What Is “The Stand Up Game”?

6 min read

After the massive Clash Of The Titans on Poker Go this weekend, players are becoming familiar with “The Stand Up Game.” So what is the stand up game and how does it work? 

The stand up game PokerGo
Yong, Antonius, Gonsalves and Gonzales play a round of the stand up game for $10,000 a man.

The rules of the stand up game

The game starts with everyone standing up. A player may sit back down when they have won a pot. This includes stealing the blinds or getting a walk, but a chop does not count. The last player standing must pay each other player at the table a bounty, usually between two and five big blinds. 

If the game is $1/2 no-limit holdem, and the penalty is two big blinds, then the last player standing pays each other player $4. At a nine-handed table this would be eight opponents, at $4 each, for a total of $32. Because this is on top of not winning a hand for a few rounds, it can make for a rough start, but isn’t a heartbreaking sum.

Like most side games played at a poker table, the stand up game adds more gamble, punishing a loser even more for their loss. It also creates more action because no one wants to fold a hand until they are sitting down. When there are only two or three players left standing, the action can get wild. 

Strategy for the stand up game

Any player who is standing with two or three players left should probably be open-raising very wide if it is folded around to them. Of course this means that the other players can call, or reraise, with a wider range of hands as well. If the only two players in the pot are the two left standing, there is the equivalent of a $32 penalty for losing the pot, so they will both put up a real fight to try to win it and big bluffs will be common.

Once you’ve played the stand up game a few times, it becomes clear that sitting down early is a nice advantage. You can start to play poker using the knowledge that some of your opponents are still standing and will be trying hard to win pots, but you aren’t being forced to play like they are. 

Simple adjustments like making bigger raises and reraises against players who are still standing, can be very profitable. If the big blind is still standing, and you have a strong hand, you can make a larger than typical raise and they will still probably call. You can also fold some weaker hands if you know that the big blind is likely to call or reraise and stealing the blinds is going to be tough.

If you are one of the players left standing toward the end, you should be making bigger reraises, seeing more flops, and you must be willing to get all-in on a semi-bluff if a good opportunity appears. Your opponents will be expecting this, but you can balance it by also playing your strong hands fast.

Playing your strong hands fast as well, when you are stuck standing, works for two reasons. First, your opponents are more likely to call your big bets and raises because they know you will be semi-bluffing frequently to try to get in your chair. And second, because there is extra value for you in winning the pot, so if your opponents are scared off by your aggression, it is much less disappointing than it would usually be. Picture the pot as $32 more (or whatever the penalty will be in your game) and you’ll be happy to be raking it in even if it’s fairly small.  

How often should the stand up game really be played? 

Playing more than once every hour or two can be really tedious. Standing for long periods of time can be annoying, and the increase in variance can be frustrating for some players if the game is played too frequently. But it’s a nice way to mix things up if you’re tired of playing props, the seven-deuce game, or Lodden Thinks. 

If you are going to play more than once or twice a night, it may be best to just make the penalty two big blinds instead of the five big blinds we used. It will take the heat down a notch and prevent players from being fatigued and feeling like the stand up game is all that matters.

Can the stand up game be played in casinos? 

While some casinos will tolerate more side action than others, playing the stand up game for small stakes in a casino can cause some problems. If someone goes to the restroom, they are likely to come back owing everyone the penalty. And you need a bunch of random players who don’t know each other to agree to the game. It will be a hard sell for new players or those who are less hungry for action.  

In a bigger game, these things are much easier. The players know each other and they know what they are getting into. But in smaller games it can cause bickering and sometimes even a failure to pay. If a player decides to go home, or gets busted before they win a hand, there is no way to force them to pay everyone. 

A player who is short stacked and ready to go home anyway may be on a freeroll in this kind of situation. If they go broke, they just leave. If they double up, they wait for the last player standing to pay everyone before they rack up and leave. 

And casino poker room will often only tolerate side action when it isn’t obvious. Even if there is enough room to comfortably stand around the table without getting in the way of other players and staff and cocktails, it’s going to be very obvious what is happening and the house will probably shut it down. The stand up game is probably best left for private games and high stakes rooms in casinos rather than the floor of a big poker room. 


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