Written by Leah Formosa

Updated on August 25, 2023

Poker Variants

There are hundreds of poker variants to choose from, catering to players of all skill levels and preferences. From classic Texas Hold’em to the more niche Razz and Triple Draw, online poker sites offer a smorgasbord of choices that bring the excitement of the casino right to players’ screens. But it’s not just about replicating the traditional experience. Online poker has innovated with fast-paced games like Zoom Poker and unique jackpot-style tournaments such as Spin & Gos. With so many poker variants to choose from, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer variety. But worry not! Here at PlatinPlay, the team has pooled its collective knowledge of poker to bring you the definitive guide to poker playing and poker variants. Let’s jump right in so you can discover which games resonate with your playing style and preferences!

The History of Poker Variations  

Even though it is one of the most popular casino games today, we know surprisingly little about the origins of poker. There are several theories that indicate a “poker” style game was played in 9th-century China. What we know for sure is that this card game evolved and was adopted by different civilisations over hundreds of years. 

By the 19th century, poker had journeyed from its ancient or European origins to firmly root itself in the American cultural landscape. As pioneers moved westward during the American expansion, they carried with them this strategic card game, spreading it throughout the frontier settlements and saloons. The simplicity of poker, requiring just a deck of cards and an understanding of the hand rankings, made it easily adaptable and appealing to a wide audience. 

During the Civil War era, poker saw a notable surge in popularity. Soldiers played the game during their downtime, helping them momentarily escape the brutal realities of war. This period also marked the introduction of the draw and stud variations, adding layers of complexity to the game. 

As the years passed, more innovations and variations of poker emerged, each adding unique twists and rules. Games like Seven-Card Stud and Texas Hold’em would, in time, become household names. Tournaments, initially held in smoky saloons, evolved into grand events with substantial prizes, further fuelling the game’s popularity. 

By the 20th century, poker wasn’t just a pastime. As brick-and-mortar casinos opened their doors, poker went through a meteoric rise in both the United States and the rest of the world. Televised tournaments and online platforms in the late 20th and early 21st centuries brought poker to even more people, cementing poker’s reputation as a globally beloved card game. 

Today, the digital age has transformed the way we play poker – making it infinitely more accessible through real money online casinos and live poker websites

There are hundreds of poker variants to choose from, but a couple of stand-out titles are considered classics and remain popular for their simple (not necessarily easy!) gameplay. Let’s take a look.  

Texas Hold’em 

Widely regarded as the most popular poker game globally, Texas Hold’em involves each player getting dealt two private cards (hole cards) and then five community cards, laid out in stages on the board. Players then use the best five-card combination to make their hand. Texas Hold’em’s simple rules and deep strategy layers make it a favourite for online platforms and advanced players who opt to multi-table during their gaming sessions. Its universal appeal means a constant stream of players, ensuring that online tables are always active. 

No-Limit Texas Hold’em 

No-Limit Texas Hold’em is the most common format in major tournaments and online play. This variant allows players to bet any amount of their chips at any time. This can lead to large pots and strategic bluffing, making it thrilling for both players and spectators. 

Pot-Limit Texas Hold’em 

In Pot-Limit Texas Hold’em, players can bet any amount, as long as it does not exceed the size of the current pot. This restricts the betting to a certain extent, making the game more strategic and nuanced. We would recommend this variant for more experienced players who have a good grasp of basic Texas Hold’em strategy and experience playing this variant.  

Fixed-Limit Texas Hold’em 

In this variant, the betting amounts are predetermined. Fixed-Limit Texas Hold’em requires patience and precision, making it popular among mathematical and strategic thinkers who prefer not to rely on bluffing as their key playing strategy.  

Omaha and Omaha Hi/Lo 

Omaha is similar to Texas Hold’em, but each player receives four-hole cards, of which they must use exactly two, combined with three of the five community cards. Omaha Hi/Lo, also known as Omaha 8, divides the pot between the best high hand and the best qualifying low hand (five different cards 8 or below).  

