Variations in Poker

It seems nowadays that everyone is playing Texas Holdem. Still, there are big differences among poker variations.  Texas Holdem may be the fad of the day but it is not the only poker game in town!  There are just a few variations in online poker but there are many more in Friday Night Poker!

How We Look at Poker

At Juicy Stakes Poker, we look at poker as the quintessential gambling game.  Unlike slots which are a pure game of chance, poker involves both chance and skill in perfect harmony.  And unlike blackjack which is by now a pretty open book strategically, the human factor in poker makes it both an open book and a closed book.

That is the big challenge in poker.  It is a lot more important to learn the complex ins and outs of all of the many poker variations than to learn the boring ins and outs of the rake calculator here at Juicy Stakes Poker!

To Ante or Not to Ante

In Texas Holdem, only two players put money in the pot at the start.  They are the big blind and the small blind.  In the first betting round, everyone has to at least call the big blind to continue playing.  This means that on most hands, most of the players can fold at no cost. 

This is a lot more significant than we might think.  The simple fact that a player can fold at no cost means that there is a very great incentive to fold!  It also means that any player who bets before the small blind is either betting with good cards or is bluffing.  This is a yes or no situation.

If the small blind calls the big blind, it might be to protect her “investment” but for all other players before the blinds, there is no investment.  Thus a bet indicates either a good hand or a bluff from the get go.

Playing with Friends

There is also a lot of Texas Holdem in friendly weekend games but there are also many other variations.  In most other poker games, everyone puts in an ante.  This gives players an incentive to stay in the pot.  First, they are defending their financial investment in the hand and, secondly, there may be more money in the pot at the start than in Texas Holdem, all depending on the size of the blinds versus the size of the ante.

Positional Play

In Texas Holdem, it is much easier to fold a poor hand, especially in poor position.  In a game in which everyone antes, there is less strategic element to out of position betting.  Also, as a general rule, if friends are playing for low stakes, most of the time people don’t pay attention to position as long as the bets that make their way around the table are not too big for the cards you hold.

Games with Community Cards

This is the essential element in Texas Holdem: we know all of the cards and we share them except for the hole cards.  The entire game revolves around trying to figure out what the player who is still betting has in the hole.  Is she bluffing or does she have the better cards?

It is mystery enough to have only two of seven cards hidden from view. 

Games with Some Open Cards

All of the stud variations fall into this category.  We can play five card stud in which we may see two cards and three are hidden or seven card stud in which we see four cards and three are hidden.

The stud variations are quite difficult to figure out.  You have to look closely at everyone’s cards to see what they might have and if one of them has one of your “outs”.  If you can see even one of your outs, it might mean that the chances of your winning the hand are quite slim especially if several players stay in throughout the hand.

Games with No Open Cards

Draw poker is the game most given to bluffing.  That’s because your opponents never see any of your cards.  However, the number of cards you draw will tell everyone at the table some important hints about what you have.  In most draw variations, players can draw up to three cards and four if they show their ace.

In video poker, in contrast, players can discard all five of their cards and hope for the best.

If a player draws three cards, as is most common, they either have a pair or nothing.  Thy might hit a great hand on the draw and that is the great challenge in these games.  A studious player might be able to see what the opponents have by simply studying their actions over time. 

This is true in all poker variations but it is even more important in draw poker.

Poker with Wild Cards

There are so many variations in which one, two, or even three cards are wild.  When you play poker with wild cards, you really have to know how the existence of a wild card or wild cards affects the probability of a hand occurring.  Four of a kind is a lot more common in games with a wild card and two or three wild cards make five of a kind and even six of a kind not rare.

A high pair in a game with a wild card is a very poor hand!

In friendly games, the dealer calls the game.  If you aren’t familiar with any given variation, you absolutely have to ask for all of the rules that are unique to that game.

High-Low Poker

These are poker variants that award half the pot to the winner of the high hand and half to the winner of the low hand.  In most cases, players have to declare before the showdown if they are playing for the low hand or the high hand.  In seven card high-low poker, a player can declare that he or she is playing for both the high hand and the low hand.

In these variants, the table rules are very important and you should make sure that you and everyone else at the table know all of the rules before they play the hand.

In high-low poker, you can only win half the pot most of the time.  This makes the size of the pot important in a different way than it is in only high games.  High-low poker also gives everyone a very strong incentive to stay in the hand even if someone bets quite high.  After all, you might win the low even if you think that you can’t win the high or vice versa.

The Future of Poker Variations

In tournament play, there is already some push to include several variations of poker so everyone has to become expert in more than just Texas Holdem or Omaha.  In friendly games with pals, there may be wild variations. Since the dealer calls the game, you might play a different variation on every hand.  It becomes important to know how likely it is for you to get the card or cards you need to win the hand and, especially in games with wild cards, if it is even possible to win the hand in the latter stages of betting.

Poker will remain the most popular gambling card game for the very foreseeable future.  It combines luck and skill in perfect harmony! 

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