Top 10 Poker Variants for Beginners and Pros
There are hundreds if not thousands of poker variants out there. New games are made up frequently. Although each game follows a similar set of rules, a new spin is added to each poker variant to make it enticing.
Over the years, the cream has risen to the top, with some poker variants finding a wider audience than others. Quite simply, some variants you are just more likely to find at casinos than others. Below we list the 10 most popular variants for both beginner and pro players.
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Types of Poker Games
Although there are many poker variants, most games can be divided into one of three groups:
- Draw Poker – variants where players are dealt full hands. They are given the option to replace cards to improve their hands.
- Stud Poker – variants where players are dealt full hands, but cards come over the course of a few betting rounds. Some cards are dealt face-up, and others are dealt face down.
- Community-Card Poker – these are variants where a player’s hand is made up of a set of combined and shared cards.
Outside of these groups, a variant could also have rules about betting, high-ranking card hands, and wild cards. For example, Razz is a low-ball game where the lowest hand combination wins the pot instead of the traditional highest.
In terms of betting, there are three common structures:
- Fixed Limit – this is where all bet sizes are fixed. For example, you can only bet in increments of $5 or $10.
- No Limit Games – there is no limit to the bet size. You can go all-in on your first bet if you like (although we wouldn’t recommend this.)
- Pot Limit – there is no limit to the amount you can bet at one time, but your bet cannot exceed the amount that is currently in the pot.
10 Popular Poker Variants
Here is a list of the most popular online poker variants at gambling sites and land-based casinos:
1. Texas Hold’em
Texas Hold’em is probably the most popular poker variant of all. It is one of the variants played at World Series of Poker events and is also the game most often showcased in popular media when people play poker these days.
In this community card variant, players get two hole cards and need to make the best possible combination with five community cards. With each betting round post-flop, a new card is added to the table, and you have the option to increase your bet or drop out of the game.
2. Omaha Hi
Omaha Hi is almost just as popular as Texas Hold’em. If a casino doesn’t offer a table with Texas Hold’em, it will definitely have an Omaha Hi table. This variant is usually played with a pot-limit betting structure.
Omaha is very similar to Texas Hold’em. The difference is that you get four-hole cards instead of two. You will need to discard two cards and build the remaining part of your five-card hand with community cards. It is much easier to make good hands in Omaha because you get extra opportunities with more cards.
3. Five-Card Draw
Five-Card Draw is one of the most traditional forms of poker and also one of the hardest. Each player gets five cards in their own separate hand. Towards the end of the game, they have opportunities to discard some cards and have them replaced by new ones.
While this game is very easy to learn, it is not easy to master. Often, you’ll see Five-Card Draw being played in poker games in films. However, it is no longer as popular in tournament games as it used to be.
4. Seven-Card Stud
Stud poker used to be the most popular form of poker before Texas Hold’em burst on the scene. The most popular stud poker variant is Seven-Card Stud, without any doubt.
In Seven-Card Stud games, each player receives seven cards. Three cards are dealt face-down, and four cards are dealt face-up. So, your opponents have a little insight into what your hand looks like. While it used to be the most popular poker game at one stage, we can’t say that it is the easiest game to learn how to play.
HORSE is a combination poker game that combines five of the most popular poker variants: Hold’em, Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Stud, and Eight-or-Better.
HORSE is a fun party game if you’re playing with a group of friends, but outside of this, you’ll only really find it at high-stakes tables. So, it is definitely not for everyone. Remember that you have to run through all five poker variations to get to the end of the game.
6. Pai Gow Poker
Pai Gow Poker was created in the 1980s. Although it takes some inspiration from some Chinese gambling games, it is a poker variant through and through.
In this variant, players receive seven cards with which they need to build two hands – one of five cards and another of two cards. The five-card hand (also known as the big hand) uses standard poker hands. The two-card hand’s strongest combination is a pair. Playing with two hands means you have more chances to build a hand that at least secures a tie.
Razz is another extremely popular variant of stud poker. In this game, players try to build the lowest hand combination possible – the values are reversed. So, the best-ranking hand is A-2-3-4-5 instead of A-K-Q-J-10.
Razz is fairly easy to learn. The game works exactly the same way as other stud poker variants except that the order of hand combinations is reversed. Sometimes, it can take some time to wrap your head around this, but once you get it, you should be ready to play tons of hands!
8. Eights or Better
Eights or Better is a split pot game where your hand determines whether you get a big pot, low pot or full pot share of the winnings. The betting structure is similar too regular seven-card stud.
If there is no low hand with no cards higher than an eight, then the highest hand takes the entire pot.
Badugi is another form of poker that was created in the 1980s. It is nowhere near as popular as Pai Gow Poker, which was created around the same time frame. This probably due to the fact that it is a bit difficult to learn, but you’ll still find it being played at most large poker tournaments.
In this game, each player gets four cards, which is then followed by three draw rounds. Players can replace anything between 0 and four cards in their attempts to create the best low-ranking hand. The best hand is A-2-3-4, and the worst hand is K-K-K-K-K.
10. 5-Card Omaha
5-Card Omaha combines Five-Card Draw and Omaha to create a very interesting hybrid. Although this variant is not as popular as either of the two games that influenced it, you will still see it in many tournaments.
In 5-Card Omaha, you get five cards dealt to you instead of five. Using the five community cards, you will then need to build the best possible hand. This version of the game makes it slightly easier to build better hands because you are getting even more opportunities to do so.
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