Online platforms often feature Pot-Limit Omaha (PLO) due to its large pots and dynamic gameplay. Omaha Hi/Lo, given its dual-pot nature, draws players who enjoy a complex strategic landscape. Due to its setup, this poker variant is best suited for intermediate to advanced players.  

Seven-Card Stud and Razz 

Before the rise of Texas Hold’em, Seven-Card Stud was the most played poker variant. Players receive three starting cards, two hidden and one shown. Through subsequent rounds, they receive four more face-up cards. Players then use five of their seven cards to form the best hand. Razz is the lowball version of Seven-Card Stud. The aim is to get the worst or lowest five-card hand instead of the best. 

While less prevalent than Omaha and Texas Hold’em, several online platforms still offer Seven-Card Stud given its popularity in the past.  

Razz is an off-shoot Seven-Card Stud poker variant. Instead of aiming for the highest-ranking hand, the objective in Razz is to secure the lowest possible five-card hand from the seven cards dealt to each player. Given its distinct departure from typical poker norms, Razz offers seasoned players a refreshing challenge, and many online platforms include it in mixed-game tournaments to introduce variety and test a player’s ability across multiple poker variants. 

Six-Plus Hold’em (Short Deck) 

Six-Plus Hold’em, often called Short Deck, is a Texas Hold’em variant played with a stripped-down deck. All cards below a six are removed, leaving a 36-card deck. Because of this, the hand rankings change slightly. For example, a flush beats a full house and a set beats a straight. The reduced deck size in Short Deck increases action, leading to larger pots and more frequent big hands. This action-packed nature makes it a rising favourite on many online platforms, especially in high-stakes settings. We recommend this variant to intermediate poker players with a medium-high bankroll. 

Fast-Paced Variants 

The poker landscape has evolved over the years, adapting to the faster-paced demands of the modern player. These rapid variations not only offer an adrenaline-pumping experience but also allow players to engage in more hands within a shorter period, optimising their gameplay sessions. Let’s look at some examples. 

Zoom or Fast-Fold Poker 

Zoom or Fast-Fold Poker completely revolutionised the traditional poker tempo. As soon as a player folds their hand, they’re instantly whisked away and seated at a new table with new opponents and dealt a fresh hand. There’s no waiting around for others to complete their actions. This continuous action means players can face hundreds of hands every hour. It requires crazy-quick decision making and adaptability. The game’s dynamic nature ensures that players are always engaged and challenges them to think on their feet. 

Spin & Go or Jackpot Sit & Go 

Spin & Go or Jackpot Sit & Go tournaments are hyper-turbo events that blend speed with the potential for enormous payouts. These three-player tournaments have a randomised prize pool, which can offer winnings up to 1,000 times the buy-in. Once the prize pool is determined, the fast-paced action begins. Players start with a small stack, and blinds increase rapidly, meaning games conclude quickly. The allure here is twofold: the sheer speed of the game combined with the chance of hitting a substantial jackpot. This format demands aggressive play, strategic risks, and the ability to adjust rapidly to the unique challenges each game presents. 

Specialty and Mixed Types of Poker 

In the vast world of poker, some games stand out not just for their popularity but for their distinctive mix of rules, strategies, and histories. While the mainstream poker audience is familiar with popular games like Texas Hold’em or Omaha, there are speciality and mixed games that offer unique challenges and require players to master multiple forms of poker simultaneously. Meanwhile, other speciality types of pokers offer a nostalgic return to the poker of the past.  

Horse Poker

HORSE Poker is a composite poker game that rotates through five distinct variants, testing a player’s skill across multiple styles. The name “HORSE” is an acronym representing the order of the games: “H” for Texas Hold’em, “O” for Omaha Hi/Lo, “R” for Razz (a Seven-Card Stud low game), “S” for Seven-Card Stud, and “E” for Eight or Better (Seven-Card Stud Hi/Lo). The game’s rotation requires players to be highly knowledgeable and versatile in their play, as each variant has unique rules and strategies. 

