Poker Variants Guide

Herbert Hanson By Herbert Hanson

10 min read

When we think about the game of poker, most of us might first picture Texas Hold’em, given its popularity in casinos and online poker rooms. But did you know that the poker game world is much more diverse? In fact, there are numerous poker variants each with their unique rules and strategies. This rich diversity extends from traditional games like 7-Card Stud and 5-Card Draw to the exciting novelty of Chinese poker and Badugi.

Why Understanding Different Poker Variants Matters

As a poker player, understanding different poker games is crucial for several reasons. First, each variant offers a unique blend of strategy, skill, and luck, thereby expanding your poker horizons and adding new dimensions to your gaming experience. Second, whether you’re joining a home game, sitting down at a casino, or entering an online poker room, the more games you know how to play, the better prepared you’ll be.

Popular Poker Variants

Texas Hold’em: The Most Popular Poker Game

By far the most popular poker game in the world is Texas Hold’em. Each player is dealt two private cards (known as ‘hole cards’) and five community cards are dealt face up on the ‘board’. The objective of the game is to make the best five-card poker hand from any combination of seven cards (the five community cards and their own two hole cards). Each round of betting starts with the player to the dealer’s left.

Pot-Limit Omaha Hi: A Flavor of Complexity

Next on the list of popular poker game variants is Pot-Limit Omaha Hi, often played in online poker rooms. Each player is dealt four cards and must make the best hand using exactly two of them, plus three of the five community cards. This variant introduces fascinating complexity due to the wider range of potential hands.

Omaha Hi-Lo: Double the Possibilities

Omaha Hi-Lo, or Omaha 8, adds an exciting twist to Omaha Hi. In this poker variation, the pot is split between the highest hand and the lowest hand. But there’s a catch—the low hand must have five cards of different ranks, all eight or lower (aces are low), to qualify for half the pot.

7-Card Stud: A Nod to the Classics

7-Card Stud is a stud game that was a staple of home games and casinos before Texas Hold’em stole the show. It’s still widely played poker and is frequently included in mixed games at the World Series of Poker. In this variant, each player is dealt three initial cards—two face-down and one face-up. The player with the lowest face-up card starts the first round of betting. There’s no community card in this form of stud poker, which tests a player’s memory and strategic thinking.

Razz: Where the Worst Hand Wins

Razz, a form of stud poker, flips traditional poker hand rankings on its head. In this variant, the lowest hand wins the pot. Aces are always low, and straights and flushes don’t count against the hand. The best possible Razz hand is Ace-2-3-4-5, known as the “wheel”. It can be an exhilarating change of pace, especially for seasoned players used to playing high-hand wins variants.

Unique Poker Variants

HORSE: The Multi-game Poker Challenge

HORSE is a mixed game that incorporates five different poker games: Texas Hold’em, Omaha Hi-Lo, Razz, 7-Card Stud, and 8 or Better (a form of 7-Card Stud). This variant is a real test of a poker player’s skill and versatility as the game changes with each rotation of the dealer button.

Badugi: A Variant Like No Other

Badugi is a draw poker variant where the goal is to have the lowest hand of different suits. A perfect Badugi is a hand consisting of an ace, 2, 3, and 4 of different suits. If nobody has a valid Badugi, the player with the lowest 3-card or 2-card Badugi wins. This game is played less frequently but offers a fun departure from normal poker.

2-7 Triple Draw: The Lowball Game

2-7 Triple Draw is another lowball poker variant where the goal is to make the best five-card low hand. There are four rounds of betting and three opportunities to draw. The best possible hand in this variant is 2-3-4-5-7 of at least two different suits. Unlike Razz, straights and flushes do count against your hand, and aces are always high in this game.

Draw Poker Variants

5-Card Draw: Where it All Began

Before the rise of community card games, 5-Card Draw was the most widely played poker variant. Each player receives five private cards, and they can choose to discard and draw up to three new cards to make their best five-card poker hand. After the draw, a final round of betting ensues, and the player with the best hand wins.

2-7 Triple Draw: The Joy of Drawing to a Low

As previously mentioned, 2-7 Triple Draw is a lowball game where the goal is to make the best five-card low hand. It’s a draw poker game that offers the thrills of trying to achieve the lowest hand possible. While less common than other poker variants, it’s a favored choice for poker games that reward the lowest hands.

Asian Influence: Chinese Poker

Chinese Poker: A Variant from the East

Chinese poker is a card game that’s been gaining traction in both physical and online poker rooms. In this intriguing variant, four players receive 13 cards and must organize them into three different poker hands. The front hand (three cards) must be the lowest-ranking hand, the middle hand (five cards) must be of a higher rank, and the back hand (also five cards) must be the highest-ranking hand. The player with the best hand in each category scores points.

The Role of Chinese Poker in Global Poker Culture

Chinese poker brings an Eastern touch to the diverse world of poker game variants. Its unique set of rules and gameplay inject new challenges and fun into the poker scene. In recent years, Chinese poker has seen a surge in popularity, appearing in home games and online poker rooms, illustrating the universal appeal of different poker variants.

