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Poker Games: the most popular games & variants to play

The term poker covers the family of card games where players place bets over which hand is the best according to that game's rules. There are dozens of poker games and variants out there, and you can play some of the most popular poker games online at PartyPoker in cash and tournament formats. Keep reading to discover more about the different poker games you can enjoy.

Texas Hold'em

Texas Hold'em is by far the most popular poker game globally. The initial simplicity attracts players in droves, but Texas Hold'em is highly complex once you delve deeper into its inner workings. The skill element of creating winning poker strategies combined with the action-inducing luck factor makes Texas Hold'em the game of choice for millions worldwide.

The late poker legend and former PartyPoker Chairman, Mike Sexton, once said of Texas Hold'em, that "it takes a minute to learn but a lifetime to master." Ten-time WSOP bracelet winner Doyle "Texas Dolly" Brunson refers to Hold'em as "the Cadillac of poker."

It is no surprise that all of the marquee poker tournaments feature Texas Hold'em. The World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event, the World Poker Tour (WPT), and PartyPoker's very own MILLIONS series all feature Hold'em Main Events.

The aim of Texas Hold'em is to either win at showdown with the best five-card poker hand or force your opponents to fold before the showdown, thus winning the pot because you are the only active player in the hand.

No-Limit Texas Hold'em

Texas Hold'em cash games, sit & go tournaments (SNG), and multi-table tournaments (MTT) come with three betting structures. No-Limit Hold'em, often abbreviated to NLHE or NLH, is most Hold'em games' format.

No-Limit Hold'em gives players the ultimate in flexibility regarding how much, or how little, they want to bet. As long as the minimum bet is placed, players can bet any amount they wish, including their entire stacks, known as moving all-in. 

Betting any amount you wish helps create large pots and drives the action.

Pot-Limit Texas Hold'em

Pot-Limit Hold'em is less popular than it once was, but it is still relatively widely played. Pot-Limit Hold'em was the game of choice for parts of Europe, notably the United Kingdom, until No-Limit Texas Hold'em became mainstream.

The rules and structure of Pot-Limit Hold'em are the same as other Hold'em formats, but the game uses a Pot-Limit betting structure, which means the largest bet you can make is governed by the pot size in front of you.

Fixed Limit Texas Hold'em

Fixed Limit Hold'em is rarely played in the online poker world these days due to the popularity of the No-Limit format. It is more commonly found in live poker rooms in the United States. Fixed Limit refers to the game's betting rules; your bets are limited to predefined sizes that the blinds dictate.

Many of today's No-Limit Hold'em stars cut their poker teeth in the Fixed Limit Hold'em world.

Omaha

Omaha Hold'em, or simply Omaha, is second in popularity only to Texas Hold'em. The rules are strikingly similar to Texas Hold'em but have two notable differences. First, Omaha players receive four hole cards instead of the two they are dealt in Texas Hold'em. Second, Omaha players must use precisely two of their hole cards, combined with three of the five community cards, to make the best five-card poker hand.

These rule variations and additional hole cards create more action than any other poker game. There is more variance in Omaha games than in Texas Hold'em because hand equities run closer, and the pots tend to be larger. Omaha is often referred to as a drawing game because it is common to have a draw to a straight or flush due to the increased number of possible starting hands.

Pot-Limit Omaha

Pot-Limit Omaha, or PLO as it is usually abbreviated, is the most common way to play Omaha poker. Check the PartyPoker cash game and tournament lobbies for Omaha poker, and PLO has the most players and traffic by far. That trend continues into the live poker arena, too.

PLO is a hugely exciting game, one that is packed to the rafters with action, where pots quickly grow massive and where big hands are the order of the day. Because of this, the game is not for the fainthearted, and it is suggested you have a larger bankroll than you would use for playing No-Limit Hold'em.

Pot-Limit Omaha Hi-Lo

Pot-Limit Omaha Hi-Lo, or Pot-Limit Omaha Hi-Lo 8 or Better to give the game its full title, is a split-pot variant of PLO. Abbreviated to PLO8, you can win part of the pot for having the best five-card poker hand and part for having the worst possible hand that does not contain a pair, which is no stronger than eight-high!

PLO8 is an entertaining game, and the split-pot format takes some of the sting out of the variance Omaha naturally generates.

Short Deck or 6+ Hold'em

Short Deck Hold'em, or 6+ Hold'em is rapidly gaining popularity, particularly in Asian countries where it is the game of choice for high-stakes specialists in Macau. Short Deck derives its name from playing with a deck of cards that is stripped of deuces through fives, resulting in a 36-card deck rather than the full 52-card deck.

The reduced deck alters the hand rankings slightly. For example, a flush is stronger than a full house in the PartyPoker Short Deck games. Some live venues consider three-of-a-kind stronger than a straight, but that is not the case online at PartyPoker.

