Poker, a card game rich in strategy and intrigue, comes in many variations, each with its own set of rules and unique gameplay. From the high-stakes world of Texas Hold’em to the swift action of Five-Card Draw, understanding the different rules of each game is crucial for any player looking to succeed. This article explores the diverse rules of popular poker games and highlights their main differences.


1. Texas Hold’em

Texas Hold’em is perhaps the most popular poker variant worldwide, especially featured in the World Series of Poker. Players receive two private cards (‘hole cards’) and use up to five community cards to make the best five-card hand. Betting occurs in four rounds: after the hole cards, the flop (first three community cards), the turn (fourth card), and the river (fifth card). The key to mastering Texas Hold’em is understanding the importance of position and knowing when to hold or fold.

2. Omaha

Omaha is similar to Texas Hold’em but with a significant twist: players are dealt four hole cards and must use exactly two of them, along with three of the five community cards, to make their hand. This game typically produces stronger hands more frequently due to the increased number of hole cards. Omaha often uses a pot-limit betting structure, where the maximum bet is the size of the pot.

3. Seven-Card Stud

Before the rise of Texas Hold’em, Seven-Card Stud was the go-to poker game. There are no community cards in this game. Each player receives seven cards throughout the deal—three down cards and four up cards. Players must make the best possible five-card hand from their seven. Seven-Card Stud requires a good memory and the ability to read opponents’ hands based on the visible up cards.

4. Five-Card Draw

One of the simplest forms of poker, Five-Card Draw starts with players being dealt five private cards. There is an initial betting round, followed by a chance to discard up to three cards (four if the player keeps an ace) and receive the same number from the deck. A second round of betting follows before a showdown. Five-Card Draw is less about the cards you are dealt and more about the strategy of playing against opponents’ reactions and bets.

5. Razz

Razz is a form of stud poker but is played for the lowest hand rather than the highest. The game follows a similar structure to Seven-Card Stud in terms of the deal and betting rounds. However, the goal is to make the lowest possible hand from the seven cards you are dealt, with aces being low and straights and flushes ignored. This game challenges players to think differently about hand rankings and strategy.

6. Omaha Hi-Lo

Omaha Hi-Lo, or Omaha Eight or Better (Omaha/8), is a variant of Omaha in which the pot is split between the highest and lowest hands. To qualify as a low hand, the hand must be an eight-low or better. Understanding how to balance the strategy for both high and low hands is critical in this game.

7. Horse

HORSE is a mixed game that combines five different poker games: Hold’em, Omaha Hi-Lo, Razz, Seven-Card Stud, and Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo Eight or Better (Stud/8). The game switches among these variants; players must adjust their strategies accordingly. HORSE is typically played at high-stakes live games and major tournaments to challenge the versatility and skill of participants.


The main differences in poker rules across various games include:

  • Number of cards dealt: From two in Texas Hold’em to seven in Stud games.
  • Community cards presence: Some games use them, while others don’t.
  • High vs. Low hand rankings: Some games reward the highest hand, others the lowest, and some both.
  • Betting structure: This can range from no-limit to pot-limit to fixed-limit.
  • Understanding these rules and how they change the dynamics of each game is essential for any poker player’s success. Whether you’re sitting down to a casual game or entering a tournament, a solid grasp of these diverse games enhances your strategic depth and enjoyment of the poker experience.

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