Poker is primarily a game played by individuals in competition against one another. That is to say, unlike card games commonly played with partners like bridge, spades, or euchre, poker is a game that almost always is a single-player game in which every player is in it for him or herself.
That hasn’t stopped some from wondering… can two people play Texas hold’em? That is to say, is there a way to play poker with partners like in other card games? There are in fact ways that two players can “team up” and play together against other poker partnerships.
How to play poker with two players
Over the years there have been a few different methods of playing poker with two people or in teams that have been attempted, with a couple becoming somewhat popular. By far the best known version of two-player poker is the “tag team” format made famous by the reintroduction of a “tag team” event at the World Series of Poker at Jasabola.
Some may not realize that when the “Tag Team No-Limit Hold’em” event was added to the schedule in 2016, it wasn’t the first time the WSOP had experimented with two player poker games. From 1979-1983 there had been a “Mixed Doubles” event in which two-player teams consisting of one man and one woman could play. Doyle Brunson won a bracelet in the first one, actually, winning the event in 1979 with Starla Brodie.
The “tag team” format can be followed in different ways, though the main idea is essentially the same in all of them. The game doesn’t really change at all in terms of the rules. The only real difference is that instead of one player playing a stack of chips throughout a tournament, other players can “tag” in and take over, kind of like the way partners tag in for one another in a wrestling match.
At the WSOP, each player in a team is required to play at least one full orbit at some point during the tournament. Teams can have two, three, or four players, but however many are on team, each one has to play one full “round of blinds” or the team will be disqualified.
Also, players can tag in and out between hands, but not during a hand. That means if one player gets to the flop and isn’t sure about how to proceed, that player can’t tag out and let a teammate finish out the hand. The player changes are only allowed after one hand is over and before another begins.
Versions of “tag team” poker played elsewhere have introduced different rules, with limitations on the frequency of substitutions, minimum requirements for the amount of time a player must play before tagging out (e.g., one hand, one orbit, a half-hour), and so on.