Jumping into the game of poker can present an intimidating task. Sitting in on your first poker game introduces you to a whole new world of poker rules, terms, math, etiquette, and more.
Most of the games played in a poker room and on television involve No-Limit Hold’em, which is Texas Hold’em played with no-limit betting rules. While studying No-Limit Hold’em is a great idea for any poker player, it’s not the only way to learn about poker if you’re new to the game.
Here’s a look at the five best types of poker for beginners:
Pot-Limit Omaha (aka PLO) plays as the most complex game on our top-five list. Jumping into PLO as a poker beginner might not present the easiest route to poker success.
If you can learn how to play winning PLO, however, you’re ready for just about anything in the realm of poker. PLO is the game of Omaha played under pot-limit betting rules, meaning the maximum allowed bet or raise at any time is equal to the size of the pot.
Omaha, like Texas Hold’em, is a community card game. Each player starts with four hole cards, kept face-down and only visible to the player holding them.
Each round of play in a game of Omaha involves a round of betting before the community cards are dealt. This first round is known as the preflop betting round, and all players have the option to either call (match the amount of the active bet), raise (increase the amount of the active bet), or fold.
Once the preflop round is complete, the dealer puts the first three of five community cards on the board. These three cards are known as the flop.
Another betting round commences after the flop, after which the dealer puts out a fourth community card, known as the turn (or fourth street). All remaining players play another betting round after the turn.
When the turn round of betting is complete, the dealer puts the fifth and final community card on the table. This card, known as the river (or fifth street), prompts one final betting round.
After the river betting round, the player with the best five-card hand (according to the poker hand rankings) wins. In Omaha, you must use exactly two of your four hole cards, along with exactly three community cards, to make your hand.
Other variants of Omaha include Omaha Hi-Lo (aka Omaha Eight or Better) and Limit Omaha Hi. These versions of Omaha use limit betting rules.
Omaha Hi-Lo plays as a split pot game, with the best high hand and the best qualifying low hand splitting the pot.
If you want to jump into the deep end as a beginning poker player, however, PLO might be the way to go. Other poker games will probably seem fairly simple if you can master PLO.
Learning resources for PLO aren’t nearly as abundant as they are for Texas Hold’em. Upswing Poker’s PLO Launch Pad course is a great place to start learning about the game.
Check out our detailed guide on How to Play Omaha for a more in-depth look at the rules of PLO.
At one time one of the most popular games among the world’s poker players, 7 Card Stud is now generally found as part of mixed-game tournaments and cash games.
7 Card Stud offers a great way to learn the poker hand rankings. Unlike Texas Hold’em and Omaha, each player receives their own hand, and community cards are not part of the game.
The object of 7 Card Stud is to make the best possible five-card hand out of seven total cards. Each round of 7 Card Stud begins with all players dealt two downcards and one upcard.
A betting round commences after the initial deal, and all players get the opportunity to either call, raise, or fold. 7 Card Stud is generally played with a limit betting structure.
After the first betting round, all remaining players are dealt another upcard. That pattern repeats for up to five total betting rounds, with a maximum number of seven cards dealt to each player.
A complete 7 Card Stud hand is comprised of three downcards and four upcards. Two of the first three cards dealt are downcards, as is the final card if the hand progresses that far.
7 Card Stud can be played as a high hand game, or as a hi-lo game (high hand and qualifying low hand split the pot). While the rules of 7 Card Stud make it relatively simple compared to PLO, putting together a winning strategy is still a formidable task.
Learning 7 Card Stud can be a good way to get familiar with limit betting rules, hi-lo split games, and the poker hand rankings in general. For a more detailed look at the game, check out our guide on How to Play 7 Card Stud.
3. Limit Hold’em
As you’ll find out later in our list, No-Limit Texas Hold’em is by far the most popular poker game in the world. Beginning poker players can’t go wrong by studying Texas Hold’em, but the no-limit betting structure can seem intimidating.
