most commonly referred to just as "poker", while Ameican 5-card draw poker is called "poker all'americana".

The original version of this page was based on a description by Massimo Ilardo. It has been expanded with the help of Antonio de Sebastiano and several books and websites.

Players and Cards

Poker all'italiana is played with a variable number of cards from a standard 52-card pack dependent upon the number of players sitting at the table. The lowest card is the equal to the number obtained by subtracting the number of participants from 11. Therefore:

It is convenient for each player to have a supply of chips for betting. As in any form of poker, the value of the chips, the amount of the ante (invito) and the minimum and maximum betting limits must be agreed before the game begins.

The direction of play is clockwise.

Deal and First Betting Round

Before the cards are dealt, all players must ante up (place the agreed stake in the pot) in order to compete.

The first player to dealer's left has a special blind bet option known as fare il buio or aprire in buio (opening in the dark). This option can only be exercised before the cards are dealt (or at least before any player has looked at their cards). The first player may open the betting with a voluntary blind bet equal to the contents of the pot. If the first player opens blind, then the second player (the player to the left of the buio player) can respond with a controbuio by placing a bet that is twice the amount of the buio bet. If there is a controbuio then the third player, to the left of the controbuio player can respond before the cards are dealt with contro-controbuio, also known as over. This third blind bet is twice the size of the controbuio, so four times the size of the original buio bet.

After any blind bets have been placed, the dealer distributes 5 cards to each player, one at a time clockwise, starting with the player to his left, and the players look at their cards.

If there was no blind bet, there is a round of betting beginning with the player to the left of the dealer. The first player's options are

  1. pass ("passo"). The player does not add anything to the pot, but reserves the right to join in the betting if another player opens, or

  2. open ("apro" / "punto"). If holding a qualifying hand (see below), the player may open by placing a bet in the pot, the amount being subject to the agreed minimum and maximum limits. In order to open the betting a player must have either

  3. a pair of Jacks or any higher combination, or

  4. four consecutive cards of a suit that do not include the Ace - in other words a 4-card sequence that can be extended to make a straight flush by adding a card to either end. Note that players are allowed to pass even if they meet the opening requirement.

If the first player passes, the following players have the same options until someone opens. If all players pass, the cards are thrown in. The pot stays, the players ante again and there is a new deal by the next dealer in which option 1 of the minimum opening requirement is increased to a pair of Queens or better. If all pass again, opening option 1 is increased to a pair of Kings or better. If all pass a third time option 1 returns to a pair of Jacks or better and the cycle repeats.

Once a player has opened, subsequent players in turn have the following options.

  1. Fold ("passo"). The player throws in their hand face down, takes no further part in the betting and cannot win the pot.

  2. Call ("vedo"). The player pays enough to the pot to make their total contribution equal to that of the player who most recently bet or raised. There is no minimum requirement for this - a player can call with any hand.

  3. Raise ("rilancio"). The player pays more to the pot than is needed to call. Other players must increase their bets to match this if they wish to stay in. There is no minimum requirement to raise - a player can raise with any hand. The first betting round can end in one of two ways.

  4. If all players except one have folded, the only surviving player (the opener or the last player who raised) wins the pot without showing their cards. All the cards are thrown in and the turn to deal passes to the left.

  5. If there is more than one surviving player and all have paid equal amounts to the pot (because the final bet or raise was called by all the others) then the first betting round ends and the game continues to the discard and draw phase. If there was a blind bet, then after the deal the first betting found begins with the player to the left of the last player who bet blind. Each of the other players in turn must either call or fold: they are not allowed to raise until the final blind bettor has had another turn to speak. If they all fold the final blind bettor player simply takes the pot. In order to call, players must equal the final blind bet - as usual there is no minimum hand requirement for this. If the last blind bet was a controbuio the player to dealer's left will need to add the difference between the buio and the controbuio to the pot if wishing to stay in, and if there was a contro-controbuio both the first and second players will have the option either to fold or to call by increasing their bets to equal the contro-controbuio bet.

If one or more players call, the final blind bettor can simply end the betting round when it comes to their turn in which case the game proceeds to the discard and draw phase. Alternatively the final blind bettor can raise, which starts a normal betting round in which players can fold, call or re-raise, continuing until either the stakes are equalised or there is only one survivor.

The advantage of betting blind is that the player who places the last blind bet acts last in the ensuing betting round and can prevent any other player from raising the stake. The disadvantage is that if anyone calls, the blind bettor will have to play even if dealt bad cards.

Draw and Second Betting Round

If more than one player survives the first betting round there is a draw round in which players who have not yet folded may exchange from 0 to 4 cards. Beginning with the nearest surviving player to dealer's left each player in turn states how many cards they wish to exchange, discards that number of cards face down and is given an equal number of replacement cards by the dealer. If the cards run out, the discarded cards are shuffled and reused. If a player wishes to exchange four cards, only three replacement cards are given initially; after all the players have been served, the players who asked for four cards are given their last replacement card.

As in standard draw poker it is legal for the opener to discard part of or all of the combination that qualified the hand to be opened. In this case the player must announce that the opening combination is being discarded, and the dealer must keep that player's discards to one side, so that it can be proved if necessary that a qualifying combination was held.

After the exchange of cards there is a second round of betting begun by the last player who raised in the first betting round, or by the opener or the final blind bettor if there was no raise.

In this second round of betting there are three options for the first player to speak:

  1. Bet ("punto"). The player pays an additional bet to the pot, which must be matched by all other players who wish to stay in.
  2. Check ("busso"). The player insists that the game continue but does not place an additional bet. If all players check the game will proceed to the showdown phase.
  3. "Parol". This is from the French 'passe parôle' and is a proposal that if all agree, the hand should be thrown in without a showdown and the pot carried over to the next deal. If a player says "parol" the next surviving player in turn has the same three options.

