Whilst most people think of poker as one game, a lot of different games come under the poker umbrella.
There are a lot of popular poker variants and in this article, we'll be looking at the most popular ones out there.
Community Card Poker Variants
Community card poker variants are games where there are cards placed in the middle of the table that all players can use to make their best five-card poker hand.
Commonly there will be 5 community cards, the first three being called the flop, the fourth one the turn, and the fifth one the river.
Poker Texas Holdem Variant
Texas Hold'em often called the Cadillac of poker, is the most popular variant of poker played right now. It is often played as 'No Limit' meaning there isn't a limit to the amount a player can bet at any time but other versions such as pot limit and limit hold'em are also popular. When given a choice between Texas Hold'em vs other poker variants among cardrooms, most people will choose the former.
The two players left of the button post a small and big blind before the start of the hand. Players are dealt two hole cards face-down at the beginning of a hand, starting with the player left of the button. There is a round of betting and if there are any players remaining in the hand, the first three community cards are dealt. There is another round of betting before the fourth community card is dealt with and another round of betting before the fifth community card is dealt with.
After the river has been dealt there is a final round of betting. If there are any players remaining after this round of betting the hole cards of each player are turned over and the best five-card poker hand wins.
Poker Omaha Variant
Omaha is a similar game to Hold'em in that it is also a community card poker variant, however, there are a few key differences. This is also a popular variant among US gambling sites that hosts poker rooms.
Omaha is almost exclusively played as pot-limit whereas Hold'em is most commonly played as no limit - the most popular forms of each game being PLO (pot limit Omaha) and NLHE (no limit hold'em). In Omaha, you are dealt four cards to start with rather than the two you are given in hold'em which creates a lot more action. There is also a much higher chance for players to get the second-best possible hand in this variant: a straight flush.
Because of their similar rules, Omaha also has the same betting rounds as Texas Hold'em. These rounds include the pre-flop, flop, turn, and river. Players can take advantage of these rounds to get more information about their opponents and much more.
Another key difference between Omaha and hold 'em is that in Omaha you have to use two cards from your hand and three from the board if the hand goes to showdown. In hold'em, you can use all five community cards if they make the best hand - for example, if there's a royal flush on the board then all players have the best possible hand. In Omaha that is not the case as they must use two and only two cards from their hand. These rules make it easy for beginners to follow a basic poker strategy and gain an edge over their opponents.
Despite being similar to Texas Hold'em, Omaha is considered by many as one of the hardest poker variants. This is likely to the number of hole cards for each player and its effect on the poker outs.
Popular Stud Poker Variants
Another popular poker variant is a stud, which plays very differently from community card games. In this variant, each player will be dealt a total of seven cards (four face-up, three face-down) as long as they make it to the end, and they use five of these seven cards to make the best five-card hand.
Seven Card Stud
Unlike community card poker, there is no designated dealer. At the start of the game each player puts an ante into the middle, the value of which is determined by the table limits. Each player is then dealt three cards, two face-down and one face-up. The player with the lowest value face-up card has to pay the 'bring in', commonly half the amount of the lowest limit. From there the first round of betting begins to the left of the bring-in and each player has the option to complete for twice the amount of the bring-in.
Once this round of betting is complete, all remaining players are dealt one card face-up. The player who has the highest-ranking hand with their two face-up cards begins the betting round - this is the way each of the subsequent betting rounds begins. After this betting round, players are dealt one more face-up card and have another round of betting. Another face-up card is dealt followed by another round of betting, finally, the last card is dealt face-down and there is a final round of betting.
If any players are remaining all face-down cards are turned face-up and the player with the best five-card poker hand wins the pot.
Suits also play an important factor in seven-card stud poker than other variants. When a tie occurs, the winner is determined by the suit of the cards.
Follow the Queen Poker
Follow the Queen is a variant of stud poker with slightly altered rules. It follows the same betting pattern and card dealing as stud poker, but in this game, there are 'wild cards' which can take the form of any card the player wishes.
As the name of the game suggests, queens are the main wild cards but there are some rules. Any queen that is dealt face-up is wild, however, for a face-down queen to be wild, there has to be a queen dealt face-up somewhere on the table. Once a queen has been dealt face-up, the following card will also become a wild card. However, if another queen is dealt face-up then the previous subsequent card is no longer wild and the next subsequent card will be.
