Iron Cross Rules
Church Poker, a.k.a. Iron Cross Poker, is an interesting home game that gets its name from the arrangement of the cards on the table. In this game, each player is dealt four hole cards (or five cards in some games) and then five cards are placed in the middle of the table in the shape of a cross.
If you need help visualizing this arrangement, imagine one card in the middle of the table surrounded by a card on the top, bottom, and each side.
The cards in the middle of the table are then revealed one at a time, with a betting round after each card is revealed. After all five cards have been revealed, the players may combine any two of their hole cards with either the horizontal or vertical row of cards to make the best possible five card poker hand.
The cards in the middle are revealed beginning with the card at the top of the vertical row and then going to the right until all four outer cards have been revealed. The card in the middle of the intersection is revealed last.
In some variants of Iron Cross, the dealer has the option to declare the middle card wild. This must be announced at the beginning of the hand before any cards have been dealt.
At the beginning of each hand, each player must pay an ante to receive cards. The ante is a small, forced bet that’s used to start each pot with a little money in it. Antes are sized to be about 10% the size of the betting limit. For example, in an Iron Cross game with $5 bets, each ante would be $0.50.
After the antes have been paid, each player is dealt four cards face down. The players receive one card at a time, beginning with the payer to the left of the dealer.
Because the position of the dealer dictates the order of each betting round, the dealer’s position should move one spot to the left at the beginning of each hand. If the game uses a full time dealer, a dealer’s button is used to represent the position of the dealer each hand.
After the players have all their cards, the card at the top of the cross is revealed. After that card is revealed, the player to the left of the dealer begins the betting. This player may check, bet, or fold. The betting action then continues clockwise around the table.
The card on the right side of the cross is revealed next. This is followed by another round of betting that begins with the player to the left of the dealer.
The card at the bottom of the cross is revealed next. This is followed by another round of betting just like the previous round.
The card on the left side of the cross is revealed. This is followed by another round of betting.
The card in the middle of the cross is revealed and there is a final round of betting.
If there is more than one player remaining after the last betting round, the play proceeds to a showdown. The remaining players pick two of their hole cards and combine those with either the vertical row or horizontal row of cards on the table to create the best possible five card poker hand. The player with the best hand wins the pot.
Optional Betting Rules
If preferred, Iron Cross can be played with four betting rounds instead of five. In the four round game, the betting would take place as follows:
- One round of betting after all the hole cards have been dealt but before any of the community cards are revealed.
- The cards on each side of the cross are revealed simultaneously. This is followed by the second betting round.
- The cards on the top and bottom are revealed simultaneously. This is followed by the third betting round.
- The card in the middle of the cross is revealed. This is followed by the fourth and final betting round.