If a player says "busso" (check), the next surviving player in turn can bet or check, but "parol" is no longer possible.

If a player says "punto" (bet) they place their bet in the pot and the options for subsequent players are:

  1. Fold ("passo") The player throws in their hand face down, takes no further part in the betting and cannot win the pot.

  2. Call ("vedo") The player pays enough to the pot to make their total contribution equal to that of the player who most recently bet or raised.

  3. Raise ("rilancio") The player pays more to the pot than is needed to call. Other players must match this if they wish to stay in. There are four ways that the second betting round can end.

  4. All players say "parol". The cards are thrown in. The pot stays and there is a new deal by the next dealer. All players who wish to play in the new deal but had folded during the first betting round of the abandoned deal must increase their contribution to the pot to equal that of the players who stayed in for the draw. All players also pay a new ante to the pot. In this new deal the minimum requirement to open is a pair of Kings or a sequence of four cards in suit without the Ace, and no blind bets are allowed.

  5. All players check. There is an immediate showdown between the surviving players.

  6. All players except one fold. The last surviving player collects the pot.

  7. The total amounts bet by all surviving players are equal. This happens when that latest bet or raise is called by all the players (at least one) who did not fold. At this point there is a showdown between the surviving players.

The Showdown and Ranking of Hands

In a showdown, the surviving player who holds highest ranking hand collects the pot.

In poker all'italiana (unlike standard 5-card draw) the suits have a ranking order. Hearts (Cuori) are the highest, followed by Diamonds (Quadri), Clubs (Fiori) and Spades (Picche); hence the Italian saying "Come Quando Fuori Piove" ("like when it is raining outside"), which is used to remember suit order. This suit ranking is used to break ties between hands that in standard poker would be equal.

The ranking of hands from highest to lowest is:

  • Straight Flush (Scala reale): Minimum, Medium and Maximum - see below
  • Four of a Kind (known as Poker)
  • Flush (Colore)
  • Full House (Full)
  • Straight (Scala)
  • Three of a Kind (Tris)
  • Two Pair (Doppia Coppia)
  • Pair (Coppia)
  • High Card (Carta più alta)

Note that in this game a Flush beats a Full House. A flush is harder to make in this game than in standard poker because of the smaller number of cards in each suit.

As in standard poker, Aces can count as high or low in straights and straight flushes. For this purpose the Ace is considered adjacent to the lowest card in the deck being used, for example with 5 players, A-6-7-8-9 is a valid straight.

A minimum straight flush is the lowest that can be made with the deck in use, for example A-7-8-9-10 of a suit with 4 players. A maximum straight flush is 10-J-Q-K-A of a suit. All other straight flushes are medium. If two players have medium straight flushes then the one with higher ranked cards wins as usual. Also as usual a maximum straight flush beats a medium one, and a medium straight flush beats a minimum one. But if a minimum straight flush comes up against a maximum straight flush, the minimum beats the maximum. Finally between two equal ranked straight flushes in different suits, the higher suit will win.

The effect of the above rule is that no hand is a certain winner. The rule is summarised in the famous Italian saying "La minima batte la massima, la massima batte la media e la media batte la minima".

In the very rare case where three players hold a straight flush, one minimum, one medium and one maximum, the pot is split between them.

Note that the above rules do not apply to ordinary straights with mixed suits. For example with 5 players and a 36-card pack A-6-7-8-9 with mixed suits is the lowest straight and any higher straight from 6-7-8-9-10 to A-K-Q-J-10 will beat it.

If two players have otherwise equal combinations, the suit ranking is used to determine which is higher, as follows.

  • Between otherwise equal flushes or straight flushes the higher suit wins.
  • Between equal straights the suit of the highest card determines who wins (for example ♡Q-♠J-♣10-♣9-♠8 beats ♠Q-♡J-♡10-♡9-♡8).
  • Between equal ranked two-pair hands (the same ranked pairs and the same ranked kicker), the hand that has the heart card in the higher pair wins. For example ♡9-♠9-♢7-♣7-♠K beats ♢9-♣9-♡7-♢7-♡K).
  • A similar rule applies to equal pairs when both hands have the same three kickers. The hand with the pair that contains the heart wins.
  • Between two otherwise equal high-card hands, the one whose high card is in the higher suit wins.


There are many slight rule variations, and to avoid unpleasant arguments players should take care to agree before playing what house rules are in effect.

As in any form of poker, it is necessary to agree the betting limits: the amount of the ante, the minimum and maximum bet and raise amounts, and any limit on the number of times the stake may be raised. Some players also allow a blind bettor to choose how much to bet within agreed limits, but in any case the amount chosen by the first plind better will determine the size of the controbuio and the contro-controbuio, each of which must be twice the size of the previous blind bet.

Not all players agree on the details of the hand ranking. For example, according to the book "I Giochi di Carte" by E.Fantini and C.E.Santelia (Milano, 1985), when comparing otherwise equal hands the suit of the highest kicker determines who wins. In this case, if two players held K-K-J-9-8, the winner would be the player with the higher suited jack. For "high card" hands the high card is regarded as the poker combination, so the highest kicker is the next highest card. Thus in this variant when two players have A-Q-J-8-7, the higher suited queen will win.

If a deal is abandoned after the draw because all players say "Parol", players may agree to divide the pot that is carried forward into two or more parts, to be played for over a series of subsequent deals.