Learn the Top 10 Poker Game Variations
You've seen Texas Hold'em on TV but what about all the other awesome poker variations? We've compiled THE comprehensive list of the top 10 card games you need to know.
Non-Hold'em games are making a comeback so do your bankroll a favor and learn the basics before your friends do.
1. Texas Hold'em
They say Texas Hold'em takes five minutes to learn and a lifetime to master and it's really true. Hold'em is by far the most popular poker game in the world but if you're one of the few that hasn't learned yet, don't worry. It's really easy.
Hold'em is easy once you know the basics. Let's go through a hand together to see exactly how it works:
- Hold'em uses forced bets called blinds. The player to the left of the dealer is the small blind and the next player to the left is the big blind.
- Each player is dealt two cards face-down and the first round of betting begins with the player to the left of the big blind. Each player can call the big blind, fold, or raise.
- After the first round of betting, the dealer “burns” one card face-down before putting three community cards face-up in the middle of the table, followed by another round of betting starting with the player to the left of the dealer.
- The dealer then burns and deals a fourth community card called the “Turn”, followed by more betting, and a fifth community card called the “River” which is followed by the final round of betting.
- Anyone still in the hand shows down their cards to see who wins. Players can use none, one or both of their hole cards along with the community cards to make the best five-card poker hand.
If you've never played before, all the best online poker rooms let you play Texas Hold'em for free before depositing any real money. It's a great way to get experience with zero risks.
Hold'em Pros and Cons
There are lots of reasons Texas Hold'em is the world's most popular poker game but it's not for everyone. Here are some of the reasons people love and hate it.
- Easy to learn, tons of action, and offers truly advanced strategies.
- The most common game if you want to play with friends, at a casino or online.
- Some people find it too volatile. Other people love this aspect of the game because it provides lots of action and excitement.
- Due to popularity, the level of play is higher than other lesser-known games.
If No-Limit is too high-risk and you want to start with a slower version, consider Limit Hold'em which restricts the amount you can bet on each round.
Remember, all the best online poker sites offer free money play to try out new games.
Hold'em Variations: Pineapple, Crazy Pineapple
Hold'em is so popular people were bound to develop ways to make it even more exciting.
The best two Hold'em spin-offs? Pineapple and Crazy Pineapple.
These games play just like Hold'em except for one important difference:
- In both Pineapple and Crazy Pineapple, each player is dealt three cards instead of two.
- In Pineapple, players must discard one of their hole cards before the flop.
- In Crazy Pineapple, players wait until after they see the flop to discard one of their hole cards.
- The extra card makes big hands way more common so there's way more action.
2. Pot-Limit Omaha
Simply put, Pot-Limit Omaha is a favorite of Europeans and high-stakes players because it has tons of action. It's second in line behind No-Limit Hold'em in terms of popularity.
In PLO you get four hole cards and the max you can bet and raise is equal to what's already in the pot.
Pot-Limit Omaha plays a lot like Hold'em but there are a few very important differences to be aware of. Let's go through basic PLO rules step by step:
- PLO uses blinds and five community cards plus all the betting rounds are exactly the same as Hold'em including the flop, turn, and river.
- The biggest difference is that each player gets four hole cards. In Omaha, you must use exactly TWO of your hole cards along with three community cards to make the best five-card poker hand.
- Refer to the gameplay rules for Hold'em in the previous section for more detailed rules.
Other than having four cards and playing Pot-Limit, PLO really is a lot like Hold'em. Don't worry if you have trouble understanding hands and draws to begin with. After a little practice, it will be just as familiar as Hold'em.
PLO Pros and Cons
A lot of players are reluctant to try Pot-Limit Omaha because it's intimidating. Then when they finally give it a shot, they find out they love it. The truth is there are lots of reasons PLO is a must-play poker game.
- Lots of action. With four cards you make way more hands and generally, there's lots bluffing.
- If you've played a lot of Hold'em, PLO can be the perfect way to spice things up and rekindle your love of poker.
