Before we begin, we want to make a quick note on the betting options for games. Not every version of Texas holdem is the same. In online poker, you’ll find no limit, pot limit, and bet limit games. The online designation for no limit is “NL” and pot limit is “PL”. Bet limit sets a maximum bet you can make on a hand.
These games use two-number designations to show the limits, with the first number being the max bet on the first two rounds of betting, while the second number is the maximum wager on the last two rounds of betting. So if you see “5/10 LP” or “LP 5/10”, you’ll be able to bet $5 max on the preflop and the flop, while upping that bet to $10 maximum on the turn and the river.
This can be confusing because numbers can also refer to the big blind and the small blind. If you see a game with 5/10 no limit Texas holdem, the numbers refer to the blinds, not the betting limits. In a pot limit game, the maximum wager possible is the size of the pot. This is a middle ground between the two extremes and is popular in several variants of the game, including Omaha and razz.
We wanted to include the bet information first, because it can refer to any poker game played. Certain variants are more popular with certain bet types, so we’ll discuss those in greater detail below. Now let’s look at the popular poker games of the moment.
Texas holdem is the most popular game of poker. Texas hold’em appeared in Las Vegas in the 1960’s. It had been popular among a handful of professional poker players wandering from town to town in Texas in the 1950’s, and those players took the game with them to Vegas a decade later.
Jack Binion, also a Texan, installed the game in his Horseshoe Casino. When the Horseshoe started hosting the World Series of Poker in the 1970s, holdem became the chosen game of the WSOP Main Event. When this series of tournaments were broadcast in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, Texas holdem became the mainstream game of poker. Now it’s the most popular card game online, and James Bond has even been depicted playing Texas hold’em in a film.
In Texas hold’em, each player is dealt two face down cards (hole cards). Five community cards are dealt. Community cards are shared by every player at the table. They use their 2 dealt cards and the 5 community cards to build the best 5-card hand. The community cards are dealt in three rounds, the flop (3 cards), the turn (4th card), and the river (5th and final card).
Betting occurs in four stages: pre-flop, flop, turn, and river. Limit and no-limit games are popular in online cardrooms. The no limit Texas holdem is what’s played at the World Series of Poker Main Event, so a lot of Internet gamblers like that version.
See also: Texas Holdem Tips
Usually just called “Omaha”, this game plays a lot like Texas holdem, but with a couple of major differences. Instead of being dealt 2 hole cards, each player is dealt 4 hole cards. Once again, they are dealt 5 community cards in 3 rounds of dealing, and the object is to build the best 5-card hand. A more rigid hand structure is required, though. You must choose 2 of your 4 hole cards and 3 of the 5 community cards for your hands, where a player could use 4 or even 5 community cards in Texas holdem.
A popular variant of Omaha is called Omaha hi/lo or Omaha high/low 8-or-better. The pot is split between the best hand and the worst hand. To qualify for the low hand, you can’t hold anything better than an 8. Players build two separate hands (if possible) to try to qualify for each pot. Figuring out the hand combinations can be a strain even for experienced players. Pot limit is the most popular form of Omaha betting.
See also: Omaha Poker Strategy
Seven card stud was the most popular form of poker in many casinos before Texas holdem. This was especially true in the eastern United States. Even today, seven card stud is popular in home games of poker.
Seven card stud has 5 rounds of betting, 4 upcards or “doors”, and 3 hole cards. The deal provides two hole cards and one door card. Betting starts with the player showing the weakest door card. A round of betting occurs, and then another card is dealt face up.
This time, the player with the strongest hand showing initiates betting. A 5th card is deal, again face up, and betting again starts with the strongest hand showing. A 6th card is dealt (again, face up) and a fourth round of betting occurs. Finally, a 7th card is dealt, though this is one is face down. The fifth and final round of betting happens, initiated by the player showing the strongest hand. 7-card stud has one more round of betting than Texas holdem, but it’s more likely to be played with limited betting.
One popular variant of 7-card stud is seven card stud hi/lo. This plays with similar rules to Omaha hi/lo, with a player needing to fill out a low hand with cards of rank 8 or less. The object is to win both the high and low hands, because each wins half of the total pot.
Mississippi stud removes the betting between the 4th and 5th card, while dealing the 7th card face up. This provides the familiar 4 betting rounds and 2 hole card with 5 upcard format of Texas holdem, while still offering the basics of 7-card stud.
Roll Your Own is a version of the game which provides players with four rounds in which two card apiece are dealt. The player must choose to “roll one up”, meaning you choose which one to the show to the table. On the next three deals, you must roll another card over, though this doesn’t have to be from the pair just dealt.
Razz is a game much like seven-card stud, except the point is to get the lowest hand. Imagine the 7-card stud poker hi/lo game without the high component and that’s how razz plays.
Five card stud and five card draw are still played, though you won’t find these games in casinos very often. 5 card stud is an unforgiving game, since players get no chance to improve their hand. Five card draw is the basic game for most forms of video poker machines, which are sometimes called “draw poker”.
Badugi is a form of triple-draw poker in which a player is dealt four cards. The player can discard between 0 and 4 cards each draw, which happens 3 separate times. The object is to get the worst hand possible. Since straights do not matter, getting an A-2-3-4 is the best possible hand. Acquiring a K-K-K-K is the worst possible hand.
H.O.R.S.E. is a popular game found in online poker rooms and a few select prestigious tournaments. The H.O.R.S.E. event at the World Series of Poker is considered prestigious to win, because many of the top professional gamblers enter. The game consists of alternating hands of five different card games, including Texas holdem, Omaha hi-lo split-eight or better, razz, seven-card stud, and seven-card stud split high/low eight or better. These games form the acronym H.O.R.S.E., with the “eight” in the final game serving as the letter used.
These are the most popular and widespread games and variants of poker. Many other versions of the game can be found. A few will appear in tournament play. You’ll find a few in land-based casinos or online poker rooms. For the most part, you’ll find the ones already discussed.