There are so many variations of poker it would be impossible to list them all. Between different “house rules” of traditional games and games found only in certain regions, poker is the most varied single card game in the world.
So what is poker? The word poker can refer to any card game in which a set number of players make bets into a group “pot”. The player with the highest ranking set of cards at each game’s end takes the money, and play starts over again.
There are four basic actions in poker:
- Check — this is a bet of zero used to indicate that you are still in a game but do not wish to add money to the bet
- Bet — a bet of money (greater than the bets that came before it) that the other poker players have to match or exceed otherwise they are out of the hand
- Call — this is a bet equal to a bet that came before it. A “call” is intended to keep you in the game.
- Fold — To “fold” is to surrender in a game of poker. When you fold, you lose any money you’ve wagered and you lose your part in the game and all your cards.
Almost all games of poker use a standard 52-card deck with four suits. The “joker” or “wild card” may be a part of a game of poker, depending on the game you’re playing. In poker games, the ace is usually the high card, but in some variations the Ace is the low card.
Once all bets have been made, the winner is determined by the order of hands. The order of winning hands in poker is:
- Royal flush
- Straight flush
- Four of a kind
- Full house
- Three of a kind
- Two pair
- One pair
- Highest card
(You can find more information about “official rules” for what beats what in poker here.)
Popular Variations of Poker
The most popular poker games are Stud, Draw, Omaha, and Hold ’em. The rules vary just a little between each game, as described below.
This is a poker game where each player gets some number of cards either face-down or face-up, the number varying from game to game. There are multiple betting rounds as with most poker games. Since some cards are dealt face down and known only to individual players, they are called “hole cards”. This concept applies to many poker variants.
The simplest poker game, draw poker is when each player gets dealt their entire hand before the first betting round. The object is to build a better hand round by round by drawing new cards.
A variation of the popular Texas Hold ’em, Omaha is a game where each player is dealt four cards and tries to form the best hand using exactly two of his cards and three of the five community cards.
Texas Hold ’em
Texas holdem is the most strategically interesting and currently most popular poker game — in Texas Hold ’em, players must antes to get two face down cards. These cards are hidden until the final showdown of poker hands. After the first two cards are dealt, there is a round of betting. Then three community cards are turned over at the same time, known as “the flop”. There’s another round of betting before the fourth community card is exposed, this is called “the turn card”. There is one more round of betting, and “the river” (the fifth community card) is dealt. Another round of betting takes place until a decision is made.
There are many different kinds of poker games with many different names. Here is a short list to show the variety of poker games found around the world:
Criss Cross — A “Hold ’em” style game with five community cards arranged in a ‘criss cross’ formation. You can use either the row or the column to finish your hand but not both.
Double Cross — This is a variation of Criss Cross with a sixth card standing alone, sometimes called the “spit card”. You can use this card as part of your hand along with either the row or the column of criss cross cards.
Rocky — In Rocky Poker there are five community cards dealt face down to compliment each player’s five hole cards. The cards are turned first in twos, then the final three all at once, with rounds of betting between.
Take Away — Like “Hold ’em” on steroids, this is a poker game where you end up with ten cards to make a hand from . . . and then have cards taken away one by one, reducing your solid hand to nothing.
Bug House — Each player is dealt a five card hand and six cards are laid out in a grid. Players don’t have to use any of the cards in the grid to win.
Big Top — Big Top refers to the card setup — a three card row at the top supported by a two card row at the bottom. You must select two cards from your five card hand, two from the “big top” and one from the small top to make a winning hand.
Spider — A gimmicky poker setup where players use three cards from their five card hand and any two cards in a “row” on the “spider” — cards set up in an x formation.
2 handed Omaha — This is like Omaha but players take control of two hands at once.
Good, Bad and Ugly — Players are each dealt two cards down and one card up with three face-down community cards in the center. As each of the three community cards are flipped, different identities are triggered which change the value of your hole cards. Rounds of betting accompany the flipping.
Commissary Poker — A version of seven card stud where players are dealt two cards and have to “buy” their next five cards from the community cards shown three at a time.
Options — An alternate name for Commissary Poker.
Super Buy — Another of the ‘buy poker’ series of games where you must choose which of two cards to “buy” per flop.
7 Card Spit — This is just seven card stud with an extra community card “spit” option thrown in to make betting more interesting. The “spit” card can come up at any time.
Piles — Players start with a five card hand. One by one, three piles of five cards are revealed, one pile of which players must choose to build their hand with.
River in the Middle — You start with a five card hand. Three four card rows are dealt in the middle. Build your hand with two cards from your hand, and two from the top or bottom or one from the middle, the “river”.
Pineapple — Players are dealt two cards Before the turn card is dealt, after the first bet, a player must discard one of their hole cards face down.
Crazy Pineapple — A variation of Pineapple in which three cards are dealt and two must be discarded before the turn card is dealt.
Lazy Pineapple — Another Pineapple variation in which players are dealt two cards and must either discard one of their cards before the turn card is dealt or pick the community “spit” card to build their hand.
Push — Five cards are dealt to each player. Each player gets dealt two extra cards to build their hand with, face down, and must decide to keep or pass the card. The best hand out of seven cards is the winner.
Four Corners — Three hole cards are dealt to each player. A 3×3 grid of community cards is revealed, corners first, and players must pick two cards from any straight line to build their hand based only on the cards revealed at the corners.
You can play online poker and learn a lot faster if you’re new to the game.