Aces play as high or low in Short Deck, with the A-6-7-8-9 is the lowest straight and T-J-Q-K-Q being the highest. The same rules apply to flushes and straight flushes.

Another significant difference between Short Deck and traditional Texas Hold'em is the betting structure. Most Short Deck games are played as no limit. However, there is no small or big blind because everyone instead pays an ante before receiving their hole cards. The ante-only system leads to more multi-way, larger pots.

Seven Card Stud

Seven Card Stud is available at PartyPoker, although it generally only appears in tournament format during major festivals. Once the most popular game on the planet, Seven Card Stud's popularity has declined since the emergence of Texas Hold'em.

Almost always played with a fixed-limit betting structure, Seven Card Stud sees each player dealt two face-down and one face-up card. Players can eventually receive up to seven cards, hence the name, with four facing up and three facing down, with the river card always dealt face-down.

The aim is to make the best five-card poker hand from your seven cards; hand rankings are identical to Texas Hold'em and Omaha.

Seven Card Stud is an excellent game for improving memory because you see so many face-up cards. It is also brilliant to bluff in Stud games because you can easily represent much more substantial holdings than you have!

There is a split-pot variant of Seven Card Stud, which, like Omaha's version, is called Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo, or Stud 8.

Other poker games not currently online available at PartyPoker

The following games can sometimes be found in poker rooms and casinos but are not currently available to play online at PartyPoker. Just because they are not here now does not mean they will never appear, so make sure you familiarise yourself with them!

Razz

Razz is a variant of Seven Card Stud that mirrors it in every aspect, but the aim is to hold the worst possible hand at showdown! Flushes and straights do not count in Razz, while aces are always low. This results in 5-4-3-2-A being the best possible hand in Razz. The second best would be 6-4-3-2-A, and so on.

Mixed Games

Mixed games are precisely what they sound like: two or more poker games played in rotation. Mixed Games are popular in tournament format at major live festivals, such as the World Series of Poker. They are often seen as the most challenging games because players must learn several games and formats to succeed.

H.O.R.S.E.

H.O.R.S.E. is one of the original mixed games and one that is still relatively popular today. Played with a fixed limit betting structure, H.O.R.S.E. players start with a round of Hold'em before play switches to Omaha Hi, Razz, Seven Card Stud, and Omaha Hi-Lo.

Hold'em/Omaha

Hold'em/Omaha can be played as a fixed limit or a mixture of No-Limit Hold'em and Pot-Limit Omaha. This variant should not need any explanation if you have gotten this far down this article!

Play switches between two games after a predetermined number of hands. A number of hands are used instead of time to stop players from stalling during the game they are weakest.

8-Game

Eight-game, or 8-Game, is the ultimate test of a poker player's overall knowledge and skill and is the format used in the coveted Poker Players Championship at the WSOP. 8-Game starts with 2-7 Triple Draw before playing a round of Limit Hold'em, Limit Omaha Hi-Lo, Razz, Seven Card Stud, Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo, No-Limit Hold'em, and finally Pot-Limit Omaha! It is a crazy game, to say the least.

Dealer's Choice

You are in for a treat if you thought 8-Game was pure madness because Dealer's Choice's craziness is off the scale. Dealer's Choice sees players take turns to choose from one of at least 20, yes 20, poker games! Those games are played for a set number of hands before another game is selected, although the next player can opt to continue playing the same game.

Knowing which games your opponents are strong or weak in is vital information for a Dealer's Choice player, as is learning at least the basics of almost every known poker variant!

Draw Games

Draw games are often seen as the purest form of poker and are often the games players grew up with around the kitchen table. Although not as popular as they once were, draw games continue to have a presence at large-scale live poker festivals.

5-Card Draw

Five-card Draw features blinds and antes like other games, but each player receives five face-down hole cards. There is a betting round before the remaining active players can discard one to five of their cards and receive new cards; they can also "stand pat" if they are happy with their holding. Another betting round takes place, and another draw takes place before the hands go to showdown.

The winner is the player with the best five-card poker hand, using the same rankings as Texas Hold'em, Omaha, and Stud Hi.

2-7 Single Draw and Triple Draw

Deuce-to-seven slowball draw is another draw game aiming to make the worst possible hand. Aces are high, plus straights and flushes count against your hand, making a royal flush the weakest possible holding. The best 2-7 hand is 7-5-4-3-2.

Both 2-7 single and triple draw tend to be played with a no-limit betting structure. The game uses blinds and antes, and the action is similar to 5-Card draw. Deuce-to-Seven Single Draw sees only one chance to draw new cards, whereas Triple Draw features three chances to discard your holdings.