The game is called Tombstone Hold ‘Em. It’s similar to Texas Hold ‘Em, except that the five shared cards are revealed at the beginning of the round, and players make their hands by finding tombstones. Each tombstone translates into a different card: a square tombstone of someone who died in 1959 becomes a 9 of diamonds. Players are arranged in teams of two, and to make a hand each player has to touch a tombstone as well as each other.
The Analysis – Notes
There should be at least eight players. We had a total of six, and with one team dealing resulted in one-on-one match-ups each round. Since the first team back wins any ties, having more teams would require players to switch between keeping track of tombstones and each other.
Move the hand after each round. We started in the corner of the graveyard, but it was more exciting to explore. Graveyards are naturally organized by age, so the tombstone fashions change from one area to the next. Exploring encourages discovery – we found a group of photographers stalking an eagle nesting in the graveyard.
Keep visual contact. Its fun to run off to a distant part of the graveyard, particularly if you remember an important card being there. Once you lose eye contact, though, its hard to hear the Last Call from the dealer.
Diamonds are everywhere, hearts are common. Square and rounded tombstones translate into diamonds and hearts, respectively, and are popular. Pointed and be-statued tombstones translate into spades and clubs, and are rare. Since you can’t use tombstones that are already in the community cards, going for a four-of-a-kind with the Ace of Hearts and the Ace of Diamonds already out is risky.
Each team should have a camera. While players usually know what the best possible hand is, the individual cards are hard to remember and important for backup plans. Taking photos of the winning hands is also a big part of the fun.
Have a rule sheet of poker hands. Several of our players hadn’t played poker before, so its handy to have a reference. I used a screenshot of Poker Night at the Inventory, since they give visual examples.
Raise the stakes. In the original rules for Tombstone Hold ‘Em, each team bids a set amount for every hand. By our sixth round, there were players who had no chance of coming back in the remaining three rounds, so we upped the bid. If you’re playing with real poker gurus, using an more traditional betting system could be a fun twist.
Get Poker Visors. I couldn’t find any for our game, but if you’re going to be ridiculous, you might as well wear the part.
Tombstone Hold ‘Em does exactly what it sets out to do – make people more comfortable in a graveyard. At the beginning of the game we walked cautiously, but by the end we were running at top speed for the Last Call.
If nothing else, its a great way to kill some time.
Oh yes, there will be graveyard puns.