How to Play Various Poker Games

How to Play Various Poker Games

Texas Hold’em and Pot-Limit Omaha are the most-played poker games around the globe. Many other poker variants, however, can be found at casinos, online poker rooms, and home games.

Let’s take a look at how to play some of the most popular forms of poker.

Texas Hold’em

The most popular poker game in the world, Texas Hold’em is played at virtually every casino poker room on the planet. Prestigious tournaments like the World Series of Poker Main Event feature Texas Hold’em.

Texas Hold’em is a card game played with community cards, and a betting structure with blinds and a button. A game of Texas Hold’em poker involves four betting rounds, known as preflop, flop, turn, and river.

Preflop

Each round of Texas Hold’em begins with players in the small blind and big blind positions posting mandatory bets. These positions rotate clockwise around the table, moving one player to the left after each hand.

Every player receives two hole cards from the dealer, administered one at a time and beginning with the player in the small blind. Once all players have two hole cards, the preflop betting round begins.

Hole cards are private to each player and remain hidden until the end of the hand. 

The preflop round begins with the player to the immediate left of the big blind, and that player has the option to either call (match the big blind amount), raise (increase the amount of the active bet), or fold (discard their hand without putting any money in the pot).

The position that begins the preflop action is known as the “under the gun” position. Once this player acts, the next player to the immediate left then has the option to call, raise, or fold.

This progression moves clockwise around the table until every player has the option to act. If a player raises, any player that calls after that must match the amount of the active raise.

Once all players have either folded or called the last active raise, all remaining players move on to the flop betting round.

Flop

Once all preflop betting is complete, the dealer puts the first three of five community cards on the board. These three cards are known as the “flop” and can be used by all active players.

The flop betting round begins with the small blind if they’re still in the hand. If the small blind player folded preflop, the flop round starts with the next active player to the left of the small blind.

The first-to-act player gets the option to either check (put no money in the pot and pass the action to the next player), or bet. After that, the action proceeds to the next player to the left.

That player can either call or raise the bet from the first-to-act player. If the first-to-act player checks, the next player to act can also check.

The flop betting round proceeds until all players have the chance to either bet, raise, or call the last active raise. All players can also check if nobody bets.

How to Play Various Poker Games

Texas Hold’em allows players to use any combination of hole cards and community cards to make the best hand.

Turn

When the flop betting round is complete, the dealer puts out a fourth community card, known as the “turn,” or “fourth street.”

The turn betting round proceeds the same way as the previous round. The first-to-act player (again the small blind or nearest remaining player on the left) starts with the option of betting or checking.

All other players can then call or raise if the first-to-act player bets. If the first-to-act player checks, other players also have the option to check, until someone bets.

River

After the turn, the dealer puts out the fifth and final community card. Known as the “river,” or “fifth street,” this card proceeds the final round of betting.

The river betting round plays out with the same rules as the flop and the turn. When all players complete their turn (either calling the last active raise, or checking if that’s an option), the players remaining in the hand turn their hole cards face up. 

This action is known as the showdown. The player with the best five-card poker hand, using any combination of hole cards and community cards, wins. 

As with most of the games on this list, the best poker hand is determined by the standard poker hand rankings. 

Betting Structure

Texas Hold’em can be played with a no-limit, pot-limit, or fixed-limit betting structure. For more on how the rules differ for each structure, check out Upswing Poker’s guide to betting rules. 

Omaha

Like Texas Hold’em, Omaha involves hole cards, community cards, and blinds. 

Unlike a Texas Hold’em poker game, however, each player in a game of Omaha receives four hole cards. Players must make the best five-card poker hand using exactly three hole cards and two community cards.

The requirement to use exactly two hole cards to make the best poker hand differs from Texas Hold’em, which allows poker players to use any combination of hole cards and community cards.

Pot-Limit Omaha (Omaha played with pot-limit betting rules) is the world’s second-most-popular way to play poker. Omaha can also be played with a fixed-limit betting structure, or as a split-pot game.

How to Play Various Poker Games

Omaha requires players to use exactly two hole cards and three community cards to make the best possible five-card hand.

The split-pot version of Omaha is known as Omaha Hi-Lo, Omaha Eight or Better, or Omaha 8. Split-pot games award half of the pot to the best high hand, and half to the best low hand. Omaha poker games that play with just the highest hands winning are known as Omaha High or Omaha Hi.

All formats of Omaha use the same order of operations as Texas Hold’em. Each hand starts with a preflop betting round, followed by the flop, turn, and river.

Pot-Limit Omaha (aka PLO) is one of the world’s most popular poker games, particularly in cash game format.

Stud

Stud poker games differ significantly from community card games like Texas Hold’em and Omaha. 

All players in a Stud game receive their own set of cards, with some cards face down and some face up. The gameplay doesn’t involve blinds, as each betting round begins with a particular player obligated to post a “bring-in” based on their face-up card.

Seven Card Stud is the world’s most popular Stud game. All players receive a starting hand with two down cards, and one face-up card. The face-up card is known as the door card in a Stud poker game.

The player with the lowest-ranking door card must post the bring-in, a small bet that’s generally less than the size of a full bet. The first-to-act player can also open the action with a full bet if they wish.

