All posts by argyre

Chernobyl, a six card poker game, and it’s progenitor, Love Canal.

In the years before Texas Hold’em swept the nation’s poker players, the average home game consisted of “dealer’s choice”, where people would play a variety of poker games (7 card stud, 5 card stud, 5 card draw, Black Mariah, etc.).  Most of these variants had existed for 50 to 100 years, and everyone knew them.

I’m going to describe a poker variant that is only about twenty years old, and been extensively play-tested for those two decades, Pretty popular game, among those who have played it.

Our home game got pretty popular, and we were regularly finding ourselves with 8 players showing up all the time.

This is a problem for 52 card decks – 7 card stud means 7 players use 49 cards, 5 card draw means 40 cards get dealt, and there are only 12 available to draw from, which presents a problem if no one folds, and intend to draw more than one card.

So we started to explore six card games.

One of our players, James Hopkin, came up with a six card game, which he named “Love Canal”, as he felt that “…it was all about the toxic waste.”

It was quite playable. During our games, I suggested a slight variant, which became much more popular. The variation allows for slightly more informed decision-making on what to discard, an additional betting round, and an unreasonably increased sense of optimism about ones hand, with the result that players are more likely to “swing”.

Basic Play for Chernobyl:

The game is High/Low, with a declare, for whether you are going High, Low, or swinging for both. As per tradition, if you swing, you MUST win both.

There  will be three betting rounds.

Six cards are dealt out to each of up to eight players, face down.

Players then examine their cards and determine what cards they DO NOT want to play.

A round of betting occurs.

In Chernobyl, all players select their first discard, and place it face down on the table in front of them, and then they are all flipped over at the same time.

A betting round follows this.

Based on the information gathered from the flip and the betting round, the players then select their second discard, place that in front of them, and those are all flipped together.

A betting round follows.

(In Love Canal, they would have each selected two cards to discard, and would place them face down in front of them.  When all players have placed their discards down, all players would flip both cards over.)

The players goal at that point is to make the best possible 5 card hand(s), using one of the pairs of discarded cards in front of another player, plus three (3) of the four cards the player is still holding.

(NOTE: This detail bites players constantly – if you are holding 4 kings, you have THREE usable kings. If you have four to a flush, you have THREE to a flush. You MUST use THREE of the cards you are holding, and one pair of cards from in front of another player. No, you cannot take use one card from player A and one card from player B.)

The potential for swinging comes in because you can make up your high and low hands with, potentially, two DIFFERENT selections of three cards from your hand, each of which is used with a DIFFERENT pair of cards from in front of other players.

Let’s say player A has discarded two cards of the same suit.

And player B has discarded a 4 and a 6, unsuited.

You are holding a 2 in another suit, plus an ace, a king, and a 3 in the same suit as player A’s discards, giving you a fine flush.

But you can also use your ace, 2, and 3, with player B’s 4 and 6 for a pretty nice low.


In the event that a player folds PRIOR to having discarded both cards, his cards are placed face down and a card is randomly selected from them for his folded hand. If he has folded before discarding any cards, you can either do this for both card flips, or leave his cards out altogether.

Chernobyl is completely very playable, and quite addictive, probably because you have, with a full table, 7 pairs of cards to add to your four cards to build your hands. Lots of options.


We have, occasionally, played where the table gets a hand. After the cards are dealt, the remaining four cards are placed, face down, in a safe location. At the end of the game, after the declare, and hands are being evaluated, you flip over the “tables” hand of four cards, and make the best (and possibly worst) hand using the same rules as everyone else. If the “table” WINS, the pot stays on the table for the next hand.


The origin of chocolate covered bacon, with recipe


Photograph of a platter covered with chocolate covered bacon

I created this recipe over 15 years ago.
Originally, I came up with it purely as a conceptual recipe – a joke.

I was at a brunch at a friend’s house, and another friend was helping out, cooking bacon. Unfortunately, that friend has some ADD issues, and had realized long ago that this issue meant that she would normally end up with incinerated bacon. So her solution was to cook bacon VERY slowly, such that it looked like she was going to manage to cook six strips of bacon per hour.

As I observed this, I was trying to imagine a recipe that would justify bacon this dear. Clearly, it needed to be something that you would not eat much of. And chocolate covered bacon popped into my head.

But, after I thought of it, as a joke, I realized I would have to actually make it. And that has worked out rather well.


As with all recipes, using good ingredients makes a big difference.
This is especially true when the recipe has very few ingredients.


Bacon              A good quality bacon

I have found that thick-cut works very well.
Various types have worked very well,
including peppered, applewood smoked, and others.

Chocolate        Mix of 50/50 bittersweet and semi-sweet works well.

Early experiments with very high cacao content dark chocolate
were too strong, and overpowered the bacon.

Optional seasonings
We have had great success adding dustings of seasonings to the outside, or adding them to the melting chocolate.
Some of these included:

Mexican spices – cinnamon and powdered Chile’s (these can be mixed in to the melted chocolate, and dusted onto the outside)

Smoked sea salt – dust the outside

Smoked paprika – dust the outside


Cut the full length bacon strips into thirds.
(So, if the strips are a foot long, cut them into 4 inch lengths.)

Cook them until they are firm, not floppy. You do not want to cook it to brittleness. The strips need to be firm enough to be able to push them into a pan of melted chocolate, but not so crisp that they break when you do this.

As you finish cooking the strips of bacon, transfer them to paper towels to drain.

Use a double boiler (or, for most people, improvise a double boiler -see note below) and melt the chocolate slowly. You want it melted, but smooth and even in color. If it gets too hot, and the oils get too hot and it burns.

I should suggest “tempering” the chocolate. The two links below give two approaches to doing this. However, I’ll admit that I have never set out to do this, as I tend to be very careful about NOT getting the melted chocolate too hot. Or, maybe I ended up adding enough extra chocolate near the end of the melting stage  (seeding it) that I unknowingly tempered it.

(Now, some folks are probably asking “Why didn’t you speed this up by melting the chocolate while the bacon was cooking?”. The delay is intentional. Pushing chocolate over that “too hot” temperature line is very easy. Turns out, pushing a hot strip of bacon that just came out of the pan will bring the layer of chocolate that covers it over the line and it can “break”, and you’ll have both bad adhesion, and bad solidification.)

Once the chocolate is melted, it is time to start dipping the strips of bacon into the chocolate.

While you could use a tool to do this, and completely coat the strips, I found that I much prefer to hold the strips by a corner, with my fingers, and push the strip into the chocolate. This leaves one corner uncoated, which both allows you to see the bacon, and allows you to pick up and eat the bacon without melting the chocolate onto your fingers.

As you remove each strip from the chocolate, let the excess chocolate (there’s an oxymoron for you!) drain back into the pan.
Then place the coated bacon strip onto a cookie sheet that has been covered with plastic wrap.

When all the strips are done (or the cookie sheet is full), pop the sheet of treats into a fridge or freezer for 10 to 20 minutes, for them to “set” into solid bars of chocolate, with bacon cores.

At that point they are ready for their close-up!

I recommend storing them in the fridge, but the reality is, I’ve never had any last long enough to store.


Most people do not have double boilers these days. I improvise one by placing a stainless steel mixing bowl atop a smaller saucepan containing some water that has been heated up on the stove.

This should raise the temperature in the bowl high enough to melt the chocolate, without burning it.