Today, when someone asks if you play poker, they generally mean Texas Hold ‘Em – a game that’s become increasingly popular over the past decade thanks to the World Series of Poker and movies like “Rounders.”
But there are many versions and variations of poker, the main types being stud, draw and community card games. At “friendly” tables, the dealer often has the choice of deciding the type of game. More structured tournaments usually specify the format from the get-go.
Below are a few of the most popular versions of poker that you may encounter at your weekly dealer’s-choice poker game. If you don’t know these, you’ll be at a disadvantage when something wild (like FOLLOW THE QUEEN!) is called.
Before we dive in to the specific games, there are a few terms every player (and prospective player) needs to know:
- Ante – the minimum amount you must gamble to get into the action of the game.
- Blinds – money (generally in chip form) put on the table before the cards are dealt; there are typically two blinds (called the “small” and the “big”) and ensure money is being wagered with each hand; blinds rotate from player to player with each new deal.
- Call – when a new wager has been placed, a “call” indicates that player’s willingness to match the raised amount.
- Check – if no new wager has been made and the player doesn’t wish to raise, they may “check”.
- Raise – the player wishes to increase the table bet.
For a more complete list of poker terms, check out Wikipedia’s glossary of poker terms.
In “stud” games, players are dealt a number of cards (typically 5 or 7) and must use those original cards to make their best hand.
In “draw” games, the players may decide to trade in some of their cards (generally up to 3) in an effort to improve their hand.
In “community card” games, the players are dealt “hole cards” face down (cards that are uniquely theirs) then play off the community cards to make their best hand. What makes them “community cards?” The other players at the table also may play off them.
Played in the World Series of Poker, Texas Hold ‘Em is easily the most popular poker game in America today. In Texas Hold ‘Em, players are dealt two “pocket” or “hole cards” then wait for 5 community cards to be revealed. Betting takes place in four rounds: once after the hole cards are dealt, once after the first three community cards are revealed (referred to as “the flop”), once after the fourth community card is revealed (“the turn”) and lastly after the fifth community card is flipped (“the river”). Players must make their best hands with any combination of 5 cards (their hole cards and the communal).
Omaha is another type of Hold ‘Em that can be played by 2-10 players at a time. Like Texas Hold ‘Em, there are four rounds of betting, but unlike that version, each player is dealt four hole cards and the five community cards are immediately revealed. Players must make their best 5-card hands from two of their hole cards and three of the common.
In 7-Card Stud, each player is dealt 7 cards, three down and four up. Players must make best possible 5-card hand from their 7.
Each player is dealt 5 cards, but on the initial go around, the player may choose to trade in up to 3 of them.
This stud game can be played for the highest hand or the lowest. In High Chicago, the player with the highest spade face-down wins half the pot. In Low Chicago, the player with the lowest spade face-down wins half the pot. The other half of the pot is won by the player with the best hand. If someone, however, has the best hand and the winning spade (high or low, depending on version), that player will win the entire pot. This game can be added to, and played simultaneously with, many other poker variations.
This is a 7-card stud poker game in which the wild card is designated to be the next exposed card after a queen is flipped. If no queens are flipped, there are no wild cards that hand.
And keep in mind there are almost infinite ways to win at poker, and many rules are malleable. It is important to know the specific guidelines of the game you’re in…
For example, be sure to know:
- If a high hand or low hand wins in your game (some games offer hi/low, in which the high hand and the low hand split the pot).
- If an Ace is high or low.
- If there are wild cards.
- If there is a pot limit (how much money can be wagered on any single hand).
- If the deck is a typical 52 or some other amalgamation (for example, a “royal deck” uses two decks but only cards 9-A, which results in a deck of 48).
At Clearwater Casino Resort, one of the top Seattle casino resorts, we offer 3-card poker on the floor as well as regular poker games and tournaments in our Poker Room where we pay out more than $50,000 in tournament cash every month!