These days, when someone mentions poker, the first association you have is that to Texas Hold’em. This is no surprise, given this particular format has been one of the most popular types of poker for almost three decades now.
However, the term poker has a much wider meaning.
It describes a large group of games that all have certain common factors, but each of them has its own set of rules.
Different poker games have been popular at different stages in history. While Texas Hold’em is the go-to game for most players today, this wasn’t the case forty or fifty years ago. Additionally, various types of poker have been more or less represented in different parts of the world.
In this article, I’ll take a look into main poker variations, broken down by the large groups and individual games within these groups. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll know much more about various poker card games out there, and you might even find your new favorite variation.
How It All Started: Draw Poker Games
I’ve decided to start this poker games list with the group of games going under the heading of “draw poker.” As the name suggests, these are the games where players are dealt their hands and then have additional options to draw more cards, usually exchanging one or more cards from their hand for new ones.
This is one of the oldest types of poker, with Five Card Draw being the most popular variation in this group.
One of the main characteristics of the games in this group is that players have very limited information on their opponents’ holdings. All cards are dealt face down, and there are no community cards. So, the only way to gauge the other players’ hand strength is by looking at the number of cards they exchange.
Because of this, these poker card games are perhaps the least skillful. They rely heavily on the luck of the draw. That said, in the live setting, players can gather some information from physical tells, but the value of this information is always questionable.
Five Card Draw
As mentioned, Five Card Draw is the most popular game in this particular group. In fact, this used to be one of the most popular types of poker back in the day, and it is one of the variations that all other poker formats came from.
The game is fairly straightforward. To start, all players are dealt five cards, face down. After the initial betting round, players have the opportunity to exchange some or all cards from their hands for new cards from the deck. Another betting round ensues, followed by the showdown.
The player holding the best hand according to standard poker hand rankings for high poker variations wins the pot on the showdown. Bluffing plays a major role in this game. If you can get all other players to fold their hands, you will win the pot by default.
Although the game is usually played with the full deck of 52 cards, there are also short deck variations containing only sevens and higher.
2-7 Single Draw
Deuce to Seven Single Draw belongs to the so-called lowball group of poker variations. These games follow a different hands’ ranking system, as the goal is to make the lowest possible hand instead of the highest.
The best possible hand one can make in 2-7 Single Draw is 2, 3, 4, 5, 7. This is because aces are counted as high in this variation, and straights and flushes count against you.
As for the gameplay, all players start with five cards, face down. The betting structure is usually no limit, and the game uses the same structure with blinds and antes like Hold’em games. After the first round of betting, players have one chance to exchange as many cards from their hand as they want to try and make the best possible hand.
After the exchange, there is another betting round, followed by the showdown to determine the winner. The highest card in your hand is the first to look at. For example, a hand such as 2, 3, 4, 5, 9 will lose to 3, 4, 5, 6, 8 because eight is lower than nine.
2-7 Triple Draw
This game is very similar to its single draw counterpart, with a couple of important differences. The first and the most obvious one is that players get to exchange and draw new cards three times instead of just once. This makes it much likelier someone will end up with a really strong hand.
And we’re off. 10k 2-7 triple draw pic.twitter.com/Yv8K8VEwby
— Todd Brunson (@ToddBrunson) June 22, 2018
Secondly, because of the action-packed nature of this poker game, it is usually played as a fixed limit. Playing 2-7 Triple Draw as no limit wouldn’t work, as players would need to be insanely deep, and the variance would be through the roof.
One of the lesser-known types of poker, Badugi poker is a good game to learn if you want to play in mixed games. This game is frequently featured in the popular 10 game mix, so knowing how to play and learning some basic strategies can go a long way.
In Badugi, you’re dealt four cards, face down, and the game uses a hand ranking system that’s different from that of almost all other poker variations. Namely, to make a “Badugi,” you need four cards of different ranks and suits. So, a hand like Ac 2h 5s 7d constitutes a “Badugi.” However, if any of the cards are matching in suit, you’ll only have a three-card “Badugi.”
Badugi is essentially a lowball variation where aces are counted as low. So, the best possible hand is A, 2, 3, 4 – all in different suits. On a showdown, hands are compared, and the four-card Badugi always beats a three-card Badugi, etc. If players have the same number of cards in their combination, the player with the lowest card at the top wins the pot.
