Poker is a multi-billion dollar industry, with an estimated 100 million people playing the game worldwide.
And frankly, it’s no surprise. Poker has a level of depth, skill, and variety that few other games can compete with – and there are enough poker varieties to keep you entertained for hours.
Below I’ve looked at five of the most popular types of poker you can play, and explained how you can get started with each game.
No type of poker is currently as popular as Texas hold’em – it’s the industry’s flagbearer and a game that has helped poker crossover from gambling favorite to global phenomenon. Millions of people across the world play Texas hold’em and the very best players can make millions from the game, making it the first variation you should try.
Poker Hall of Famer, Mike Sexton famously said, “Poker takes five minutes to learn but a lifetime to master” – and he’s not wrong.
All a beginner needs to know is that you have to make the best possible five-card hand, from their two cards as well as the five community ones, that there are ten combinations in poker’s hand ranking, and then how the action plays out – as I explain below.
Each player in Texas hold’em is dealt two face-down cards. Two of the players at the table post their blinds (small and big) and any players acting before them (to the left of the dealer) have the opportunity to bet – the blinds can then call, raise, or fold.
If a minimum of two players are still in the game once all bets have been made then three community cards are dealt. Betting action then continues in the same way, with a maximum of two more community cards dealt. The winner is decided in one of two ways:
- The person with the best hand
- The player able to make the other players fold their hands
In the event of a tie, the pot is split.
While Texas hold’em is the first poker game you should learn, it’s far from the only one you should play — next on your list should be seven-card stud.
It’s the most popular game from one of the other families of poker – stud, a game type that sees players dealt both face-up and face-down cards.
The object of the game is to make the best five-card hand from a total of seven, using the traditional hand ranking – royal flush is the best and high card the worst.
While this may sound tricky to master, it’s a lot simpler to play then you might be thinking – as you’ll see.
Each player must pay an ante into the pot before the game can commence. Seven-card stud then begins with each player being dealt three cards – two face-down (the hole cards) and one face-up (the door cards). There are then five rounds of betting and at each point the possible actions are: call, raise, fold.
- All players are dealt one face-up card
- Each player is dealt a face-up card
- All players are dealt one face-up card
- Each player is dealt a face-down card
- Players can bet their hand
If there are still players left in the game after the final round of betting, the game goes into a showdown. The winner is the player who has made the best five-card hand from the available cards.
Pot-Limit Omaha (PLO)
One of the most exciting variants of poker, PLO shares many characteristics with Texas hold’em – both are community poker games which begin with a three-card flop, before a further two community cards are dealt and players must then make the best five-card hand.
However, there are some key differences between PLO and hold’em, and I’ll explain the two most important ones:
- Firstly, in PLO each player is dealt four hole cards. They must use two of these cards and three of the community ones to make the best five-card hand.
- Secondly, as a limit game, players are only able to bet what is in the pot – hence the pot limit name. What this means is that if the pot is $100, a player can only bet a max of $100. If this happened then it would take the pot to $200, so the next player to act can only bet $200 – it continues in this vein and means that you can very quickly get large pots.
Now you’ve got the key points down, I’ll pass you over to Daniel Negreanu, who explains how to play PLO in the video below:
Draw poker is considered by some gamblers to be the most difficult of the different types and variations of poker to master – certainly, this writer found it the most challenging. Why? Because players have to option to replace their cards by drawing new ones, adding a level of decision making that you don’t find in community or stud poker. Five-card draw is the most popular version of draw and it’s the variation you need to play.
Five-card draw doesn’t take a PhD in card games to play effectively, just a little patience and willingness to make a few mistakes on the way. In fact, five-card draw is considered simple enough to master that it forms the basis for the video poker games you’ll find in your favorite online casinos. I’ll now explain the basics of this terrific version of poker.
All players are dealt a complete set of five cards (all face-down) at the start of the game. Players are then given the opportunity to stick with the cards they have, or to draw new ones. If a player elects to draw new cards they can replace as many of theirs as they like – from one to five. As with other flop-based games, there is a small and big blind in five-card draw and betting starts to the left of the dealer.
The action progresses in this way:
- The deal: Players are dealt their cards and blinds are posted
- The draw: Players are given the chance to draw new cards
- After the draw: Players take their new cards
- Showdown: The player with the best five-card wins
As with many of the most popular poker games, the hand-ranking in five-card draw follows the hierarchy where the lowest value hand is high card and the highest value is a royal flush.
Short Deck Poker
There’s not quite as much to say about short deck poker, but that has nothing to do with the quality or popularity of the game. Short deck (also known as six-plus hold’em) requires less explanation because it’s the same game as Texas hold’em, but with a few differences that make the game quicker.
- Every numbered card from 2 through to 5 is removed from the deck
- No blinds are posted – all players post an ante instead
- The action commences by the dealer posting an additional ante (often the same value as the ante paid by the other players)
The other key difference is that the hand rankings are slightly different. Below you can see them from best to worst:
- Royal flush
- Straight flush
- Four of a kind
- Full house
- Three of a kind
- Two pairs
- One pair
- High card
Poker is arguably the most popular card game on the planet and part of the reason for this is that there is such a brilliant variety of games. While the five mentioned in this article are probably the most popular versions of poker right now, it doesn’t mean they are the best. So give these ones a go and then spend some time researching the other great types of poker!
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