The bidding, betting, bluffing, trick-taking card game for 2-5 players.
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Rainbow Poker is a trick-taking game for 2-5 players. A game is played in rounds. Each round players are dealt 15 cards that they use to create poker-based hands for 5 tricks: a 2-card trick, a 3-card trick, a 4-card trick, a 5-card trick, and finally a 1-card trick. Players bid on the number of tricks they think they can win and points are scored based on the highest-bidding player’s ability to win at least the number of tricks they bid. After each round scores are counted, the cards are shuffled and a new round begins. The winner is the first player to score 11 or more points.
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Rainbow Poker is a bidding, betting, bluffing, trick-taking game for 2-5 players. Games are played in rounds. Each round every player is dealt 15 cards that will be used to create poker hands for 5 tricks: a 2-card, 3-card, 4-card, 5-card, and finally a 1-card trick. Players bid on the number of tricks they think they can win and points are scored based on the highest-bidding player’s ability to win at least the number of tricks that they bid. After each round scores are counted, the cards are shuffled and a new round begins. The winner is the first player to score 11 or more points.
What is a trick?
Each time all of the players at the table lay down cards it is called a trick. The player with the best hand (card or group of cards) wins that trick and collects the cards played.
The Rainbow game deck is made up of 80 cards. There are 5 colors (Purple, Blue, Green, Orange, and Red) with each color having 3 Tens, 3 Jacks, 3 Queens, 3 Kings, and 3 Aces. Each rank (10, J, Q, K, A) also has one wild card. In addition to the 80 game cards there are 5 reference cards for ranking hands and 10 score cards.
Before play begins remove the 10 score cards and the 5 reference cards from the deck. Distribute 1 reference card and 2 score cards (1-6 and 7-11) to each player.
Playing the Game:
Determining the Dealer:
Starting with the youngest player and moving clockwise each player pulls one card from the top of the deck. The first player to get a purple card or a wild card is the dealer. The dealer's first job is to collect the cards and shuffle the deck.
A round starts with the dealer distributing 15 cards to each player. Following the deal each player will have the opportunity to bid. Bidding starts with the player to the dealer’s left and moves clockwise. Players bid by guessing how many of the 5 tricks they think they can win. They can also pass. A player's bid must be higher than the current highest bid, otherwise they pass. Bidding continues around the table until the dealer has bid or passed. If all players have passed the dealer must bid at least 1. Whoever made the highest bid is now the "highest-bidding player" for the round and the number of tricks they win will decide who gets points at the end of the round.
Deal chunks of 3 cards at a time to each player until everyone has 15. Dealing 1 at a time could lead to sore wrists and sleeping players.
The 2-Card Trick:
Play starts with the 2-card trick. Each player will select 2 cards to play and hold them face down on the table in front of them. Once all of the players at the table are ready the dealer says "ready, flip" and all of the players flip over their cards. The player with the highest-ranking hand wins the trick, gathers the cards from the middle, and places them to his/her side.
When placing tricks that you have won to your side place them face down. When multiple tricks are won it is often helpful to alternate the orientation from “portrait” to “landscape” which will help you count your tricks at the end of the hand.
Aces are the highest-ranking cards followed in strength by Kings, Queens, Jacks, and Tens, in that order. This means that an Ace will be stronger than a King and similarly a pair of Queens will be stronger than a pair of Jacks.
A Rainbow Poker deck also has 5 colors that each have value. Purple is the strongest, followed by Blue, Green, Orange, and Red in that order. If 2 hands are exactly the same rank the color of the cards in the hand is used to determine the winner (e.g. a pair of Blue Aces beats a pair of Red Aces).
Ranked hands are made up of groups of cards that are all the same color. The only exception is the 5-card rainbow which is made up of 5 cards of the same rank in all 5 different colors.
Each rank (Ace, King, Queen, Jack, and Ten) has one wild card that can be used as any color. A Wild Ace, for example, can be used as a Purple Ace, Blue Ace, Green Ace, Orange Ace, or Red Ace.
There are 8 types of ranked hands possible in the game:
5 cards of the same rank in all 5 colors
A 3-of-a-kind in the same color and the rank’s wild.
- Full House:
A 3-of-a-kind and a pair in the same color
Cards of the same color in sequential order
3 cards of the same rank and color
- 2 Pair:
2 pairs of the same color
2 cards of the same rank and color
- High Card:
No pairs, straights, or Rainbows.
This chart shows one example of each of the possible ranked hands in Rainbow Poker with the highest-ranking hands at the top:
In hands with cards of multiple colors your ranked hand is the best hand you can make with cards of the same color.