How to Choose Your Poker Variant

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Poker Game

Choosing which poker game to play depends on several factors. You might consider the complexity of the game—is it a game with simple rules like Texas Hold’em, or does it require more strategic thinking like Omaha Hi-Lo? You might also want to think about the level of competition—are you playing with seasoned pros or beginners? Lastly, consider the setting—are you playing in a casino, at home, or online? All of these considerations can help guide your choice of poker variant.

Transitioning Between Different Poker Game Variations

Transitioning between different poker games can be a refreshing challenge. It’s crucial to understand the unique rules and strategies for each variant. Remember that skills learned in one game can often be transferred to another, but also be aware of the unique aspects of each game. For instance, being aware of the low hand in Omaha Hi-Lo or the importance of position in Texas Hold’em can greatly improve your performance.

Mastering Each Poker Variant: Tips and Strategies

Adapting Your Poker Strategy to Different Variants

Just as every poker variant has its own rules, each also requires a specific strategy to maximize your chances of winning. For example, in Texas Hold’em, tight and aggressive play often yields the best results, while 7-Card Stud requires a strong memory and attention to opponents’ exposed cards. Your strategy should adapt depending on the variant, and learning how to play each game effectively can give you a significant edge.

Common Mistakes to Avoid in Various Poker Games

It’s no secret that poker is a game of skill, strategy, and, let’s admit it, a dash of luck. But every player, be they greenhorns fresh off the learning curve or weathered pros with years of experience under their belts, is prone to tripping over the occasional blunder. Now, if we’re talking about slip-ups, some are more common than others.

Perhaps the biggest pitfall that entices players of all levels is the temptation to play too many hands. It’s like a siren’s song—those cards, they call to you, promising excitement, possibility, the thrill of the game. But it’s a treacherous road to tread. A judicious selection of hands to play can often be the dividing line between a healthy stack of chips and the walk of shame back to the cashier.

Then, of course, there’s the age-old problem of failing to adjust to your opponents’ playing style. Each player at that table is a puzzle waiting to be solved, a riddle wrapped in the enigma of poker lingo, body language, and betting habits. If you play your cards the same way regardless of who’s sitting across from you, you’re missing out on valuable opportunities to get the upper hand.

Position, too, is a concept that often eludes both rookies and veterans. The value of acting last, having observed how your opponents respond to the community cards, can’t be overstated. It’s like having a glimpse into the future—a future where you’re raking in the pot.

Remember, though, that these mistakes are not one-size-fits-all. Each poker variant, with its unique rules and strategies, comes with its own set of potential pitfalls. Be sure to do your homework and avoid those mistakes like a queen-high flush beats a straight!

Poker Variants in Tournaments and Cash Games

The Most Common Variants in Poker Tournaments

When it comes to poker tournaments, some games are like the popular kids in high school—everyone knows them, everyone wants to be them. Texas Hold’em and Omaha Hi, these are the top dogs, the games with strategic depth as profound as a philosopher’s musings and player pools as vast as the Pacific.

But remember, in the grand, glitzy arenas of larger series like the World Series of Poker, you’re not limited to the usual suspects. Here, you’ll find a veritable smorgasbord of poker game variations, including intriguing mixed games like HORSE and 8-Game. It’s like being at a buffet where you get to sample a bit of everything—from the caviar of No-Limit Hold’em to the exotic sushi of Razz.

Cash Games: A Wide Range of Poker Variants

And then, there are the cash games. These games aren’t just a battlefield; they’re an entire war zone where poker variants from all over come to strut their stuff. Texas Hold’em, as ever, is the reigning champion, the king on its throne. But don’t let that overshadow the diverse lineup of other variants eager to give you a run for your money.

From the complex gameplay of 7-Card Stud, the intriguing reversal of fortune in Razz, to the Eastern charm of Chinese poker, you’ll find them all in both brick-and-mortar casinos and the digital realm of online poker rooms. The choice of game often comes down to your personal preferences and the specific rules of the poker room, like choosing your own adventure in a thrilling book.

Closing Thoughts: The Endless Possibilities of Poker

The Ever-Evolving Landscape of Poker Variants

If the world of poker variants was a landscape, it wouldn’t be a static painting. No, it would be a dynamic, living, breathing ecosystem, constantly evolving and changing. New games sprout like wildflowers after a spring rain, each bringing its own innovative rules and strategic depth to the poker table.

This constant evolution is what keeps poker fresh as a morning breeze and exciting as a roller coaster ride. It appeals to the wide-eyed beginners, eager to dive into the world of flops, rivers, and bluffs, and to the seasoned pros, always on the lookout for new challenges and strategies.

Herbert Hanson

Herbert Hanson


Herb has spent years working in the gambling industry, helping to provide gambling entertainment. He started from the land-based casino and then moved to the iGaming industry and joined our team as an author with great knowledge of the Las Vegas casino industry. His unique approach is the key to our content creation strategy. Do you need the latest bonuses and promotions; Herbert Hanson is your man with great knowledge.

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