How to Play Various Poker Games

Players begin with one upcard and two downcards in Stud games.

Stud Betting Rules

Stud is virtually always played as a limit game. For example, in a $5/$10 Stud game, the bring-in might be $2. 

After the bring-in, the next player on the immediate left has the option to complete, raising to $5. The action moves around the table clockwise, with each player getting the chance to either call the $5 or raise.

In limit poker games, a raise can only be made in the same increment as the limit in play. For instance, if you want to raise against a $5 bet, you must raise to $10.

The maximum number of bets in any betting round is four. In a $5/$10 game, the maximum possible bet is $20 in the first two betting rounds. 

Beginning with the third betting round, the bet increment would increase to $10 in a $5/$10 game. The $10 stands as the “big bet” at those limits, and the maximum possible bet is $40 in the final three betting rounds.

Seven Card Stud Gameplay

When all players have received the opportunity to raise, call, or fold in the opening betting round, the dealer gives each live player another face-up card. Known as “fourth street,”, this card begins another betting round.

The action proceeds the same way as the previous round, with the player that has the best hand showing (upcards) being first to act. 

In a $5/$10 game, the first-to-act player would have the option to either check, or bet $5. If any player has a pair showing, the maximum bet option goes up to the big bet size ($10).

After fourth street, another face-up card is dealt to all remaining players. That round is known as “fifth street,”, and is followed by another upcard betting round known as “sixth street.”

The final betting round, “seventh street,” sees each remaining player dealt a face-down card. After that round, the player with the best five-card hand wins.

Stud can also be played as a split-pot game, with the lowest hand splitting the pot with the highest hand.

Five Card Stud, another format of the game, begins with each player getting one downcard and one door card. A full hand of Five Card Stud involves two more face-up cards, followed by another downcard in the final betting round.

Razz

Razz is a version of Seven Card Stud played with lowball rules. In other words, the object in a game of Razz is to make the lowest hand possible.

The ace represents the lowest card possible in Razz and does not function as a high card as it does in other poker games. Straights and flushes don’t count in Razz.

How to Play Various Poker Games

The object of Razz is to make the best possible five-card low hand.

The wheel (A-2-3-4-5) marks the lowest possible five-card poker hand in Razz. The bring-in is determined by the highest card showing on the board.

Other than the lowball rules, Razz plays the same way as Seven Card Stud. At the end of each hand, the player with the lowest hand wins the pot. 

Five Card Draw

Draw poker games allow players to discard any number of cards in their hand, and take new cards in an effort to make the best hand.

Five Card Draw is one of the oldest known poker variants and is still played in many home games around the world. Each hand begins with all players dealt five cards.

A betting round commences after the deal, after which each player gets the opportunity to discard certain cards and replace them with new cards from the deck. Players can discard up to five cards, or “stand pat,” keeping all of their cards.

How to Play Various Poker Games

Each player gets five private cards in Five Card Draw.

After the draw round, all remaining players engage in another betting round. At the end of that round, the player with the strongest five-card hand wins.

Five Card Draw can be played using a small blind/big blind structure, or with just antes from each player at the start of each hand. The game can be played with a no-limit, pot-limit, or fixed-limit betting structure.

Triple Draw

Triple Draw is essentially Five Card Draw, but played with three drawing rounds instead of one. Lowball versions of Triple Draw appear on the schedule at the World Series of Poker each year, inducing 2-7 Triple Draw.

A game of 2-7 Triple Draw requires players to make the best possible five-card low hand, under deuce-to-seven rules. 

Deuce-to-seven lowball games count the deuce as the lowest possible card, with the ace only counting as a high card. Straights count as high hands under deuce-to-seven rules, so the best possible hand in 2-7 Triple Draw Lowball is 7-5-4-3-2.

Triple Draw games begin with each player dealt five cards. The action proceeds with an opening betting round, followed by a draw round.

How to Play Various Poker Games

Triple Draw 2-7 Lowball tasks players with making the lowest hand possible under deuce-to-seven rules.

Unlike Five Card Draw, the action doesn’t end after the second betting round. Two more rounds of drawing and betting follow after that.

At the end of the final round of betting, the player with the best low hand wins. Triple Draw can also be played under high-hand rules.

Online poker sites that offer types of poker outside of No-Limit Hold’em and Pot-Limit Omaha (such as PokerStars) often include Triple Draw as part of their mixed-game tables.

Badugi

Badugi is another form of lowball Triple Draw poker, but with a unique set of rules. Each player begins with four cards.

The object of the game is to make a lowball “Badugi,” which is four cards of all different suits. The ace plays as the low card in Badugi, and the best possible hand is 4-3-2-A with four different suits.

How to Play Various Poker Games

A-2-3-4 of four different suits is the best possible hand in Badugi.

Paired cards, or cards of the same suit in a hand, don’t count toward a Badugi. For example, 432♠A♣ would only qualify as a three-card Badugi, with only the 3h-2s-Ac counting toward a qualifying Badugi.

Any four-card Badugi beats a three-card Badugi, and all three-card Badugis defeat a two-card Badugi. Badugi is played with the same betting progression as Triple Draw, with an opening betting round, followed by three more alternating drawing rounds and betting round.

At the end of the final betting round, the player with the lowest hand under Badugi rules wins the pot.

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