What are the Biggest Differences Between Poker Variants?

When it comes to playing poker, there are several things that might put off complete beginners. One such thing is the fact that poker comprises multiple different games. While the end goal of each remains relatively similar, the actual gameplay involved varies to the point where advantages in one game might not translate to advantages in another. Playing poker is not just down to knowing when to raise, when to fold, and how to bluff. In order to dive into poker playing, or to expand your poker skill set in order to jump up from casual player to amateur or even professional, it’s worth understanding the many different games that poker is made of. This guide will outline the basics of Texas Hold ‘Em poker, Snap poker, Omaha Hi-Lo poker, and Pai Gow, a poker variant based on the traditional Chinese dominoes game.

Source: Pexels Caption: There are many variants of poker, each with slight differences

Texas Hold ‘Em Poker

One of the most famous versions of poker to play is Texas Hold ‘Em. The game is also one of the most popular due to the simplicity of the rules, and is frequently the poker game of choice for many tournaments. Texas Hold ‘Em is known as a community card game of poker, due to the community cards that are present on the table. The basic gameplay of Texas Hold ‘Em begins with two hole cards dealt to each player individually face down. Then, the first three community cards are played face up – also known as the flop. Betting takes place after this as players can determine whether or not they feel confident with the five cards available for them to make a hand with. After this another card is played face up – the turn or fourth street. After this players have a wider range of cards to choose from and betting happens again. Finally, the last community card is dealt – known as the river or fifth street. With seven cards available, each player has to make the best hand out of five cards as possible. Most players opt to use at least one of their hole cards – but some choose to ‘play the board’, which involves playing only the community cards. This cannot win the hand, but it can tie with the other players if nobody can make a better hand than the board. Each betting round enables players to check, call, raise or fold. Texas Hold ‘Em poker is popular due to the skill required in making the best hands, but most importantly for the bluffing that can take place for each betting round.

Snap Poker

A round of Texas Hold ‘Em can last a while, especially if there are a variety of play styles and some players opt to be more aggressive than others. Some poker players find this cumbersome and instead want to play a game that is faster and requires them to think on their feet more. This game is Snap poker. The format of Snap poker is a fast-fold one, which means there is no waiting for the round to end once you’ve folded. Instead, you are literally dealt new cards immediately to play again. This is due to the Player’s Pool you are entered into when you begin playing, which reseats you at a new table when you’ve had to fold. The game helps hone poker skills by eliminating time that might be spent waiting around for the game to finish and enables players to get in the most amount of practice possible. Developed by 888poker, Snap poker also features a series of poker promotions which offer both online and mobile play for those wanting a quick game of poker. Snap poker retains the features of poker which players choose to play for while also eliminating the aspects that might be a deterrent. Players can continue to watch the hand play out if they wish, but most opt to continue their own gameplay by finding another table and having another attempt to win.

Source: Pexels Caption: Some poker variants offer less probability of getting a winning hand.

Omaha Hold ‘Em Poker

Omaha Hi-Lo and Omaha Hold ‘Em are other popular poker formats, with slightly different rules to Texas Hold ‘Em. The game is a community card game like Texas Hold ‘Em, but players are dealt four cards instead of two. Then, they must make up a five-card poker hand using at least two of these hole cards and whatever of the five community cards they need. The game has an added degree of difficulty as the range of cards available to be chosen is smaller. Based on Omaha Hold ‘Em’s version of the rules of poker, there are other variants, such as five-card Omaha played across the south-eastern US and six-card Omaha played primarily in the UK. Omaha Hold ‘Em also forms the basis of Courchevel, where players are dealt five hole cards instead of four, making the odds of getting a more usable hand slightly better. The difficulty level of Omaha Hold ‘Em is why it is often chosen against Texas Hold ‘Em, especially when the game features no pot limit. Omaha Hold ‘Em also offers the chance to flop with no hand yet come away with a draw better than some of the made hands, which offers a degree of volatility and unpredictability that hardcore poker players love and invest in. A strategy is definitely needed before embarking on a less casual game of Omaha Hold ‘Em.

Pai Gow Poker

Pai Gow is not a Chinese variant of poker, but in itself a complex game that has been played for a vast number of years. The game was spawned from the Chinese game of Pai Gow, which features Chinese dominoes. In 1985, Sam Torosian adapted the game to become a variant of poker, and it has seen great popularity ever since. Pai Gow poker involves players being dealt seven cards and attempting to beat the bank and their opponents with two poker hands – one of five cards and one of two. The five cards must outrank the two cards. Two-card hands are more difficult to attain as only a pair and high cards are able to make up the hand. Five-card hands correspond to traditional poker five-card hands. The game is traditionally played with six players and if a seat is left empty, the cards are still dealt, creating what is known as a dragon hand. Pai Gow poker is a popular one for those players who want to use their entire poker skill set in order to win.

There are many barriers to someone playing poker, but not understanding the various variants of the game should never be one of them. Each variant of poker depends on the player’s skill level, how brave they are feeling, and how much of a difficult poker experience they want. Depending on whether they want the quickest of games to test their ability to make up hands, or want to take part in some long-form bluffing and reading as per a poker tournament, there is a variant of the game that would suit them. Practice playing poker can be gained through online play or even by playing at home with friends, which can allow players to test the variants they prefer.  

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