Different Poker Games

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The Many Faces of Poker

The card game of poker has many variations, most of which were created in the United States in the mid-1900s. The standard order of play applies to most of these games, but to fully specify a poker game requires details about which hand values are used, the number of betting rounds, and exactly what cards are dealt and what other actions are taken between rounds.

The category of card games known as “Poker” has a complex family tree. Its branches include hundreds of variations. Its roots sprawl out from the very first decks of cards invented in early 12th-century China, to Britain’s medieval version of Hazard, Germany’s Pochen, and Italy’s Basset and Brelan.

Most of these early games were characterised by “action rounds” of betting. In the late 17th century, one such game known as Poque was extremely popular in France for socializing as well as gambling. It was played with just 20 cards, the A-K-Q-J-10 of four suits—Spades, Hearts, Diamonds and Clubs.

To play a round, four players would each be dealt five cards. The top hand was four Aces, followed in descending order by four Kings with an Ace and any other four of a kind, and then a full house comprised of three of a kind and a pair. After that came triplets, two pair, and one pair.

Poque emigrated to the Louisiana Territory of North America in the 1800s, where it became known as Poker. Americans modified the game to include more players by using the so-called “Latin deck” of 52 cards in four suits. They also added the flush (five cards of the same suit) and the straight (a sequential run of five cards) to the ranks of winning combinations just below a full house.

Sometime before the end of the 19th century, one other innovation was introduced to Poker—the “Draw.” Allowing players to discard some of their cards and draw fresh replacements greatly improved the game. Not only could players attempt to increase the value of their hand, but an extra round of betting was also made popular.

About the same time as the draw became popular, a rule called “jackpots” was introduced, requiring a player to hold a pair of Jacks or better in order to open the betting. This change reduced the amount of bluffing and made Poker more acceptable as a social game.

Since then, Poker has taken many forms, most of which were developed in the United States during the mid-20th century. They fall into two broad categories—Draw and Stud. The latter, which is sometimes called “Open Poker,” derives from the original game in which only the cards dealt initially are put into play, without any discards or replacements.

Currently the most widespread versions of Stud Poker involve “community cards” shared by all players, such as Texas Hold’em and Omaha Hi-Lo. Following are some of the most popular versions now played:

Stud Poker Variations

  • Five-card Stud – Five cards dealt to each player, the first card down (hole card) and the others up, with betting intervals between the deals of the up cards.
  • Seven-card Stud – Like five-card stud, but with two hole cards.
  • Lowball – Five-card stud with the lowest hand winning.
  • Hi-Lo Split – Five- or seven-card stud with the lowest hand and highest hand splitting the pot.
  • Deuces Wild – Any of the above games played with ability to use deuces (2s) as substitutes for any other card
  • Baseball – Seven-card stud, with all 9s wild, as are all 3s in the hole.
  • Texas Hold’em – Like Seven-card Stud, with two hole cards for each player, but five shared community cards dealt to the center of the table in groups of three, one, and one, with betting intervals between. Blinds are posted by two players (Big and Small), in lieu of antes.
  • Omaha – Like Texas Hold’em, but four hole cards are dealt to each player, two of which must be used in the winning hand.
  • Omaha Hi-Lo – Same as Omaha, but the highest and lowest hands split the pot.
  • Razz – The lowball version of Seven-card Stud.
  • Cincinnati – Five cards dealt face down to each player and five communal cards in the center of the table, which are turned up one by one with betting intervals between; best five-card hand out of ten cards wins.
  • Criss-Cross – Like Cincinnati, but the communal cards are placed in the form of a cross, and the center card, which is turned up last, becomes the wild card for all hands.
  • H.O.R.S.E – Poker played in five rounds, typically at tournaments, consisting of Texas Hold’em (H), Omaha (O), Razz (R), Seven-card Stud (S), and Seven-card Stud Eights or Better (E).

Draw Poker Variations

  • Five-card Draw – Five cards are dealt to each player, followed by a round of betting, discards and replacements, and a final betting round; highest hand wins.
  • Jacks or Better – The most common version of Five-card Draw, also known as “Cowboy Poker,” in which a player’s hand must contain at least a pair of Jacks to open the betting.
  • Trips to Win – Same as Jacks or Better, but no player can win the pot without at least a set of triplets or higher. If there is no eligible winner, only players that have not dropped out are eligible to continue play until the pot is claimed.
  • Tens or Better – Same as Jacks or Better, but a pair of tens is the minimum opener.
  • Jacks or Better Progressive –Same as Jacks or Better, but if no player can open, the hand is tossed in and redealt, whereupon a pair of Queens or Better is needed to open, then Kings, Aces, three deuces, etc.
  • Twist or Tittle – Like Stud Poker, but each player is given the opportunity to buy an additional card.
  • Lowball or California Lowball – Same as Five-card Draw, but the lowest hand wins.
  • Kansas City Lowball – Same as Lowball, but Aces can only count as high cards. Split – Same as Five-card Draw, but the highest and lowest hands split the pot
  • Wild Cards – Any of the above games played with ability to use deuces (2s), or 7s, or One-Eyed Jacks, or an inserted Joker as substitutes for any other card.

Most other variations are considered “party games,” although many are employed for private gambling. They include Pass the Trash, Spit in the Ocean, Jacks Back, Butcher Boy, Put and Take, Red and Black, Indian (2-card poker), Guts (3-card poker), Mexican Stud, Australian Poker, South African Poker, Shotgun, Tiger, Seven Toed Pete, Passout, Down the River, Malaysian Stud, 8-card Stud, English Poker, Blind and Straddle, Bet or Drop, etc.

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