8-Game Poker

8-Game Poker is a mixed-game format that combines eight different poker variants, offering players one of the best poker skill challenges out there. The games rotate in a specific sequence, as follows: 

  • 1. Limit 2-7 Triple Draw Lowball 
  • 2. Limit Texas Hold’em 
  • 3. Limit Omaha Hi/Lo 
  • 4. Limit Razz 
  • 5. Limit Seven-Card Stud  
  • 6. Limit Seven-Card Stud Hi/Lo 
  • 7. No Limit Texas Hold’em 
  • 8. Pot Limit Omaha. 

Since it is similar to HORSE poker, players must be familiar with and experienced in various strategies and rules. 

Five-Card Draw Poker 

Five-card draw poker is one of the simplest and oldest forms of poker, often portrayed in classic Western films (think The Cincinnati Kid!). Each player starts with five private cards. After the initial round of betting, players can exchange any or all of their cards for new ones from the deck, aiming to improve their hands. This is followed by yet another round of betting. The player with the best hand at showdown wins. Its straightforward mechanics make it an ideal starting point for poker newcomers looking for a more niche variant like the popular Texas Hold’em. 

Triple Draw Lowball Poker 

Triple Draw Lowball Poker, specifically 2-7 Triple Draw, is a variant where the goal is to have the lowest five-card hand. Players receive five private cards, followed by a betting round. Players can then choose to draw or replace any or all of their cards. This drawing process happens three times, which is why the variant is titled Triple Draw. The 2-7 means the best possible hand is 2-3-4-5-7 without a flush. Straights and flushes count against a player, and aces are always high, making it a game of intricate strategy and bluffing. 

Heads-Up Poker 

Heads-Up Poker refers to a game format where two players face off directly, as opposed to the usual multi-player table setup. This one-on-one battle intensifies the psychological aspect of poker since each player must continually adjust to the single opponent’s strategies and tendencies. The game can be played using various poker variants like Texas Hold’em or Omaha, but the primary focus remains on individual tactics, reading the opponent, and exploiting weaknesses to be successful.  

Poker Tournament Formats 

Poker tournaments have been a staple of the game for decades, providing players with an opportunity to test their skills against others, aiming for top placements and significant prize pools. The evolution of online poker has further diversified the types of tournament structures available at live casinos. Here’s a breakdown of some popular formats: 

Multi-Table Tournaments (MTTs) 

MTTs are large-scale tournaments that begin at a scheduled time, accommodating several participants across multiple tables. As players are eliminated, tables merge, keeping them full. The goal is to be the last player standing. MTTs typically have tiered payouts, rewarding the top 10-15% of finishers, with the largest prizes reserved for the final table, especially the top three spots. They require patience and strategic adjustments as the field narrows and blind levels increase. 

Sit and Go Tournaments (SNGs) 

SNGs start as soon as a predetermined number of players have registered, making them ideal for those who don’t want to commit to the longer duration of MTTs. They typically involve a single table, though some platforms do offer multi-table SNGs. Payouts usually go to the top two or three finishers. SNGs require players to adopt a balanced strategy, adjusting to the rapidly increasing blinds and the short-handed nature of play. 

Bounty Tournaments 

Bounty tournaments add an exciting twist: a portion of each player’s buy-in is set as a bounty. When a player eliminates another, they claim that player’s bounty as an immediate cash prize, regardless of their final placement in the tournament. This format encourages more aggressive play since there’s a direct financial incentive for knockouts. Some tournaments offer progressive bounties, where a player’s bounty increases each time they eliminate someone. 

How to Choose The Right Type of Poker for You 

Are you a poker newbie? Or a masterful veteran of this much-loved game? Either way, you need to be mindful of what type of poker you play, where you choose to play online, and how you choose to play. 

