Popular poker variants and the differences between them
We’ve all heard about Texas Hold’em, which is the dominant version of poker that emerged during the boom in the early 2000s, but it’s not the only one. There are other versions that exist and some of them can even be professionally. Variants of poker (Wiki) can be summed up into an acronym: HOSE, HORSE or CHORSE.
- C – Chowaha or Crazy Pineapple
- H – Texas Hold’em
- O – Omaha
- R – Razz
- S – 7 Card Stud
- E – 7 Card Stud Eight or Better
The most popular games are Texas Hold’em, Omaha and 7 Card Stud, the games that create the HOSE acronym. For all practical purposes, we can limit ourselves to these games and their sub-variants.
Not much needs to be said about Texas Hold’em as it’s the one and only mainstream poker game. We’ll just explain that it’s usually played as a No Limit game, often abbreviated as NLHE, as that’s when this particular game behaves the best and is most exciting. Pot Limit and Limit variations also exist, and in them the bets are limited by an arbitrary amount or by the pot size.
Texas Hold’em is notable among other variants of poker as a game in which maniacs can do well. It’s a game of wild aggression, bluffs, all-ins when compared to, say, Omaha.
Omaha is the second most-popular variant of poker, and unlike Texas Hold’em, it’s predominantly played as a Pot Limit game. Playing it as a No Limit game takes all the strategy away from it, so this variation isn’t popular at all.
In Omaha, each player is dealt not 2 but 4 cards, and that makes all the difference.
Suddenly the number of starting hand combinations rises 100-fold, and the game becomes all about the nuts full house. In Texas Hold’em, full house is a rare premium hand, and in Omaha you can lose to a nuts full house! This is a game of strategy and skill, difficult to learn, so you need a resource such as strategy guides, books even, to understand the game. Without these things you’d be nothing but small fry.
In addition to the traditional Pot Limit Omaha where the “usual” rules apply, there is also Omaha Hi-Lo 8 or Better in which you create two hands, one with the usual rules, and the other one can only have cards with face value 8 or lower. This makes for a fun game as you can lose the Hi hand but win the Lo hand – or win both!
7 Card Stud
Seven Card Stud (pictured above) used to be the poker game to play before the boom of online poker that somehow settled on Texas Hold’em as the game of choice. There are no community cards in Seven Card Stud, it’s almost always played as a Limit game, it’s slower than Hold’em and rewards good memory.
Each player gets three cards, two face-down and one face-up. You get additional face-up cards on fourth, fifth and sixth street, and a face-down card on the final, seventh street. Of your seven cards, you show the best combination of five.
The reason why it rewards good memory is that remembering the cards that were folded can give you an edge over a player who doesn’t care about them. You can play it at Pokerstars.
Finally, let’s mention Razz. It’s a game in which the goal is to have the worst possible hand, as the traditional hand rankings are turned upside down. Rules are explained in more detail here, and that’s also a link to a site where you can play Razz.
Which poker variant to choose?
It’s good to even be considering a change from Texas Hold’em, as it’s not the only choice out there.
Texas Hold’em will favor a certain type of player, and is basically mostly about reading the other player. If you aren’t able to do that, maybe a different poker variant might hide your inadequacies and promote your strengths.
Omaha is a game for the analytical mind, and there are plenty of fish as players transition from Texas Hold’em, not even understanding how Omaha is played. If you can be bothered to learn Omaha, you can make money. There are big tournaments you can play in, too.
Seven Card Stud is also a game in which you can win a big tournament, and your selection pretty much ends here. Pick one of the three games and have fun!