- It's not the easiest poker game for beginners.
- Calculating how much you can bet and raise can be tough even for experienced players so make sure to check out our special trick in the next section.
How to Calculate Pot Size for Bets and Raises
In PLO the maximum amount you can bet and raise to is what's in the pot plus your call of any outstanding bets. Figuring out how much you can raise when there are bets in front of you can be tough, follow these steps to make it easy.
- First, multiply the last bet by three and then add any other remaining wagers and what was already in the pot.
- For example: If there's $10 in the pot and you're facing a bet of $5 with one additional caller, the maximum you can raise to is $30. ($5 X 3 + $5 +$10 = $30
3. Seven-Card Stud
Rewind just a few decades and Seven-Card Stud was the most popular poker game in America. Since then it's been overtaken in a big way by faster and more exciting variants like No-Limit Hold'em and Pot-Limit Omaha.
But if you appreciate slower games that have betting limits and reward good memory, Seven-Stud might be the game for you.
If you've only played Hold'em, Seven-Card Stud will take some getting used to. There are no community cards and it's almost always played with fixed betting limits.
Hellmuth has expanded his repertoire recently and has begun bagging big results in non-Hold'em events. And Stud is appearing more and more on Phil's results list. He has eight major WSOP Stud cashes to his name (including five final tables) and three have come in the prestige $10,000 Championship events.
The truth is, however, it's an easy game to learn and it's great for beginners.
- Each player pays an ante and receives three cards, two face-down and one face-up.
- The player with the lowest door card (face-up card) is forced to “bring it in”. If the ante is $1, for example, the bring-in is usually $5.
- Instead of paying the bring-in, the player with the lowest door card also has the option to “complete” by paying $10.
- The betting continues clockwise with each player getting the option to fold, call the bring in, or raise to $10.
- After everyone has taken their turn, another card is dealt face-up to each player. This is called fourth street.
- Betting now begins with the player showing the highest-value hand with their up-cards and moves clockwise around the table.
- This pattern continues with everyone receiving another face-up card on fifth street and another on sixth street.
- Seventh street is special because everyone receives their seventh card face-down.
- Anyone still in the hand after the last round of betting must show their cards and make the best five-card poker hand to win.
Pros and Cons of Seven-Card Stud
Stud poker might not be as flashy or action-packed as community card games like Hold'em and Omaha but there are plenty of reasons to consider learning how to play.
- It's easy to learn and a great way to get started if No-Limit Hold'em is intimidating.
- Learning to keep track of which cards have been folded can give you a big edge over other players who don't pay attention.
- Often considered too slow and boring.
- If you have poor eye-sight it can be challenging to keep track of everyone's hands around the table.
There's a reason you don't see Seven-Card Stud on TV or at your friend's home game. It's just not that exciting. That said, it is a complex game that can be perfect for the right kind of player.
How Betting Limits Work in Seven-Card Stud
If you've never played poker with betting limits, it'll be a bit awkward until you get familiar with it. The good news is it's really straightforward.
- Seven-Card Stud uses a small betting limit and a big betting limit.
- In our example game with antes of $1 and a bring-in of $5, the small bet is $10.
- Players can only bet and raise in $10 increments on fourth and fifth streets.
- The big betting limit is used on fifth, sixth, and seventh streets and it's always double the small bet ($20 in our example).
- Betting on each street is capped at four bets (three raises).
If you don't know how to play Seven Card Stud, check out the rules in the previous section. Trust us, it's going to make learning Razz way easier.
Razz is a lowball game which means the card and hand rankings are flipped upside down. Check out the rules to see exactly what we mean.
Basics of Razz
- The goal in Razz is to make the “worst” possible hand according to traditional poker hand rankings.
- Aces are low in Razz and straights and flushes don't count. Therefore the best (lowest) possible hand is a five-low (5-4-3-2-A).
- Gameplay works the same as Seven Card Stud except for the player with the HIGHEST door card brings it in. Also, on later streets betting begins with the player showing the LOWEST traditional poker hand (the best lowball hand).
