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Each month we will try to bring to you straightforward examples of popular - and not so popular - games on the course; games that will make your rounds more challenging and fun to play. In this next installment of games of the month, we'll tackle a game for those who talk a big and bet big: 'Vegas.'

Usually played by one twosome against another, the key to Vegas is in the comparison of scores at the end of the hole. After the hole, each score becomes a digit in the overall team score. If one team member shoots a 4, and the other a 5, the team's total score becomes 45 (the lowest score always becomes the first digit). If their competitors shoot a 5 and a 6, their team score becomes 56. The team scores are then compared and the difference (in this case 11 points) is awarded to the low team.
Not so bad? The game becomes more interesting when a player birdies a hole. If the winning team has a birdie in its score, the points won (the difference) are doubled. If one team scores an eagle, the points won are tripled. As an example, if on a par 3 one team has a combined score of 23, while the other has a combined score of 45, the low team wins 44 points (22 x 2) - this can create quite a swing in the game.

Now throw in a reasonable bet of $1-$5 a point, and watch the game, the excitement, and the pressure escalate.

Handicaps usually enter into Vegas during the initial team comparison. Each team adds together its handicaps, and the difference is the number of strokes awarded to the higher handicap team. For example, if one team is made up of a 6 and a 12 handicap, while their competitors are both 8s, then the first team receives 18 - 16 = 2 strokes.

In the example below, a foursome has decided to play a game of Vegas:

Vegas Example

While looking at the scorecard, note several things:
  • The lead in the overall match changes hands three times in the first seven holes, with a total range of 29 points.
  • On the second hole, Jack putts in for a birdie, doubling the difference in team scores (34-24) for twenty points.
  • The difference in team handicaps is two strokes (10+18-14-12). Brad, the higher handicap player on the higher handicap team, receives a stroke on each of the two hardest holes. Therefore, when Brad shoots a 6 on the 7th hole, it is actually counted as a 5. This does not have a huge effect, save to increase the number of points won on the hole from 13 to 14. Alternatively, the players could have decided at the start of the match to all play off of the low handicap player (if this were the case, as the low player, Jack would receive no strokes. Jordan would receive 12 - 10 = 2 strokes, and so on). This would have a dramatic effect on the scores throughout the match.
  • At the end of the match, Larry and Jordan win by 38 points. They get paid 38x the value of each point, set at the beginning of the match.
Monte Carlo
If the stakes of Vegas aren't big enough for you, you can play Monte Carlo. In this variation, a team's score is calculated by multiplying the individual scores together. On the fourth hole of the above example, Jack's team would have 7 x 6 = 42 points, while Larry's team would have 5 x 5 = 25 points. Larry's team would win 42 - 25 = 17 points on the hole. The multiplicative effect of Monte Carlo becomes dangerous when players begin to shoot higher scores - throw a 9 into the mix and your team can lose quite a few points.
Vegas Variations
Recent member Robert C. was kind enough to share some of his Vegas variations with us:

The first is where a special case is made for scores below par. For birdies and eagles, the losing team forms their score by placing the highest digit first and then doubling the points. If the winning team had a 4 and 5 and the other team had a 4 and 6, the points are calculated as 64-46= 18X2 (double it); the winning team earns 36 points. For eagles, use the same process but triple the difference.

The second variation includes carryovers. If the team's tie for a few holes and then one team wins a hole, the numbers of holes carried over becomes another multiplier. For example, the teams tie holes 1 and 2. On the 3rd hole, a team wins with a 45 and the other team scores a 55. The difference is 10 points multiples by 3 for the carryovers.
Next time you're feeling lucky, try a game of Vegas. You will definitely feel the rush of excitement, and you may even be a big winner -- but be warned, you also may find yourself washing dishes to pay off your debts.

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