Stud Types of Poker: Blast from the Past
Prior to Hold’em and other community card types of poker entered the scene, stud games used to be where it was at. There were hugely popular in casinos and home games across the United States and, to some degree, in Europe.
In a way, you could say that stud poker games represent a crossover between draw variations and community cards games.
In all stud poker types, players are dealt their starting hand so that some of their cards are hidden and only known to them, and some are turned face up for everyone else to see. The exact number of shown and hidden cards and how they’re dealt differs from one variation to another.
The fact that you have some information about other players’ holdings adds an interesting strategic aspect to stud games, making them much more skill-oriented. Not only can you have a pretty good idea of what your opponents might be after, but you can also know if some of their outs are no longer in play because they were previously discarded by other players.
Five Card Stud
Five Card Stud is perhaps the oldest in the group of stud games, and you’ll often find it depicted in old poker movies. It’s also the simplest of all the games in this particular category, but it can be quite exciting to play.
A round of Five Card Stud begins with all players receiving two cards: the first card is dealt face down, while the second card is dealt face up for everyone to see. After the initial deal, the first betting round begins.
The game is usually played in the fixed betting format, but instead of using the small and big blind system, it utilizes the bring-in. The player showing the lowest card will need to post the bring-in to kick things off. After that, the game follows the standard system of small and big bets present in all types of poker using this betting structure.
After the initial betting round, all players are dealt the third card, face up. There is another betting round, followed by another face-up card. Finally, the fifth card is dealt, and the last round of betting begins.
By the end of the hand, all players who make it to the showdown will have five cards – one hidden (face down) and four cards face up. On the showdown, everyone will turn over their hidden card to show their five-card hand, and the best poker hand wins the pot.
Seven Card Stud
Of all the variations on this poker games list, Seven Card Stud is probably one of the best-known and most popular ones. Before Hold’em, this was the main game of all serious players, and you could find it in all serious poker rooms across the US.
The setup is similar to that of Five Card Draw, but the main difference is that players get seven cards by the end of the hand. They still need to make the best five-card hand, but they have two extra cards to work with to make that happen.
To begin with, everyone receives three cards – two face down and one face up. After that, cards are dealt one at a time, followed by the round of betting each time. Three more cards are dealt face up, and the final card is dealt face down.
As far as skill goes, this is one of the more skillful poker variations. To do well in this game, players need to pay close attention to what cards had been discarded and put their opponents on correct draws and made hands. This is probably why the game has been so popular for so long, and it only faded away when No Limit Texas Hold’em came about.
Seven Card Stud 8
This particular type of poker is identical to Seven Card Stud in almost all of its aspects except for one important difference. On the showdown, the pot is split between the best high and the best low hand.
High hands follow the standard poker hands hierarchy (high cards, pairs, trips, straights, flushes, etc.). To make a low hand, you need five different cards lower than or equal to eight. Unlike 2-7 variations, straights and flushes don’t count against the player, so A, 2, 3, 4, 5 (or the wheel, as it’s known in the poker terminology) is a very strong hand that can easily scoop the pot (win the high and the low end).
Razz is another game in the lowball group of poker variations. It’s basically 7 Card Stud, but instead of high hands, you’re looking to make low hands. Straights and flushes don’t count against the player in Razz poker, and the player with the best low hand wins the pot. The dealing and the betting are the same as in other Seven Card Stud variations, with the only important difference being that the bring-in is the player showing the highest card, not the lowest.
Community Cards Poker Variations
Of all the different types of poker out there, community card games are certainly the most popular group in existence right now. If you’ve been playing poker in recent years, you’ve probably played one of the community card games, with the most popular one being the Cadillac of poker – Texas Hold’em.
Like the name suggests, in these types of poker games, there are community cards involved, i.e., cards available to all players to use. These are five cards dealt in the middle of the table, almost always following the same routine:
The first three cards are dealt – this is the flopThe fourth card is dealt – known as the turnThe final, fifth card is dealt – this is the river
Players also receive their own cards, face down, to use and combine with the community cards to make the best possible hand. These are known as hole cards, and the exact number of hole cards depends on the particular poker variation.