- Just like Stud, Razz is a limit game and follows the exact same betting patterns including antes, bring-in, completion, small bet and a big bet.
- After the final round of betting on seventh street players show down their hands and make the best five-card low hand to see who wins.
Razz is a favorite among old-school poker purists and for the most part you're going to find an older crowd if you sit down at a live Razz table in a casino.
Razz Pros and Cons
Similar to Stud, Razz is a slow game that's relatively easy to learn. It's not for everyone but fans of the game absolutely love it. Keep reading to learn some of the main pros and cons.
- Just like Stud, Razz offers a big edge to players who learn to observe and keep track of cards.
- It's easy to learn and has a slow, relaxed pace of play.
- Lowball games are a blast if you've never played them because it flips the hand rankings completely upside down.
- Some people find Razz too slow and don't like playing games with betting limits.
- There are limited live Razz cash games and tournaments but plenty online.
What are the Best Hands in Razz?
Because aces are low and straights and flushes don't count, the best possible hand in Razz is ace through five. But do you know what the next four best hands are?
Check out the list below to see five best hands you can make in Razz. (Suits are irrelevant.)
5. Omaha Hi-Lo
If you've never played a Hi-Lo poker variation before you're in for a treat. In this kind of game, the pot is split between the highest hand and the lowest hand.
Once you've learned PLO, understanding Omaha Hi-Lo is really easy. If you skipped the Pot-Limit Omaha section make sure to read up on it before trying to learn the Hi-Lo version.
- Omaha Hi-Lo uses blinds, each player gets four cards and there are four betting rounds with a flop, turn, and river.
- At the end of the hand, the pot is split between the best high hand and the best low hand.
- Each player makes two separate hands, each using exactly two of their hole cards and three of the board cards (one high hand and one low hand).
- If you have both the best high hand and the best low hand you get the entire pot which is called “scooping”.
- Omaha Hi-Lo uses fixed betting limits similar to Seven Card Stud.
Omaha Hi-Lo is another game that can be confusing at first but quickly becomes easy with just a little bit of practice.
Omaha Hi-Lo Pros and Cons
Hi-Lo games are an acquired taste. Not everyone gets into it right off the bat but after a little practice, a lot of people enjoy playing them.
- The average level of play is low, you can get a big edge with minimal practice.
- Hi-Lo games offer complex strategy and are great for thinking players who like working on their game.
- Figuring out hands, draws, and who wins can be confusing for poker beginners.
- You might have a tough time finding a live game even at your local casino.
What is Omaha Eight or Better?
One really common variation of Omaha Hi-Lo is called Omaha Eight or Better. Here's how you can tell the two games apart.
- In regular Omaha Hi-Lo, all pots are split between the best high hand and the best low hand.
- For there to be a split pot in Omaha Eight or Better, someone must have a qualifying low hand of eight-low or better.
- An eight-low refers to a hand with an eight and four other lower cards.
6. 2-7 Triple Draw
Now that you've learned games that use low hands like Razz and Omaha Hi-Lo, it's time to unveil the best lowball game of them all.
2-7 Triple Draw is a limit game that uses blinds but no community cards. It's really straightforward but you have to know the basics.
- The object of the game is to make the best possible five-card low hand.
- Aces are high and straights and flushes DO count. Therefore the best hand is an unsuited 2-3-4-5-7.
- 2-7 Triple Draw uses a dealer button and blinds just like Hold'em.
- Each player is dealt five cards and betting begins with the player to the left of the big blind.
- After the betting rounds, each player can draw up to five new cards.
- There are four betting rounds and three draws. Triple Draw is played with fixed betting limits.
- After the final betting round players still in must show down their cards to see who wins.
2-7 Triple Draw Pros and Cons
People who grew up playing five card draw will love the format of this game and with the lowball twist, it's really entertaining.
Here are the top compliments and complaints we've heard about 2-7 Triple Draw.
- If you like bluffing and mind games, you'll love 2-7.
- Lowball games are a fun way to spice things up if Hold'em is getting stale.
- Live games are scarce. If you're playing online, however, that's never a problem.
- Some people don't like fixed-limit games but, luckily for them, there's a no-limit version we'll explain quickly below.
With no community cards and no up-cards, there's very little information to go on so bluffing is definitely a big part of 2-7. If that's something you love, it's definitely worth giving this game a go.
More Fun: No-Limit 2-7 Single Draw
Triple Draw is more common but it's definitely not the most fun version of 2-7.
No-Limit Deuce to Seven only has a single draw but it's got way more bluffing and action. While it plays by all the same rules as 2-7 Triple Draw there are a couple important exceptions.
- You can bet and raise any amount up to your entire stack at any time.
- There's only one draw and two betting rounds, one before and one after the draw.
- No-Limit 2-7 is an absolute favorite of poker pros and gamblers who love action.
7. Five-Card Draw
Remember the first time you played poker? We're not talking about the first time you played Texas Hold'em. We're talking about Five Card Draw.
Almost everyone first played this game as a kid with pennies or those old-school plastic poker chips and even though none of us really knew the rules back then, we can teach them to you right now in about two minutes.
Five Card Draw uses a dealer button and blinds, just like Hold'em.
- Each player is dealt five cards and there's a round of betting starting with the player to the left of the big blind.
- After betting, each player can exchange any number of their cards for new cards, starting with the player to the left of the dealer.
- After the draw, there's another round of betting starting with the player to the left of the dealer.
- Anyone still in must show down their cards and the best five-card high poker hand wins the pot.
These rules should look familiar from the section on 2-7. That's because it's essentially the high version of the same game.
Five Card Draw Pros and Cons
This game is a classic but don't let that fool you. There's still a ton of strategy at play in Five-Card Draw.
Here are some of the common pros and cons we've heard over the years.
- If you're intimidated by bluffing or calling bluffs, you're going to have a hard time with Five Card Draw.
- Since you can't see any of your opponent's cards and there are no community cards, mind games are big in Five Card Draw.
- Even though everyone basically knows how to play, you can get a big edge with just a little bit of strategy study.
- Live games are scarce but easy to find if you choose to play online.
Best Places to Play 5-Card Draw
Most people are familiar with draw games. Even Yahtzee is a form of primitive Draw as players must decide which dice to "discard" or keep. Video poker is basically just electronic 5-Card Draw.
But with live draw games becoming much less popular since the poker boom, by far the best place to play is online.
8. Chinese Poker
This is a special entry on the list and if you've never played it before it's going to take some getting used to.
It's a lot different than normal poker but it's so much fun that's it's definitely worth the effort to learn.
Like we said, Chinese Poker is something unique in the poker world. Follow these simple steps and you'll be playing in no time.
- Chinese poker is played with four players.
- Each player is dealt 13 cards and must arrange them into three different poker hands.
- The front hand, or top hand, is made up of three cards and must be the lowest-ranking poker hand of the three.
- The middle hand is made up of five cards and must be a higher-ranking hand than the top hand.
- The bottom hand is also made up of five cards and must be the highest-ranking hand of the three.
- Each player scores each hand against the corresponding hand of each other player.
- Players agree on a dollar value per point before the game. You win one point for each hand you win against each player.
- Some people play with special royalties for big hands or scooping all three hands.
Chinese poker is definitely an acquired taste but once you get it, it's addictively fun. That's one reason it's a favorite among poker pros who like to gamble.
Chinese Poker Pros and Cons
Chinese Poker is unique because of the special gameplay but it's also more of a recreational game than other forms of poker.
It's rare for casinos to spread the game and much more common for people to play among friends even though it's almost always played for real money.
- Easy to play and has tons of action.
- Poker players love sweating cards and in Chinese Poker you get 13 cards to look at one at a time.
- Lots of similarities with Pai Gow Poker.
- Scoring can be confusing for beginners.
