The basic rules of poker are not at all difficult, and hand ranking is pretty much the same across all variants. However, each poker type comes with some particular rules of its own, and moving from one game to another might cause confusion among those not familiar with the differences. We’ve listed below the most popular poker games which you’re likely to find in a poker room, along with the basics you need to know before placing your chips on the table for the very first time.
This is probably the most popular and most played poker variant today. The game starts with each player being dealt two cards, called Hole cards. Following the first betting round, the dealer reveals 3 community cards which are called the Flop. You, as well as each of your opponents, can use these cards in combination with your own to produce the highest ranking hand possible. After the second betting round has taken place, the 4th community card (the Turn) will be dealt face up in the centre of the table. The next betting round takes place, and then the dealer deals the 5th and final community card called the River. Having gone through the final betting round, it’s Showdown time. Remaining players reveal their cards, and the best hand, composed of 2 Hole cards and 3 of the community cards, wins.
Online Omaha is a variant of Hold’em, with the main difference being that in this game each player starts with four Hole cards instead of two. It plays in the same way as described above, only imposes an additional rule which might slip you mind if you’ve just switched from Texas Hold’em to Omaha. The rule in question is that your five-card hand has to be made by using only two (no more and no less) of your Hole cards, in combination with (any) three community cards. When playing this variant for the first time, it’s easy to get carried away by the sight of 3 Aces in your hand plus an additional one among the community cards. This does not mean you’ve got a valuable Four-of-a-Kind combination, as you’re not allowed to use more than two of your own cards. But don’t worry, the longer you play, the lesser is the chance you’ll make this kind of mistake.
This game variant is actually a predecessor of Texas Hold’em, even if the latter today boasts a much bigger following. It starts with the dealer giving each player two cards face down (Hole cards), and then one card face up. The player with the lowest upcard starts the betting. If two or more should have upcards of the same rank, the first to go is determined by suit, which is one of the rare examples when suits have any bearing in a poker game. Once the first betting round (called Third street) is complete, the dealer will deal each player a second upcard and the next round of betting (Fourth street) starts. The action continues in the same way with the third, fourth and fifth upcards dealt to each player, until you all hold total of seven. Once the final betting round is over, there is a Showdown. Remaining players will show their cards and the best hand, composed out of five cards among each player’s seven, wins.
You’ll often see a Hi-Lo variant of the game, which instead of awarding the pot entirely to the highest ranking hand, splits it equally between the lowest hand and the highest hand. There is an additional condition for the lowest hand to qualify: all cards must be different, meaning there are no pairs, and none can be higher than an 8.
If it should happen that none of the hands meet this condition, the entire pot will go to the player with the highest ranking hand. It’s also possible that same player wins both, as different cards can be used to complete each of these combinations.
With the basic rules explained above, and having previously learned about the rankings and actions you can take during each of the betting rounds, you’re more than ready to give any of these games a go. Online poker generally tends to be faster than that played in a land-based casino, but don’t get discouraged by how quickly the other, more experienced players, act. You will have a limited time to make your move and don’t hesitate to use all of it if needed. As you become more experienced yourself, you’ll be able to react faster. At the beginning it’s important to get familiar with how the game plays and think through your decisions before calling, betting, raising or folding.
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