One of the enduring strengths of Magic: The Gathering is its multitude of formats. There are many different ways to play using the same game pieces, be it official formats like Commander, Modern, Sealed and Pauper, or more niche ones like Horde, Wizards Tower, Oathbreaker and Forgetful Fish.

This flexibility is a bit of a rarity among games. Sure, you can use the same board for Chess and Checkers, and there are undoubtedly more variations of Chess than there are Magic formats. For the most part, however, game pieces are only ever used in one way. Perhaps the most notable exception to this is the standard deck of playing cards.

Now, calling it a “standard” deck is a bit of a misnomer, since the exact distribution of suit and rank can vary quite a bit depending on where you live. North American decks are almost always 52 cards, while decks in other regions may be smaller, around 48. (Of course, if these Standard decks included Yorion, they’d be much bigger!) Still, regardless of the exact composition of these decks, the principle behind them remains the same: if you have one on hand, you have immediate access to hundreds of different games, each with their own rich library of variations.

Take Poker, for instance. While betting and “scoring” remain largely the same between versions (three of a kind beats two pair, for instance), the setup can vary wildly. Broadly speaking, Poker games will either be “Draw” or “Stud” depending on whether players start with a full hand of cards and replace the ones they don’t want (Draw), or if they gradually add cards to their hand instead (Stud). Texas Hold ’em, for instance, could be classified as a Stud game because players start each round with only two cards, and after each betting round their hands develop as more cards are added to play.

Now, I’m not a Poker player. Betting and bluffing aren’t mechanics that I gravitate towards when I want to play a game. Nevertheless, I appreciate how challenging Poker can be. Despite how simple it appears on paper (especially compared to a rules behemoth like Magic), knowing when you should fold a hand or how much you should bet at any given time can be remarkably difficult.

Moreover, the ability to get inside your opponent’s head and puzzle out their thought process is invaluable when playing Poker at a high level. Truth be told, I’m just not very good at reading people, which is likely why bluffing games (and other social deduction games) aren’t typically my jam. Sure, I can bluff every now and again in Magic, but what really appeals to me is exploring odd card interactions and assessing complex board states.

Despite it not being my go-to game, I’ve had this idea for a Poker variant floating around in my head for a long time. I think it could be rather interesting, and as a Limited Magic player it leans into some very familiar territory for me. I’d probably still be terrible at it, but I think that’s ok.

Anyway, that’s enough preamble. Without further ado, I present: Seven Card Draft.

Have fun!


A Poker variant

What you need:
A standard deck of playing cards (a minimum deck size of 7 cards per player)
Poker chips, or some other way to tracking your bets.

As with normal Poker, each player starts with the same number of chips. Designate a dealer, who shuffles the deck.

Seven Card Draft is structured like a Magic Draft and card games like Sushi Go or 7 Wonders: players are each dealt a “pack” of cards, from which they will pick cards to build their hand. Players simultaneously pick one card from their pack, then pass the remaining cards to the player beside them. This process continues until all there are no more cards in the packs.

In Seven Card Draft, players will pause periodically to start a betting round, at which point they will be given the opportunity to raise the bet or fold. At the end of the final betting round, the players still in the round reveal their hands and the player with the best Poker hand wins the pot.

Just like in regular Poker, if there’s ever a single player left in the round, they immediately win the pot.

The Order of Play:

1. All players ante an equal amount to the pot.
2. The dealer shuffles the deck and deals 7 cards face down to each player. These cards form the “packs.”

3. Each player looks at their pack and chooses 1 card from it to draft. The drafted card is placed face down on the table in front of them, and become part of that player’s hand.
4. The players then pass their packs to the player beside them.
(In the first round, players pass their packs to the left. Each time packs are dealt to the players, they should alternate which direction they are passing.)
5. The players will then draft a card from the pack they were just given. This card is placed face down, then once all players have chosen a card, they turn the cards they just drafted face up.

6. Before passing the packs again, the players now begin a betting round. Betting starts with the player who has the best Poker hand out of their face up cards (high card at this point), and proceeds in the same direction that the packs are being passed. Players can choose to fold, check or raise the bet. If a player raises, all other players must match the new bet or fold. They make their decision in betting order.
If a player folds, they are out of the round. The pack they currently have is discarded face down to the middle of the table. When passing packs, skip any player that has folded.

7. Once the betting round is finished, the players pass their packs again (in the same direction as before). They then draft a card face down.
8. Players repeat this process once, but pause before passing the packs again.
9. Once all players have chosen their fourth card, they turn the card just drafted face up and begin another betting round as before.

10. After the second betting round, the players pass their packs and draft another card face down. They repeat this process two more times, always drafting face down.
11. Once all the cards have been drafted, players begin the third and final betting round.
12. After the final betting round is over, if more than one player is still in play, the remaining players reveal their hands and the best poker hand wins the pot.

13. If more than one player still has chips, a new round begins. The dealer shuffles up the deck and deals new packs to each player. Play proceeds as before, but this time players pass their packs in the opposite direction (so if they were passing to the left, they are now passing to the right). The direction of betting is also reversed.


– Draft a card face down, then pass packs.
– Draft a card face down. Turn that card face up.
– Pass packs, then draft a card face down.
– Pass packs, then draft a card face down. Turn that card face up.
– Pass packs, then draft a card face down.
– Pass packs, then draft a card face down.
– Pass packs, then draft a card face down.
– Reveal hands and determine the winner.
*Start a new round. Pass and bet in the opposite direction.*


Players should pay close attention the cards they pass; this will provide valuable information about what cards are available in the round, and can help determine if someone is bluffing.

Players have more control over what cards end up in their hand than in a typical game of Poker. Players folding can also greatly disrupt someone’s plans: a player folding at the wrong time has the potential to deny a key card to someone else. On top of that, because players only need five of their seven cards to form their poker hand, there’s room for players to “hate draft” cards by taking ones they don’t need, but might be important for someone else.

Because of the nature of drafting, the number of active players has a larger impact on this game than it does in other versions of Poker. At a smaller table, players will see the same packs more often, which can give them more information in early betting rounds about what cards everyone has taken.

Wild Cards

A wild card would normally be an auto-pick, which is pretty boring to draft. Instead, the dealer can declare that certain cards are “conditionally wild.” For instance, they may decide that 2s are only be wild if the player has a face card of the same suit in their hand, or perhaps the last card in every pack is wild regardless of rank. Conditions like this can give otherwise low-value cards a higher chance of being picked during the draft, and it can add an interesting wrinkle to decision-making process.

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