There are a lot of variations of the poker game which tells something about its origin or maybe of its flexibility, or it can be both. In any case, there are variations that you might find more fun than the others. It is probably a good idea to start with them if you want to become an experienced, or even a professional, player.
The Major Categories
Literally speaking, you may find hundreds of variants of the game in existence today. However, they can mostly be categorized in three popular groups.
- Draw. These are games where complete hands are dealt to players. The players then decided whether they want to replace cards in order to improve their hand. Perhaps, the most commonly played is the Five-card-draw.
- Stud. In this kind, players are dealt with a mixture of face-up and face-down cards across multiple betting rounds. Some common variants that belong to this group are the Seven-card-stud and the Five-card-stud.
- Community card. This might be the type most commonly seen and played in TV or online. Players would be dealt with an incomplete face-down card set. They can combine this with a set of face-up cards shared by all players. Texas hold’em and Omaha hold’em.
Even with the same type of poker games, the house may have rule variations as well. Here are some examples:
- Lowball. While the usual game counts the highest hand as the winner, this is reversed in lowball games. The hand with the lowest rank wins the pot. Games may differ in the considerations like whether the Ace counts low and how straights and flushes are treated. Examples of lowball games are 2-7 Triple Draw and Razz.
- High-Low Split. In such games, the hands with the highest and lowest rank split the pot. There are set rules for the qualification of the lowest hand. For example, the hand is counted for lowest only if it makes a kind of combination.
- In the standard rule, players can’t pass cards to each other. Some variants, like Anaconda, allows such.
- Kill games are those that when a player wins two pots in a row for a fixed limit game, the stakes get doubled.
- Some games make use of wild cards. Usually, the joker is assigned as a wild card. When a player gets a wild card, he or she decides the card’s value. Sometimes, it is limited (e.g. wild cards can only represent Aces) or not (e.g. you can use the wild card as the last card to complete a Straight or Flush).
- Twist rounds are rounds where each player has the opportunity to buy one more card from the deck. They have to add money to the pot.
- Some games use stripped decks, i.e. only 20 cards from the deck are used instead of the full 52. This is to honor poker history since the early games are played as such.
- Some games use royal decks – two decks but only involve the cards from 9 to Ace. Standard rules apply but suit ranking may be used since players are more probable to have the same value of hands.
Commonly Played Variants
In this part, we take a look at some of the most common variants.
The five-card-draw is considered the standard variant by many people; although, it is not played as much anymore. It still deserves mention.
The game commences by dealing five cards to each player face-down. A betting round flows. Then, starting with the player to the immediate left of the dealer, each player is allowed to discard cards as many as her or she likes. The dealer will then deal as many cards to that player. After the draws are done, another betting round commences and finally, the showdown.
When people in the United States say poker, they probably refer to the variant Texas hold’em, since this is the most popular one in the nation.
In a Texas hold’em game, instead of antes, there are two blinds: the small and huge blind. The immediate player to the dealer’s left is the small blind and the player next to him/her is the huge blind. The small blind generally posts half of the lower betting limit agreed on the table, while the huge blind posts half the higher betting limit.
The players are dealt two cards each face-down – called hole cards. Then, a betting round occurs.
The flop, composed of three cards, is then dealt face up on the table. These three cards make up the board and are community cards, i.e. all players are allowed to use them for the showdown. After this deal is another betting round.
The turn, which is the fourth card, is dealt face up on the board followed by another betting round.
The river, the fifth card, is dealt face up completing the board. There would be another betting round and then comes the showdown.
In this game, the objective is to create the best possible combination using your two hole cards and the five on the board.
Another popular variant in tournaments is the Seven-card Stud. It starts with an ante and then, each player is dealt with two face-down cards, the hole cards, plus one face-up card. This initial deal is called “third street”.
After this “third street” is a betting round. Each player are handed with three more face-up cards (fourth, fifth, and sixth streets) one at a time – a betting round occurs in between each. The seventh card for each player adds to their hole cards (i.e. face-down) and is called the river. After another betting round, the showdown commences.
The goal is to make the best possible five-card combination from their seven cards. There are no community cards or board for this variant.
Other stud games involve only five or six cards, but they’re not that common.
If we list any and all variants of poker games, even combination games, we would have enough to create a book. Each has its own set of rules and game flow. However, learning the ones discussed above can enable a player to play most of the variations.