One thing that I’ve never been able to figure out is why I don’t like Criss-Cross all that much. I like 4-handed games just as much as 3-handed games (and prefer 3 & 4 handed to traditional heads up), and the common complaint about 4-handed games – that they are “too much information, almost overwhelming with all the cards that are out in play” has never really been a concern for me – maybe if it was a double deck game with 8 players, then it would be, but just 3 other players to track and 39 other cards in total has always been routine to me.
But for whatever reason, I do feel that Criss-Cross is “too much”, and feel it’s simply overwhelming and over-the-top with how many cards are out there. I have no idea why but for some reason I don’t have the complaint in 4-handed games, but I do feel the way many others also feel when it comes to Criss-Cross. I’m guessing I’m the only one who feels that way about Criss-Cross and not traditional 4 handed, but I know there are many who feel that way about both.
But I also find traditional heads up to be boring, particularly live. So when a player or two steps away or leaves and 2 people are waiting for another player, I’ve found playing heads up to kill the time to be a very poor game to accomplish the task. Which is why I’ve found that a variant I will take claim as the “founder” serves as the perfect middle ground between traditional heads up and criss-cross – I call it “2 v 1”.
As its name implies, one player will be playing 2 hands, the other player plays 1 hand. Following traditional Chinese rules, the button will play 2 hands, however, because this game is often played in short intervals of 1 or 2 hands in-between 3/4 handed games, you can’t let the button have such a huge advantage that it would not be fair to the other player if you played just one hand, since then 1 of the 2 players will have played a button hand and not an OOP hand. So instead, you make the button play the UTG hand & the button hand, with the other player playing the hand in-between. So Player A is button, Player B is his opponent. Player A is dealt a left hand card then Player B is dealt a card, then player A is dealt a right hand card, repeat 4 more times for 5 cards to each hand. A then sets his left-hand (the UTG one), without looking at his right-hand, then B sets his hand, the A sets his right hand (the button). Play continues in the same manner. B’s hand is scored versus both of A’s hands. Then button moves to player B.
This way if you only get to play 1 hand, the person who is the button will have only gained a marginal edge, but not a huge one as he also has to play the worst position of the 3 hands (setting his hand first with no information), so it’s not a big deal if you only play 1 hand as the middle hand will not have gotten screwed by not playing his button.
The one thing is that Fantasyland is treated a little differently. Regardless of whether you got to Fantasyland from the button (1 of your 2 hands got QQ+), or from the OOP hand, Fantasyland reverts to a 1 on 1 heads up situation – the player in FL is dealt a normal FL hand, and the player facing FL is dealt out a normal 5-card start, 1 card at a time runout. This is to prevent having issues over the player with 2 hands potentially knowing 13 cards (which greatly helps his other hand), and issues over whether a player who gets to FL from OOP then gets a FantasyLand against 2 hands of the opponent. Instead, FL just goes back to 1 on 1, all staying in FL rules apply, as well as rules allowing the player facing FL to go to FantasyLand.
Once FL is over, you move the button and go back to the 2 v. 1 set-up.
One thing I have found about this format is that it gets you a big benefit of criss-cross (more hands, more action, more payouts, more gambool) without the huge downside that comes from playing criss-cross (massively slower game, overwhelming amounts of information). Anyone who has played 4-handed and 3-handed knows this from those two games – 3 handed moves A LOT faster than 4 handed, and 2 v. 1 moves A LOT faster than Criss-Cross.
So try it sometime, for those who find criss-cross to be frustrating, but want more action than standard heads up games. So far, virtually everyone who I introduced 2v1 as an alternative to Criss-Cross when we play Heads Up games has said that they find 2v1 to be a superior game because the difference in the length of time it takes to play a full hand and score all 4 hands in Criss-Cross versus the length of time in 2v1 is astronomical, but at the same time 2v1 offers enough of an increase in action versus standard HU that pretty much the consensus is that 2v1 offers all of the good parts of Criss-Cross and none of the bad parts.
The only thing left is to come up with a better name than 2v1. The only thing I was thinking was Canadian Criss-Cross (referring to Canadian Doubles in tennis when 2 players play against 1 player), or just Canadian for short. So I’d name the game “Canadien OFC”; but if someone out there has a better name for the game, please let me know.