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Fun with Bounties: Secret Santa Bounty

Just before December's Christmas game this year, one of my players suggested we add a fun kind of side bet - a Secret Santa Bounty.

The idea is that, once all players have contributed to a bounty prize pool, one player is randomly and secretly chosen to be the Secret Santa who has a bounty on their head. Whoever knocks out that player wins the whole of the bounty prize pool there and then. If the Secret Santa player doesn't get knocked out (if they eventually win the poker game) then they get to keep that bounty prize pool for themselves.

The big twist with this kind of bounty is that only the player who is selected as Secret Santa will know they are the player with the bounty on their head. Consequently, they might be less inclined to take the risk of going all in against a larger stack.

However, for the majority of players, the knowledge that an instant prize could come their way might increase the temptation to go all in against a shorter stack.

How it works

The mechanics of this type of bounty are simple:

  • Players each pay an agreed amount into a bounty prize pool.
  • The Secret Santa player is secretly chosen at random by, say, having each player pull a piece of paper out of a hat. These pieces of paper are all blank except for one which says the player holding it is the Secret Santa.
  • Having checked to see whether or not they are the Secret Santa, each player keeps their bits of paper next to their chips, one side of it hidden so that no-one can see who the Secret Santa is.
  • When a player is knocked out, they show everyone their piece of paper to reveal whether they're the Secret Santa or not.
  • If the knocked-out player turns out to be the Secret Santa then the bounty prize pool is immediately awarded to the player who just knocked-out Santa, and the bounty side game comes to an end.
  • If the knocked-out player is not the Secret Santa then play continues and the suspense increases.

Secret Santa cards

Although the Secret Santa player could be selected by drawing pieces of paper out of a hat, for my game I designed and printed some cards that could be placed face down on the table, shuffled around, and picked up at random by the players.

On the front of each card, the side to be kept uppermost on the table during a game, is a drawing of a masked Santa surrounded by large question marks.

On the backs of all but one of the cards are the words "You are not Secret Santa!" Just one card says "You are the Secret Santa!", along with a small drawing of the masked Santa.

Secret Santa Bounty Cards
Secret Santa Bounty Cards

If you'd like to print these out yourself, here are the PDFs I created for the fronts and backs of the cards. You'll have to print one side first, then turn/rotate the printout and insert it back into the printer's paper tray to print the other side.

I found it better to use card rather than ordinary paper for printing these. Card holds up better under any rough handling, and the Secret Santa drawing on the back won't show through to the front.