Hand strength restructure

I apologize if this isn’t the right section of the forums. I’m new to this type of thing.

For a long time, I’ve thought about different ideas to tweak things from a design perspective and one of those ideas happen to be the strength of the hands. I understand that the game is designed around actual poker hands and it wants to stay true to that for flavor.

However, in real poker, the strength of hands are determined by the odds of being able to make such hands. For example, the odds of making a full house is much less than say a straight or a 3 of a kind, which is why the full house is ranked much higher.

In Doomtown though, I would argue that is not such the case because of how this game is designed. I also understand that there are “cheating” possibilities, cheating punishment cards, and that is also the design and a flavor of the game.

In a perfectly balanced game, this might not matter, but in the real world, it limits the deck designs and make flush and straight decks almost useless. When every shootout is either full house or 4 of a kind, cheating or legal, the poker aspect becomes bland and less fun: most decks focus on 3 values for full house and 4s.

What I’d like to propose, or at least bring up for argument is that we either change the hand strength in Doomtown to make more sense or change the limit on how many values of each suit can be in a deck to manipulate the odds. For example, up to 10 cards of each valve max.

What do you guys think about this in general? Are there better alternatives or suggestions?


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Comin’ Up Roses proves that there are cards that fill the space for this problem. You don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

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I think that Cheatin’ punishment and lowball already does a lot to balance hand ranks.
You basically have 3 types of decks:

  • The 3-Value deck that consistently draws Full House/4oaK but also cheats regularly and loses lowball, plus if you mess up drawing a Full House you are left with a 3oaK/2Pair which will kill off all of your dudes.
  • The Straight Flush deck that usually draws Straights/Flushes and takes casualties, but avoids cheating and wins lowball, plus if you get lucky/have a good shooter you can get a Straight Flush and get that desicive victory.
  • And the DMH deck that runs very specific cards and uses self-acing to work towards drawing DMHs to win lowball and shootouts.

Each deck type also creates restrictions as to what cards you can include. A full 16-16-16 3-Value deck only gets 12 actions to play with. That limits your options when choosing between Cheatin’ Punishment, Shootout Actions, and Jobs/Noon Plays. Meanwhile a Straight Flush deck can have access to twice as many actions allowing for more varied Shootout Actions and Cheain’ Punishment, but has to restrict their dudes/deeds/goods to do so.
Ultimately I see deck-building as a solo-puzzle where hand-ranks/draw consistency is only one part, but if you are having trouble with a Straight Flush deck just remember that your goal isn’t to consistently have the best hand, its to stay in the fight until either your opponent cheats/draws a dud hand, or you draw your SF. Here are a few cards that can help:

  • Comin’ Up Roses - Great card for getting those SFs even faster
  • Gambler’s Gun/PTPT - SF decks don’t cheat, and now you can turn your Flushes into victory
  • Siege of the Orphanage/Blessings/Martyr’s Cry - Tank those casualties like a pro while you wait for your opponent to mess up

Coming up roses was a huge boon to the straight decks for sure, and I hope we see more support such as this.

it’s not that straight or flush decks aren’t absolutely viable, but it’s just not consistent enough, which is what the problem is; you can’t make a deck and count on 4 cards (coming up roses).

Aside from Landslide decks, I haven’t really seen a competitive deck that’s not a full house / 4s shooting decks. There’s too much mitigation in various ways to make cheating worth it more than not.

Side note, I’d love see a tournament winning straight/flush deck if you guys know of any.

Played a bunch of Bicycle games today.

Totally cool way to play a “different” game with the same cards. Also answers some of your concerns here.

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There have been a bunch of non-FH/4oaK or Landslide decks that have won or placed highly at tournaments. Here are some that I could find from the last year.

SF Kung Fu - Sacramento Sheriff winner
Hexes & Hand Rank Manipulation - 4th place at London Sheriff.
Putting the Pieces Together Flush - 1st in OCTGN League and WI Sheriff winner.
SF Judge Deck - Kalamazoo Sheriff winner
Showboating Shamans - 4th place at York Sheriff
108 Dead Man’s Hand - 2nd place at European Marshal

108 Worldly Desires shows up a lot in these kinds of decks. The extra card in shootout draw hands can really help you hit Straight Flushes and Dead Man’s Hands, as for such decks you want as much stud as possible…


Glad to hear. I think my playgroup has talked about this before. We need to give it a shot.

Awesome! Thanks for finding them. I’ll take a look for sure.

Just to add to the existing excellent list - @Ijiasu was 2nd at a good sized sheriff in York 2016 going 6-1 despite playing a deck with a very weak control structure. Condition control out of 4R original home - needs a skilled pilot but can be very surprising and effective. Sadly the deck is not on dtdb.

I think there is a very interesting strategic discussion to be had between decks that have traditional (2-3 value) and non-traditional (straight-flush) structure.

In general, I find that traditional decks can typically exert a roughly evenly-distributed pressure globally, whereas non-traditional decks tend to sacrifice breadth for bursts of concentrated localizations of higher pressure.

I know in my play group when my friend is playing a non-traditional deck, I generally have to either play around him entirely and/or use shootouts with expendable dudes to pull him out of position.

Here’s the decklist:

The idea is to lock people down both in terms of movement and economy (by ruining their upkeep). It’s pretty fun to play but once people figure out it cannot shoot it becomes quite average! Worked a surprise deck, would question whether it work in repeated matchups.


I’ve been meaning to reply to this for awhile, and while SavageJack’s response was spot on, here are a couple more thoughts, @Deadend7786:

You are right that the deck construction rules mess heavily with the traditional odds of poker hands, but it does so equally across the board. You can make it much more likely for those full house/4oaK’s, as well as straights/flushes/straight flushes. You are also right that straights and flushes alone cannot keep up with full houses and 4oaKs, and that’s exactly how it should be since they are a lot easier to make, even with the skewed odds - in fact, you could make your entire deck one suit, and get 100% chance of a flush. You have to either have massive, consistent hand rank bumping, or make those decks shoot for straight flushes, which is extremely difficult to beat when you are backing it up with cheatin’ resolutions.

I never even attempted to make a straight flush deck for a very long time, viewing them as simply inferior. I learned, however, that it is difficult for most decks to consistently get legal full houses or 4oaKs. That’s why combined with cheatin’ punishment, even a simple flush can often do very well against those types of decks. Even with cheatin’ punishment, if you let their bullets get out of control they may be able to consistently get hand rank 7 & 8 without cheating, so that’s another consideration as well. That’s why you have to tailor your shootout actions to your goal: if it’s to get a straight flush, you need as many studs and bullet bonuses as possible. If you’re just going for a flush backed up with lots of cheatin’ punishment, you want bullet/stud reductions for the opponent so they can’t make their legal rank 7 and 8’s (my PTPT deck is an example of this, combined with hand rank bumping).

Anyway, long story short - there are lots of considerations, and I believe the various draw structures are extremely well balanced and nuanced in ways that I’m sure I still don’t fully understand yet. I did write up an article for the Gazette that goes into more depth on this topic, and is followed by many good comments from the folks in this community: