Poker Variants and How to Play
How you play poker depends on the variation you’re playing, but the aim is always to make the strongest possible hand. Let’s take a look at how some of the most popular variants work.
Texas Hold’em is the most widely played poker variant in the world. Here’s how it works:
- At the start of each hand, blinds (equivalent to the minimum bet) are added to the pot to ensure there is something to win in every hand. Blinds rotate clockwise around the table and are collected automatically.
- Each player is dealt two cards face down (downcards). Players must then decide whether to take part in the hand, and can either bet, raise the blind, or fold.
- Once all bets have been placed, three community cards, known as ‘the flop’, are dealt face up (upcards). The flop is followed by the next round of betting – players have the option to check, call, raise, re-raise, and fold.
- The next community card, known as ‘the turn’, is dealt face up, followed by another round of betting.
- The final community card, known as ‘the river’, is dealt face up, followed by a final round of betting. The player with the strongest hand wins the pot.
Although each player has seven cards in play (their two hole cards plus the five community cards) a hand is only ever comprised of five cards. In the event of equal hands, the pot is split between the winning players.
In Omaha, the dealing and betting rounds are identical to Hold’em. The difference is that each player is dealt four hole cards instead of two, and must make up a five-card hand consisting exactly of two hole cards and three community cards.
Also known as hi-low split, Omaha/8 involves playing for two different hands––one high and one low––at the same time. Dealing and betting is as above, but here’s how it works:
- Each player attempts to make a separate five-card high hand and a five-card low hand through a combination of hole cards and community cards.
- A low hand consists of cards eight or under – aces can be both low and high.
- Players can use any two of their four hole cards to make a high hand, and any two of their hole cards to make a low hand. The same hole cards can be used in both hands.
- If there is no qualifying low hand, the high hand wins the entire pot; if there’s a low hand in play, the pot is split between the holders of the highest and lowest hands.
7 Card Stud
Card stud variants of poker originated in the American Civil War, and were the most widely played variants until the popularisation of Hold’em. It’s an entirely different game to the ones described above, involving no community cards. Here’s how it works:
- Each player is initially dealt two downcards and one upcard.
- The player with the lowest ranking upcard pays the bring-in (or blind). Betting then proceeds clockwise.
- After the first round of betting, another upcard is dealt.
- The second round of betting starts at the player with the best poker hand based on their two upcards only. This is repeated until four upcards have been dealt to each player.
- A fifth downcard is then dealt, followed by a final round of betting.
7 Card Stud can therefore be neatly summarised as ‘two down, four up, one down’.
5 Card Stud
5 card stud is identical to the seven-card variant, just on a smaller scale. Each player is dealt one downcard and one upcard, before a second, third and fourth upcard is dealt.