For example, here is the breakdown of a follow the queen hand:
Player 1 (x - x)
Player 2 (x - x)
Player 3 (x - x)
Player 1 (x - x)
Player 2 (x - x)
Player 3 (x - x)
So on this hand, thewas dealt with Player 1 meaning any queens that were dealt face-down are wild, and the next card dealt was the meaning all tens are now wild.
Player 1 (x - x)
Player 2 (x - x)
Player 3 (x - x)
On this street, another queen has been dealt. This means that tens are no longer wild and the card dealt after this queen is wild - which in this example is the As, meaning all aces are now wild. Because of this, you need a unique strategy for this stud poker variant to get the upper hand.
Popular Draw Poker Variants
Draw games were a lot more popular 30 years ago before the rise of community card games such as Hold'em and Omaha but they still have a strong following to this day. These are the only variants where you can discard your cards and get new ones.
Most famous for being the game played in the Cincinnati Kid starring Steve McQueen, the five-card draw is a high hand game (meaning it uses normal poker rankings), most popularly played as a fixed limit game, and is very easy to learn. This was also the most played poker before the 70s according to poker history.
Similar to community card games, draw games use a button/blind system so the two players to the left of the button post the small and big blind before the cards are dealt. Then each player is dealt five cards and there is a round of betting.
After the round of betting has been completed, the players have the option to discard any number of cards from their hands and draw new ones in an attempt to make the best five-card poker hand. Two main variants of five-card poker are played - single draw and triple draw. As the names suggest, the variant you play will alter the number of times you can discard your hand and draw new cards.
If you're playing a single draw, then after your one and only draw there is a round of betting and all remaining players must showdown their hand. If you're playing a triple draw there is a round of betting after each draw, and a showdown occurs after the round of betting that follows the third draw.
Badugi is a draw game that does not use traditional poker hand rankings but uses a system that is unique to this game. Functionally it plays the same as a five-card draw, with a button/blind system, with a betting round after the cards are dealt and after each draw. There are commonly three drawing rounds in Badugi with the showdown coming after the third draw.
In Badugi, the aim is to make the lowest hand possible, all with unique suits. Therefore the best hand in Badugi is A234, all of the different suits - such as. The unique suits are the most important part of Badugi, as a higher hand with 3 unique suits will beat a lower hand with only two unique suits. Let's look at some examples:
Even though Player 2 has the lowest hand, Player 1 has more unique suits and therefore wins the hand.
In this example, both players have three unique suits, so to determine a winner we look to see who's hand is the lowest. Player 1 has a J96 of different suits, whereas Player 2 has a 974 of different suits. Note that we only look at the lowest card of each unique suit, rather than the whole hand to determine the winner.
Popular Poker Variants: FAQ
We've collected and answered the most common questions about the most popular poker variants.
What are community card poker variants?
Community card poker variants are poker games where there are cards dealt in the middle of the table that every player can use to make their best five-card poker hand.
What makes the Omaha poker variant different from the Texas Holdem poker variant?
There are two main differences between Omaha and Texas Hold'em, the first difference is that players are dealt four cards at the start of the hand rather than two, and the second difference is that players must use two cards from their hand and three from the board when the hand goes to showdown.
Can you change your cards in stud or community card poker variants?
The only poker variants where you can change your hole cards are the draw poker variants. Therefore you cannot change your cards in stud or community card poker.
How many betting rounds are there in the five-card draw poker variant?
The number of betting rounds in a five-card draw game depends on the number of draws in the game. If it is a single draw there are two betting rounds, one before the draw and one after. If it is a triple draw there are four betting rounds, one after the hand is dealt, and one after each of the draws.
What makes the queen poker variant different from the seven-card stud poker variant?
Follow the queen is different from standard seven-card stud as it uses wild card rules to make the game more interesting. Each queen is a wild card if it's dealt face-up, a queen needs to be dealt face-up for a face-down queen to be wild, finally, any card following a queen will also be wild.
Which poker variants are worth playing?
Any poker variant you enjoy playing is worth playing as enjoyment should be your main goal. However, the most popular variants are Hold'em and Omaha both live and online on sites such as 888 and Party Poker. Pokerstars does offer a wider range of mixed games so there is money to be made in all games.
There are a variety of different poker variants, all with their own interesting strategic differences. Not only are they a lot of fun to learn, playing other variants can help with your understanding of the main game you play.