Poker 101: Your Guide to Poker Variations
Poker may seem complicated and hard to understand for outsiders. But once you familiarise yourself with the different poker variations, you'll be ready to play soon.
Every poker variation has its own set of rules that needs to be followed for a smooth game play. Great understanding of poker rules will determine your success, as it's the basis for developingstrategy. The strategy you choose to use, your hand selection, and your decision-making ability are the keys to win.
Let's start with the most popular variation, Texas Hold'em. This game may look simple on the surface but the vast number of possible game situations can make the game very complex when played at a high level.
- Each player is dealt two hole cards and the main goal is to make the best five-card hand. To initiate the betting, the first two players to the immediate left of the button are required to post a small blind and a large blind (preflop). From there, action occurs on multiple streets: the flop, the turn, and the river.
- The betting rules differ depending whether the game is Limit, Pot Limit or No Limit.
- Limit: you're only allowed to raise by the amount of the big hand.
- Pot Limit: you're only allowed to raise a maximum of the pot size (the total bets have been placed during this time)
- No Limit: you're allowed to raise by ANY amount you want up to the maximum that your chip stack allows. Betting all of your chips is what they call "all in".
- The Flop. When the first round has been completed, the dealer will put out the first three community cards and a new round of betting begins.
- The Turn. The dealer puts out the fourth community card. Another round of betting takes place.
- The River. The dealer then puts out the fifth community card. Final round of betting is done.
Players have the option to bet, fold, raise, or check during each round. A check means to pass the action to the next player in hand.
When the last round of betting is completed, the remaining players in the hand with hole cards will engage in a "showdown." They will expose their cards and with the help of the dealer, a winning hand is determined.
Omaha is a variation of Texas Hold'em but instead of two, players receive four hole cards. And like most poker games, Omaha uses a standard 52 deck of cards that is shuffled before every hand.
- Omaha is usually played in a limit or pot-limit format, and the two common spread variations of the game are Omaha Hi and Omaha 8-or-better.
- Each player is dealt four hole cards at the start and there is a small blind, big blind, and a round of betting.
- Omaha Hi is very similar to Hold'em in the way that each player is competing to win the pot with the best high hand.
- Omaha 8-or-better on the other hand splits the jackpot between the best high and the best low hand (this is where the "8-or-better" part comes in). To have a qualifying low hand, a player must have five different cards in his hands that are ranked eight or lower.
- Since there's a wider range of hands that can be made in Omaha compare to Texas Hold'em, players tend to look to make nuts much more often. Other hands are way more prone to losing.
- Position is crucial in Omaha, arguably the most important thing when you think of all the possible combination one can make with an Omaha hand.
- During the showdown, the best five-card hand with exactly two hole cards and three cards from the board wins. But unlike Hold'em, players are not allowed to use more than three cards from the board. The betting and blinds are same as in Hold'em.
Razz is a version of Ace to Five Lowball Poker that uses the same format as 7 Card Stud. The goal is to make the best five card low hand out of the seven cards dealt. But unlike in 7 Card Stud Hi/Lo or Omaha Hi/Lo, there is no "eight or better" requirement in Razz to win the jackpot.
- Ante – All players ante a minimal amount depending on the game. This serves as the cost of being dealt into the hand. The amount is displayed in the table's title bar.
- The Betting Rounds – The player with the best Razz hand, or lowest valued card start the action on the betting round.
- Showdown – When the final round of betting has been completed, the players still in the hand enter the showdown. Each player must make the best five-card hand out of their own seven cards and the remaining two cards are "dead" and have no value toward the hand at all. They are not used in evaluating the strength of a hand.
7 Card Stud
Seven-card stud is one of the more traditional forms of poker. The game can be played with two eight players. Unlike Texas Hold'em or Omaha, 7-card stud does not involve a flop, and in most cases, no community cards are involved.
- To start, each player is dealt the first two cards face down and a third facing up (often called third street). The two face down cards are called the "hole cards" while the face-up card is known as the "door card."
- Players will decide whether or not to continue with the hand based on the three cards they have, and like in any other variation of poker, starting hand selection is crucial in 7-card stud.
- Each player is dealt a total of seven cards – three dealt face down and four dealt face up. Out of these seven cards, players must choose his/her best five-card combination. The hand ranking is similar to that of Texas Hold'em or Omaha.
- Seven-card stud is normally played with a Limit betting structure – bets are in fixed increments. For instance, in a $2/$4 limit game the bets are in increments of $2 during the first two betting rounds, and increases to $4 on the succeeding three rounds.
- The player with the best five-card poker hand wins the pot. In case of a tie, the pot will be equally divided amongst players with the best hands.
Badugi is a variant of draw poker that originated in Asia. It's similar to Lowball in the sense that the lowest hand wins. However, it's significantly different from the most popular variant of poker when it comes to the hand ranking system. The strongest hands are those that have no pairs and four low cards, one of each suit.
- Blinds – Badugi is played using force bets called blinds. The player sitting to the left of the dealer button post the small blind while the player to their left post the big blind. The small blind is normally half the size of the big blind.
- The Deal – Players are dealt with four cards face down. The first round of betting then begins, where players can call, raise or fold. Players still left in the hand after the first betting round now have the option to draw. The draw gives players the chance to discard any cards they don't want, and replace them with new ones.
- Betting - A second round of betting takes place and players have the option to bet or fold, unless there are no bets, in which you can check. Once the betting round is completed, another draw and round of betting takes place. A final round of betting then follows.
- Showdown – After the final round of betting, if more than one player remains, a showdown occurs and the player with the best hand takes the pot.
Omaha Hi-Lo is very similar to regular Omaha; the only difference is that the pot is split between a high hand (same as in regular Omaha) and a low hand (based on the five cards, starting at eight or below).
- Players are dealt four hole cards face down and five community cards that everyone can see and use. Two hole cards together with three community cards must be used to make a hand.
- The game is composed of four rounds of betting and the betting is done in a clockwise direction. The betting starts from the position next to the dealer button and move one place to the left after each hand.
- Before the game starts, the two players positioned to the left of the dealer post "blind" bets. The player to the left of the dealer makes the small blind while the player to the left posts the big blind.
- If more than one player is left after all the cards have been dealt, a showdown happens. During this time, the remaining players turn-up their cards and the player with the highest hand wins half the pot and the one with the lowest low hand wins the other half. One player can have both the best high and low hands. Nonetheless, if no player owns a low hand, the highest hand wins the entire pot.
While there are many varieties of poker, they all have their similarities. Once you understand the basic fundamental rules of poker, it'll be easier to get the hang of any poker game.
Experience is still the best teacher though. There's no better way to master the game than to actually play the game. So head on to your favourite online poker site and start playing.