The Right Poker Variant 

Your initial choice of poker variant should align with your learning goals and comfort level. If you’re entirely new to poker, games like Five-Card Draw or Texas Hold’em are often recommended due to their straightforward rules and widespread popularity. They provide a solid foundation upon which you can expand to more complex games. For those looking for a multifaceted challenge right out of the gate, mixed games like HORSE or 8-Game Poker might be more suitable. 

The Right Poker Platform 

It’s crucial to pick a reputable online casino platform. Here at PlatinPlay, we help you do just that – simply browse our site for recommendations of the best UK gambling sites, all of which are trustworthy platforms with UK Gambling Commission Licensing. Once you’ve chosen where to play, start with lower stakes, especially if you’re a beginner. Low-stake games reduce financial pressure, allowing you to focus on learning and enjoying the game. As your skill and confidence grow, you can then explore higher stakes or tournament play. 

Responsible Gaming And Security 

Poker is as much about discipline as it is about strategy. Set a budget for your gaming activities and stick to it. If you’re playing online, make sure that the platform uses robust encryption to protect your personal and financial data. Always be wary of sharing personal information and remember to regularly update your passwords. Most importantly, be conscious of the time and money you spend. Recognise when to take breaks and avoid chasing losses. Finally, if you ever feel your play is getting out of hand, make use of the available responsible gaming tools like deposit and loss limits. You can also reach out for professional help and support. A responsible approach to poker not only safeguards your well-being but also enhances your enjoyment and appreciation of the game. 

Poker Variations FAQ

Hundreds! Poker is a versatile card game with tonnes of variations. It’s challenging to pinpoint an exact number due to regional and home-game variations that constantly evolve. However, some of the most well-known versions include Texas Hold’em, Omaha, Seven-Card Stud, Razz, and Five-Card Draw, among others. 

The best type of poker largely depends on individual preferences. Texas Hold’em, particularly the No-Limit variant, is the most popular globally, especially in tournaments. Many consider it a perfect balance of strategy, luck, and skill. Omaha offers more complex hand combinations, while Seven-Card Stud demands a different kind of attention and strategy. Some prefer Razz or other lowball games for their unique challenges. Ultimately, the best type of poker is subjective and varies from player to player based on their skills, enjoyment, and the challenges they seek in a game. 

The easiest type of poker to win often depends on the experience and familiarity of the player with the specific poker variant they’re playing. For example, beginners might find Five-Card Draw simpler due to its straightforward mechanics. However, it’s essential to note that consistently winning at any poker variant requires understanding strategy, player tendencies, and the nuances of that specific game. The easiest game might also be the one with the least skilled opponents, regardless of the variant. 

Easy variations of poker suitable for beginners include games like Five-Card Draw, where players receive five cards and can exchange some or all, Texas Hold’em, the most popular variant, where players are dealt two private cards and combine them with five community cards, and Seven-Card Stud, where players get seven cards (three face-down and four face-up) to form their best hand. 

While certainly up for debate – the most advanced variation of poker is often considered to be Pot-Limit Omaha (PLO). PLO requires players to use exactly two out of their four-hole cards in combination with three out of the five community cards, leading to more possible hand combinations and complex strategies. The game’s dynamics, combined with the pot-limit betting structure, make it challenging to master, demanding a deep understanding of odds, opponent tendencies, and intricate betting strategies. 

The most popular variations of online poker include Texas Hold’em, Pot-Limit Omaha, Seven-Card Stud, and Omaha Hi/Lo. Texas Hold’em, particularly No-Limit dominates online poker rooms due to its widespread appeal and representation in major tournaments. 

HORSE poker is a mixed-game format combining five distinct poker variants played in rotation. The acronym stands for Holdem (Texas Hold’em), Omaha Hi/Lo (or Omaha Eight or Better), Razz (Seven-Card Stud low), Seven-Card Stud, and Eight or Better (Seven-Card Stud Hi/Lo).  

Variance in poker can be explained as the ups and downs in a player’s winnings due to luck. Even good players lose at times because of bad luck with cards or unexpected moves by others. Over only a few games, results can be wildly unpredictable, showing variance.