More Fun: Open-Face Chinese Poker
After people play Chinese Poker it usually doesn't take long for them to graduate to Open-Face Chinese Poker.
In this variation, there's even more sweats and even more gamble. Check out the most important rules.
- Instead of getting all 13 cards at once, each player starts with five cards they must use to start building their three Chinese Poker hands.
- After that, each player draws one card per turn from the deck and continues to build their hands.
- There are way more decisions and excitement since you have to draw each card one at a time.
If you love non-Hold'em games, you'll love HORSE. The game's name is an acronym that contains five different poker variations.
And thanks to the instructions on this page, you'll be able to play all of them.
When you sit down at a HORSE table, live or online, you'll see a plaque face-up on the felt that tells you what game is being played.
- The games in HORSE are:
- Omaha Hi-Lo
- Seven Card Stud
- Seven Card Stud Eight or Better (Hi-Lo)
- Each game is played for one orbit before moving to the next in order.
- All games in HORSE are played with fixed betting limits.
If you're still unclear on any of the games, check out the other sections on this page for detailed instructions.
HORSE Pros and Cons
HORSE isn't the most beginner-friendly game. People who play generally have a lot of poker experience and know what they're doing.
That said, if you're looking to dive into non-Hold'em games and aren't afraid to learn as you play it's a great crash course.
- HORSE offers an awesome selection of non-Hold'em fixed limit games.
- Usually, players aren't strong in all games so you can get a big edge by playing solid strategy.
- Some people find fixed limit games slow and boring and prefer No-Limit Hold'em or Pot-Limit Omaha.
If you're looking to get experience playing HORSE without busting your bankroll, online is the best place. There are tons of micro-stakes HORSE cash games, sit and go's, and tournaments.
Legendary Chip Reese HORSE Win
In 2006 the World Series of Poker introduced a special $50,000 buy-in HORSE tournament that was designed to test the very best mixed-game players in the world.
It was the biggest buy-in in WSOP history and 143 players entered. When it got down to heads-up it was Chip Reese and Andy Bloch battling for the $1.7 million first-place prize.
Reese was revered as the greatest mixed-game players in history and he played Bloch for an astounding 12 hours, the longest heads-up match ever at the WSOP.
Reese eventually won the match and unfortunately passed away the following year. Since then the WSOP $50k has been known informally as the Chip Reese Memorial.
Badugi is another special game you're not going to run into at most home games or casinos and it uses a completely different hand ranking system than you're used to.
Badugi is essentially a lowball game but it has some special features that set it apart from other poker variations.
Badugi uses a dealer button and blinds like Hold'em.
- Each player gets four cards dealt face-down.
- Betting begins to the left of the dealer and moves clockwise.
- After betting is complete players can exchange any number of cards for new ones.
- There are a total of three draws followed by a final betting round. Anyone still in the hand must show down their cards to see who wins.
- The goal is to make the lowest unsuited, unpaired hand possible.
- Aces are low and the best possible hand is Ace-2-3-4 of all different suits.
Badugi has a lot of similarities to 2-7 Triple Draw but the hand ranking system definitely takes a little time to feel comfortable.
Badugi Pros and Cons
Badugi has its roots in Asia and borrowed heavily from classic styles of draw poker. Keep reading for some of the game's biggest pros and cons.
- Bluffing and aggression is important which makes it a fun and entertaining game.
- Similar to other versions of draw poker, there aren't any up-cards or community cards to help tell you what your opponent has.
- Finding Badugi games live is next to impossible but it's a great game to play online or introduce into the mix at your weekly home game.
More Fun: Baduci (Badeucy)
Once you've got a handle on Badugi there's another really similar game that's even more fun.
Baduci is a mash-up of Badugi and 2-7 Triple Draw. Here are the main points.
- Players get five cards and gameplay follows the same format as 2-7 and Badugi.
- At the end of the hand, the pot is split with half going to the best 2-7 lowball hand and half going to the best Badugi hand.
- Only the four best cards are used to determine the players' Badugi hands.