As far as skill is concerned, pretty much everyone agrees that different poker games in this category are the most skillful. Players have a lot of information to work with, so they can calculate their odds, figure out their opponents’ holdings with a great degree of accuracy, and much more.
The most famous of all poker games out there, Texas Hold’em is one variation that almost all poker players know. It is played in no limit, limit, and pot limit format, but the no limit variant is by far the most popular and loved.
Players are dealt two hole cards face down to start. The initial betting round ensues, followed by the flop (three community cards). Then, the turn is dealt, followed by another round of betting. Finally, the river card is turned over, and players get to put in their final bets.
As far as the rules are concerned, Hold’em is an easy game to learn. However, from the strategic point of view, it features many different layers, making it very hard to truly master. Today, this is the most popular poker variant out there, and all major tournaments, including the WSOP Main Event, are played as No Limit Texas Hold’em.
Omaha is a game that’s quite similar to Hold’em, at least at first glance, but the game requires many strategic adjustments.
The main difference between Omaha and Hold’em is that players start with four cards in the hole instead of two. Also, to make the best five-card hand, you always have to use exactly two and only two cards from your hand. In Hold’em, you can use just one of your cards or even all five community cards (playing the board). In Omaha, you must always use two cards from your hand.
The most popular variation is Pot Limit Omaha (PLO), although the game is sometimes played in the fixed limit and even no limit format.
Lately, there have been new variations of Omaha introduced, featuring five and even six hole cards instead of the original four. The basic rules of the game are still the same, as players have to use two cards, but adding more cards to the starting hand makes the game more complex as it opens doors for many more combinations.
Omaha 8, or Omaha Hi-Lo, is similar to regular Omaha, with one important distinction. Like Stud 8, this game features high and low hands, and players can win half the pot if they have the best hand in either of these categories. Of course, you can still win the entire pot if you have the best high and low hands or if you have the best high hand and no one has the qualifying low hand.
Gameplay and betting rules are still identical, so there is nothing to worry about in that department. However, because there are two ways to win the pot, the starting hand selection is much different, and you always have to account for this fact when trying to figure out what your opponent might be holding.
Short Deck Hold’em
Lately, there’s been a new poker variation based on Texas Hold’em, but with certain important adjustments. Known as Short Deck Hold’em, or just Short Deck, the game seems to be very popular among high-rollers, especially in nosebleeds games in Macau.
As the name suggests, the game is played with a shortened deck as 2s through 5s are removed from play. This makes the game much more action-packed as players get to make more relatively strong hands.
Regular Hold’emShort Deck Hold’emUses full deck of 52 cardsUses 36 cards, with 2s, 3s, 4s, and 5s removedAces are counted as high and lowAces are high and low (acting as 5s to make straights)Full houses beat flushesFlushes beat full housesPreflop equities can be quite far apartPreflop equities are much closer
Because some cards are missing from the card deck, this game usually features some tweaks with regards to the hand rankings as well. The biggest adjustment is that flushes beat full houses because it’s much harder to make a flush in this poker variation.
I’ll wrap up this poker games list with mixed games. As you could figure out from the name, this isn’t a single game but rather a mix of different types of poker. Mixed games consist of different poker games mashed together and taking turns.
The most popular variation of mixed games is definitely H.O.R.S.E., an acronym that stands for:
Hold’emOmahaRazzSeven Card StudSeven Card Stud 8 or Better
In this format, all games are played in the fixed limit format and are rotated at regular intervals, be it every orbit, every two orbits, or after a certain period. The point is, players who decide to get involved have to be familiar with all the games in the mix, and everyone needs to find their strong suit while doing their best during poker games they aren’t as familiar with.
There are other mixed game formats as well, the most popular one being the 10 game mix. This poker variant includes all the games mentioned above, plus 2-7 Single and Triple Draw, No Limit Hold’em, Pot Limit Omaha, and Limit Badugi.
Types of Poker: Summary
If you’ve been wondering what other types of poker are out there besides No Limit Hold’em, this article should have answered most of your questions. As you could see, there are three main groups of poker games, each containing a number of variations.
There are more poker games out there, and perhaps you’ll come across some lesser-known variations at some point. However, if you know how to play these main types, you should have no problems adjusting to other formats, as they usually feature small tweaks to these popular options.