Sam has Purple Ace, King, Queen and Red Ace, King. Sam doesn’t have a pair of Aces or a pair of Kings since the Aces and the Kings are different colors. Instead, Sam’s ranked hand is a Purple 3-card straight which will lose to ANY hand with 4 or 5 cards of the same color.
Can I have a 3-card straight in the 4-card trick?
You can have a 3-card straight in a 4-card trick but it must be a "3-card" 3-card straight which means that you don't have a 4th card of the same color. For example, red 10, J, Q and a green K would be considered a 3-card straight and would get beat by any hand with 4 cards of the same color. If the green K were a red K the hand would be a 4-card straight (since all 4 cards are now red) and would beat a 4-card pair but lose to a 4-card 2 pair, a 4-card 3 of a kind, or a 4 of a kind. Red 10, J, Q, A would not be considered a 3-card straight but rather a 4-card high card hand.
In the event of an exact tie (same ranked hand and same color) there are 2 possibilities:
- If the highest-bidding player has one of the tied hands they win the trick.
- If the highest-bidding player does not have one of the tied hands the players involved in the tie each take half (or a third in the event of a 3-way tie) of the cards and get credit for winning one trick.
Following the 2-card trick play will continue in the same way for the 3-card (each player plays 3 cards), the 4-card, the 5-card, and finally the 1-card trick.
Any player who has won at least 1 trick may bet up to 1 previously won trick on the outcome of the current trick. This is done when all players are holding their cards face down in the middle. When the dealer says "Ready" a player who wishes to bet says "I'll bet one trick on this one."
- Any player who wishes to stay in the hand must move one trick that they have previously won into the middle.
- Any players who have not won a trick yet automatically stay in the hand but can only win the current trick and are not eligible to win any of the bet tricks.
- Players who have won at least one trick but do not wish to bet place their hand face down in the middle and fold.
- If the player who wins the current trick bet a trick they win all of the tricks bet as well as the current trick.
- If the player who wins the current trick did not have a trick to bet they win the current trick and the bet tricks move to a side pot. The bet tricks will then be won by the betting player with the best hand.
- If 2 or more players bet on a trick and there is an exact tie (where neither tied player was the highest-bidding player) each tied player receives their trick back and takes half the cards of each of the remaining bet tricks which will be worth one trick each. For example, let's say 3 players bet on the 1-card trick. One of them was the highest-bidder and they flip a blue Ace. The other 2 players flip purple Aces. Both of the players with purple aces would get their bet tricks back and get credit for 2 additional tricks - the highest-bidding player's bet trick as well as the 1-card trick which would both be split between them.
- In a situation where two or more players bet and tie and one of the tied players was also the highest-bidder in the round the highest-bidder would win all of the tricks bet as well as the current trick.
Following the 1-card trick each player counts how many tricks they won. If the highest-bidding player won at least the number of tricks they bid they receive the number of points bid. If they win all 5 tricks they receive an extra 2 points - the “pot of gold.” If the highest-bidding player fails to win at least the number of tricks they bid they will receive 0 points and the other players at the table will receive 1 point for each trick that they won.
Let’s say Barnaby was the highest-bidding player at 3 tricks. Barnaby wins 2 tricks, J.P. wins 2 tricks, and Flo wins 1 trick. Barnaby gets 0 points for failing to meet his bid. J.P. gets 2 points because he won 2 tricks and Flo gets 1 point for the trick she won.
In the next round Barnaby was the highest-bidding player again but this time he bid 2 tricks. Barnaby won 4 tricks and Flo won 1 trick. Barnaby gets 2 points because he bid 2 tricks and won at least that many.
To keep track of your score reveal your current score using your 2 scoring cards.
Ending the Game:
The first player to win 11 or more points wins the game. In the event that 2 players win 11 or more points in the same round the player with the highest score wins. If both players have the same score a sudden-death 1-on-1 hand is played to determine the winner with the player closest to the left of the next dealer bidding first. The first player to score a point or more wins.
4-Player "team" variation:
4-player “team Rainbow Poker” is played in exactly the same way as a 2-5 player game but players form 2 teams. The person sitting across from you is now on your team. If you take a trick or your teammate takes a trick the trick counts for your team total.
At the end of each round the team with the highest-bidding player counts the total number of tricks that their team won. If that team won at least the number of tricks as the highest bid they get the number of points bid. If they fail to win as many team tricks as the highest bid the opposing team gets 1 point for each trick that their 2 players won combined. The first team to score 11 points wins.
During the team game a player is only allowed to bet tricks that they have won, not tricks that their partner has won.