Poker: The World’s Most Diverse Game

You might not know it, but poker is one of the oldest games on the planet that can trace its roots back to 16th century Persia. However, it wasn’t until the 19th century that the game that we all know and love today was born – Texas Hold ‘Em.

Over the past 150 years that variant has taken the world by storm, but it is not all that poker has to offer. There are plenty of unique poker games available to play either online or in glitzy and glamorous casinos.

In this article we cast our eye farther than Texas Hold ‘Em, exploring the diversity that poker offers to players through its numerous variants.

The 3 Most Popular Alternatives To Texas Hold ‘Em

Draw Poker: If you were to turn on your TV and tune into any old Western, you wouldn’t have to wait long to see a poker scene. The game is synonymous with this era and as such is often portrayed in films focusing on the period.

The game played in most of these scenes though is draw poker and not Texas Hold ‘Em, as it was the most popular variant in the American Frontier. In this form of the game, players are dealt their entire hand before the first betting round.

Then, as the game progresses players are given the opportunity to improve their hands by drawing or replacing cards. A range of betting structures can be used in draw poker, but commonly there is no onus on players to bet on every hand.

Nowadays draw poker is perhaps mostly played in home games, but it can also be found in a number of land-based casinos.

Stud Poker: In this poker variant players are dealt a mixture of face up and face down cards and was traditionally played with four or five cards. However, nowadays the most popular variant is ‘seven-card stud’.

Games can e be played with short, limited rounds or no-limit betting rounds suited to longer play. Face down cards are often referred to as ‘hole cards’ which is where the popular phrase ‘an ace in the hole’ comes from.

Listen to Daniel Negreanu as he explains how to play seven card stud

Irish Poker: Texas Hold ‘Em is a community card variant in that all players share the cards at the centre of the table. Another variant of community card poker is Irish poker, where players are dealt four cards before the flop before then being forced to discard two cards.

Irish poker lends itself to quick play and as such is usually played informally, amongst friends.

Weird and Wonderful Variants

Texas Hold ‘Em is feted as the ultimate poker variant because of its complexity and the permutations that each hand can throw up. However, not everyone that wants to play poker has the time or attention span to commit to a four-hour card session.

As such, a number of fast-paced games have been developed to cater for casual players, some of the most common types you might find are;

Razz: This variant of seven card stud traces its roots back to the beginning of the 20th century, just after 52 card decks became popularised. Where Razz differs from other forms of seven card stud is that the winner is decided by who has the worst possible hand.

In this variant, the best hand to end up on is ace-2-3-4-5 which can take some getting used to.

Omaha: The most well known of the non-Texas Hold ‘Em variants, Omaha is a great game for players with a good grasp of probabilities. In this variant, players are dealt four cards face down along with a maximum of five community cards.

Players must then make the best possible hand with two of their own cards and three of the community cards. There are a range of different versions of Omaha but the two most popular that are played by the pros are pot-limit and hi-lo.

Follow The Queen: If you think that classic games of poker aren’t complicated enough you might enjoy the chaos of this variant. The game is played in much the same way as seven-card stud, but what makes the game chaotic is the presence of wild cards.

Traditionally a queen is always a wild and can be used to represent any card that a player needs, however in some variants the wild changes on a hand-by-hand basis making the game extra chaotic and hard to follow.

Summing Up

There are literally hundreds of poker variants that you can play depending on your mood, budget or time constraints – far too many to cover in one article alone. This is because of the era in which poker rose to prominence.

Back in the 19th century when cowboys were playing draw poker and Texas Hold ‘Em, there was no fast and reliable way of relaying information from person to person. As a result, poker shifted and changed as it was passed on by word of mouth, like a real-life example of Chinese Whispers.

Every time the game moved from state-to-state and from country-to-country rules were added or removed, leading to a kaleidoscope of variants. This abundance of choice is what makes poker one of the most diverse and fun games on the planet. Which variant will you choose?