Our Guide To Poker Game Variants
Essentially, you can divide poker games into three categories - flop games, stud games, and draw games. These are all divided by betting limits, too - for example, Hold'em is a flop game and it can be played with a Fixed Limit, Pot Limit, or No Limit betting structure.
Flop games feature a flop, turn, and river - shared community cards that all players can use to make the best five-card hand. These games are the most popular, especially the "Cadillac of Poker" that is No Limit Hold'em.
Stud games give each player their own personal cards, but most of them are revealed to other players and their own "hole cards" that only they can see preserve the mystery. Lastly, draw games are the classic games one sees in old westerns - each player has their own hand and draw (exchange) cards to improve.
Let's examine the most popular poker variants you're most likely to encounter, whether online or on land:
- The Cadillac: No Limit Hold'em.
- Hold'em on steroids: Pot Limit Omaha.
- Old Faithful: Seven-Card Stud.
- The classic patriarch: Five-Card Draw.
No Limit Hold'em
The "Cadillac of Poker" - if you have ever seen a poker game in the past 15 years, chances are it was No Limit Hold'em. It takes a minute to learn but a lifetime to master, and there's just enough luck to make it poker's perfect game in many people's eyes.
Players are given two personal ("hole") cards and there is a round of betting. Then a flop (three shared cards) is dealt, followed by another round of betting. There's a fourth card (the turn), another round of bets, then fifth street (or the river) followed by a final round of betting.
It's an exciting and action-packed game, and by far the most popular variant of poker in the world today.
Fixed Limit Hold'em was the de facto game of choice for players in the 1990s before the No Limit boom. Players can only bet or raise certain amounts (for example in a £1/£2 game preflop/flop bets and raises are £1 and turn/river raises are £2) and there is a cap on the number of raises that can be made.
Pot Limit Hold'em is played with a betting structure that limits bets or raises to the size of the current pot - it's got more leeway than Fixed Limit, but is less cataclysmic than its No Limit cousin.
Crazy Pineapple is a crazy name for a crazy game - it's No Limit Hold'em, but each player gets three hole cards. Once the flop is dealt, every player must choose a hole card to discard.
Pot Limit Omaha
Omaha can be loosely described as Hold'em on steroids, but connoisseurs of either game will know that they are very different animals. In Omaha, you are dealt four hole cards - the betting structure and board cards are the same as Hold'em, but you must always use two of your hole cards and three community cards to make your hand. The many combinations of hands available leads to powerful draws and huge hands - two pair is a nothing hand in Omaha and even straights are regularly crushed. A game for the action junkies, for sure.
Omaha Hi/Lo is a variant of Omaha which splits each pot between high and low hands - low hands are those with all five cards ranked 8 or below. As aces play both high and low, they become easily the most powerful cards in the deck with the ace-to-five straight often being the king of "scoops" (winning both the high and low pots).
Five-Card Omaha is an even crazier variant of an already-crazy game. It's the same as Omaha, but you get five hole cards for even more powerful combinations of hands. Not for the faint of heart!
Until Hold'em stole its crown, Stud was the undisputed king of poker and is still very popular amongst veteran players and new enthusiasts alike. All Stud games share a common structure - you are dealt hole cards, then a series of cards face-up. In Seven-Card Stud you get two hole cards, then four face-up cards, then a final hole card. There's a round of betting between each deal.
Stud Hi/Lo is, like Omaha Hi/Lo above, a split-pot variation of Stud. Again, aces are very powerful and play both high and low.
Razz is the "lowball" version of Stud - in this game, you're trying to make the lowest hand possible. If you get a pair of kings in Razz, you're not happy! The most powerful hand is 5432A, the "nut low".
Poker's classic, and the oldest variant of the game, Five-Card Draw is the least common game on this list (though some variants have seen a recent resurgence). In Five-Card Draw, each player is dealt five cards before a round of betting. Players can fold, or keep their hand and draw new cards to replace existing ones. There is then a second round of betting, and a showdown.
2-7 Triple Draw is a lowball variation of Five-Card Draw. Played with a Fixed Limit betting structure, this features three draws and the aim is to get the lowest possible hand. However, unlike Razz, straights and flushes don't count - so 5432A is a bad hand, and the best possible hand is 75432 with no flush - hence the name of the game.
No Limit 2-7 Single Draw is a popular game amongst live poker players and gamblers, because of the No Limit betting structure and the single draw round. This means that you're going on "feel" and trying to sense your opponent's strength with your gut - and pots can get massive!