Limit Hold’em features Texas Hold’em played with a limit betting structure. Under limit betting rules, the maximum amount of a bet, as well as the number of bets or raises in a betting round is capped.
For example, a $2/4 Limit Hold’em game plays with the blinds at $1/2, and allows a max bet or raise of $2 in the preflop and flop betting round. In all rounds, the number of possible bets/raises is capped at four.
A Limit Hold’em hand begins the same way as a No-Limit Hold’em hand. Each player receives two hole cards, after which the preflop betting round begins.
A $2/4 Limit Hold’em game gives the first player to act the option of either calling the $2 big blind, or raising to $4. If you’re facing a $4 raise, you can raise to $6, and subsequent players can raise again to $8.
After the active bet hits $8, no player can raise again. The action is capped at a maximum of four bets/raises ($2,$4,$6,$8), and once the active bet goes to $8 other players can only call.
That betting structure stays intact throughout the preflop and flop betting rounds. The turn and river betting rounds see the betting limits raised to $2/$4, with a maximum bet of $16.
Limit Hold’em offers a great way to learn Texas Hold’em and limit betting rules at the same time. Sitting in on a No-Limit Texas Hold’em game can mean losing your entire stack in one hand, but that won’t happen in Limit Hold’em unless you start a hand with a very small stack.
For more on limit and other betting structures, take a look at our Poker Betting Rules overview.
Draw poker games present perhaps the easiest entry point into learning the game of poker. Five Card Draw, Deuce to Seven Draw, Badugi, and even video poker are among the various draw poker game types.
Draw poker games see each player dealt their own set of cards. Unlike Omaha and Texas Hold’em, community cards don’t come into play in most draw poker games.
5 Card Draw, for instance, involves each player getting five hole cards. A betting round takes place after all players receive their hole cards.
After the first betting round, all players still in the hand can choose to discard as many of their hole cards as they wish, replacing them with new cards from the deck. When all live players have discarded and drawn new cards as they wish, a second and final betting round takes place.
Following the final betting round, all remaining players turn over their cards, and the player with the best five-card hand wins the pot. Five Card draw can be played under limit, no-limit, or even pot-limit betting rules.
For a deeper look at Five Card Draw, Deuce to Seven, and a host of other draw poker games, check out our How to Play Draw Poker Games guide.
1. No-Limit Hold’em
The most useful way to spend your study time as a poker beginner is to study No-Limit Hold’em. The world’s most popular poker game (Texas Hold’em played with no-limit betting rules) is a staple at poker rooms around the world.
Most of the cash games and multi-table tournaments you’ll encounter on your poker journey will play as No-Limit Hold’em games. The majority of available study materials, including those found here at Upswing Poker, focus on No-Limit Hold’em.
All variants of Texas Hold’em follow the same general rules. Each player begins the hand with two hole cards, and the object of the game is to make the best possible five-card hand with any combination of hole cards and five community cards.
As we’ve discussed in the PLO and Limit Hold’em sections above, the five community cards hit the board in rounds known as the flop, turn, and river. Each game begins with a preflop betting round, followed by betting rounds after the flop, after the turn, and after the river.
If the hand reaches the river betting round, all players still in the hand turn over their cards in a showdown after all river betting has commenced. The player with the best five-card hand according to the poker hand rankings wins.
The major difference between No-Limit Hold’em and all other games on this list is the betting structure. Any poker game using a no-limit betting structure allows you to put all of your chips in the pot at any time.
Betting all of your chips is known as going “all-in.” The action of going all-in is also called a push, shove, jam, and a few other terms.
The presence of the no-limit betting rules makes No-Limit Hold’em one of the most complex strategy games in the world. Additionally, cash games and multi-table tournament each require a different set of skills, although there is some overlap in mastering the two formats.
No-Limit Hold’em is not an easy game, and you’ll find that some of the other poker variants on this list are easier to master. If you can understand No-Limit Hold’em, however, you’ll be ready to compete at any live or online poker room in the world.
Check out Upswing’s Poker’s detailed guide on How to Play Texas Hold’em.