Suave Poker

by Cathy Keenan and
Kathy McCreary

Cathy is a hard-core student in Educational Technology who's crazy enough to think she can get through this program
in 1 1/2 years.

Kathy is a scuba-diving freak who is so into ed tech she is designing an underwater computer kiosk to be used by divers exploring the Channel Islands.

Instructional Objective: The learners will be able to identify the personal pronoun and verb tense of irregular Spanish verbs. This edition of the game includes only the present, imperfect, preterite, future and conditional tenses.

Learners/Context: The learners are students in their second year of high school Spanish. They have prior exposure to the rules for conjugating irregular Spanish verbs.

The game is designed to be a supplemental in-class exercise. Students can also play the game outside of class to practice and reinforce verb conjugation skills.

Rationale: A game is an appropriate format for this situation for a number of reasons.

While we feel the use of Suave Poker is appropriate for this audience, we recognize the game needs to be carefully monitored and controlled by the instructor.


  1. The game is meant to be played in Spanish. All discussions between the players should be in Spanish. If a player needs to speak English they must put an extra $.50 chip into the pot for each English question.

  2. The game should be played in small groups. We suggest a minimum of 2 participants and a maximum of five.

  3. Choose a dealer. This responsibility will rotate clockwise to a different player with each hand.

  4. All players begin the game with fifty "dollars" in chips of various denominations ($.50, $1.00, $3.00, etc...)

  5. Before the cards are dealt, each player must chip in (ante) $.50 in order to play the hand.

  6. All players are dealt seven cards.

  7. The first player is the one to the left of the dealer.

  8. Beginning with the player to the left of the dealer, each player, including the dealer, gets a turn to turn in cards to the dealer for new cards from the undealt stack. Players can choose to keep all of their cards, or turn in from one to seven cards.

  9. After each player and the dealer have completed their first turn, the players place bets on their hands.

  10. In Suave Poker, players have a second chance to turn in cards from their hands if they wish.

  11. At the end of this second round, players place their final bets. They also have the option to fold if they don't have a winning hand.

  12. Each player then reveals their hand by turning their cards face up on the table.

  13. The player with the best hand, according to the table below, wins all the money in the pot.

  14. Play continues until someone has won all the chips or time is up. The player with the most "dollars" at the end of the session wins the game.

Poker hands:

4 of a kind:
4 cards all same tense (not necessarily same verb)
4 cards all same person (not necessarily same verb)

Tense Full House:
2 verbs in one tense, any person and 3 verbs in a second tense, any person (ie. ando, está -- present tense; diste, hizo, anduve -- preterite tense)

Person Full House:
2 verbs in one person, any tense and 3 verbs in a second person any tense (ie. ando, estuve -- yo; da, dijo, estaba -- Ud.)

Royal Full House:
2 verbs in one tense and person and 3 verbs in another tense and person (ie. andabas, estabas -- tu, imperfect; caeyeron, dijeron, salieron -- ellos, preterite)

5 cards, one in each person, tense and verb itself do not matter (ie. voy, tuviste, vino, podemos, vieron)

Straight Flush:
5 cards with the same verb and same tense (ie. quise, quisiste, quiso, quisimos, quisieron)

* Important: When trying to match cards in the same person, first and third person in the imperfect tense can be used interchangeably.

Player Discussion: Players are encouraged to ask questions of other players regarding "hypothetical" cards, verbs, and their conjugations. For example, if a player has a verb but is unsure of the person or conjugation, that player can ask the other players for the answer. Of course, if the player asks a real question, the other players will know one of the cards in that player's hand. We suggest players ask an number of questions to disguise their real questions. Remember all discussions are to take place in Spanish. If someone needs to use English, they must add $.50 to the pot for each question.

Card Design

Each card has a different conjugated irregular Spanish verb. The infinitive (root form of the verb) and it's definition are also on the card. The cards are regulation poker size according to the Los Vegas Dealers Association.

Deck Design

For twenty irregular verbs, there are a possible 500 cards. Rather than use that many cards in a deck, we recommend that the decks be broken into stacks of five different verbs. This will form four playing decks of 125 cards. Each time the game is played, students should try to use a different deck. This will give them the exposure to a variety of irregular Spanish Verbs. There will be are no literal repitition of cards in a deck (ie. the imperfect conjugation "ibas" will appear only once in the deck, "iba" appears twice, once for first person and once for third person).

Design Process:One evening after class, while sipping margaritas and discussing our favorite topic, card games for EdTec 670, we hit upon an idea: Suave Poker!

Each of us had spent hour upon boring hour in high school Spanish desperately trying to learn Spanish irregular verbs. After analyzing the audience and finishing a couple more margaritas we agreed poker would be both fun to play and be the perfect model for our card game.

Its structure is conducive to teaching classifications (verb tense and person). And, the added element of encouraging discussion of the verbs is a good way to help students learn from each other. By asking numerous questions to disguise the real question, students have the opportunity to analyze a number of conjugations.

We tested a prototype of this game on a group of students who were in their second year of Spanish at San Pasqual High School. The students felt the most difficult aspect of the game was trying to ask each other questions about verbs while speaking only Spanish. Ironically, they also felt this part of the game provided the most fun, laughter, and learning.

©1995 All Rights Reserved Cathy Keenan and Kathy McCreary Last updated by Kathy McCreary and Cathy Keenan on September 28, 1995.

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Educational Technology 670, Fall 1995.