This article relies largely or entirely on a single source. (November 2014)
Liar's poker is an American bar game that combines statistical reasoning with bluffing, and is played with the eight digits of the serial number on U.S. dollar bills. The digits are usually ranked with the 1 as "ace" as the highest value, followed by 0 as "10", down to 2 as the lowest. Each player holds one bill, unseen by the other players. The objective is to guess how often a particular digit appears among all the bills held by all the players. Each guess or bid must be higher in value or quantity than the previous bid. The round ends when all the other players challenge a bid.
Usually the game is played with random bills obtained from the cash register. Each player takes a dollar bill and looks at its serial number without letting any other players see it. The starting player makes an opening bid on how many of a particular digit appears across all serial numbers held by the group. For example, if the first player bids three 6s, he is predicting there are at least three 6s among all the players including himself. The next player can bid a higher number at that level (three 7s), any number at a higher level (four 5s), or challenge the bid. The game continues clockwise around the table until a particular bid is challenged by every other player. If the challenge is correct, and the total number of the digit on all the bills is lower than the bid, the bidder loses a dollar to each of the other players. If the challenge is incorrect, the bidder wins a dollar.
In popular culture
- In the 1965 film Cat Ballou, the sheriff is confronted playing liar's poker at the barn dance.
- In the 1972 film "The Getaway", Steve McQueen’s character Doc McCoy challenges Ali MacGraw’s character to a game while looking at a bill, by saying "Five fours".
- Elliott Gould's and Jim Bouton's characters play a round as friends in the beginning of the 1973 neo noir film, The Long Goodbye.
- In the 1977 movie Semi-Tough, Burt Reynolds' and Jill Clayburgh's characters play an ongoing game of liar's poker periodically throughout the movie.
- Characters on the show Quincy M.E. were often seen playing Liar's poker.
- In the WKRP in Cincinnati episode "Herb's Dad", Herb's father, and later Herb himself, play liar's poker with Johnny and Venus.
- In Season 3, episode 8 of Magnum, P.I., "Foiled Again," Magnum and his two friends pass the time by playing liar's poker.
- In his 1989 book Liar's Poker, Michael Lewis details how Salomon Brothers traders would play liar's poker. He recounts how John Meriwether was once challenged by CEO John Gutfreund to a game of liar's poker for stakes of one million dollars and declined a counter-offer of ten million from Merriwether.
- A game of liar's poker was played in an episode of the TV series Hustle (Season 3, Episode 3) where one of the main characters plays and loses against two merchant bankers.
- In The Wire episode Dead Soldiers, Tommy Carcetti and Anthony Gray play a game.
- In the 2011 movie Hall Pass, the group of characters play a game.
- Anne O Faulk's novel Holding Out uses the game as a plot point.
- In John D. MacDonald's novel, A Tan and Sandy Silence, Travis McGee and Meyer play the game to determine who will pay for dinner and drinks.
- Liar's Poker by Michael Lewis.