Poker's transformation over the last few decades has been rapid. After a brief decline in the 80s, it was a global phenomenon by the millennium, thanks to the advent of online poker and the notorious skills of an American accountant called Chris Moneymaker – the first person to win the World Series of Poker (in 2003) after qualifying for a seat via an online poker site.
A boom in popularity, thanks to the advent of online-poker, has led to a wealth of poker games' resurgence. Stud poker no longer rules with an iron-fist, Texas Hold'em and Badugi poker have earned a piece of the action too.
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Types of Online Poker
If you join an online gaming site today, you'll find more poker variants than ever before, as well as the option to play either video poker - with animations and computer graphics - or live dealer, which will feature a video stream of a real, remote professional 'live' dealer and table.
The majority of traditional poker games all follow the same basic premise:
"All forms of poker involve a single deck of 52 cards, and the aim of the game is to win the pot by virtue of having the best five-card hand or by betting enough to force your opponent to fold before a showdown."
Three Basic Betting Structures
Poker games come in a whole range of variants, which tend to follow one of three basic betting structures: fixed limit, pot limit or no limit.
- Fixed Limit Games | player can only choose whether to bet or not – but the amount is fixed
- No-Limit Games | the minimum bet is the size of the big blind, while there's no limit on the maximum bet – it's simply the total amount of all your chips
- Pot Limit Games | the size of the maximum bet is determined by the size of the pot
Most Popular Poker Variants
When it comes to popularity, Texas Hold'em sits atop the list but Omaha and Stud certainly have their own massive followings. It seems when it comes to poker games, popularity and fandom come with regional and gameplay preference with a majority of people finding Texas Hold'em satisfying those desires.
- Texas Hold'em | At the start of a game of Texas Hold'em, each player is dealt two cards face-down. A round of betting takes place, before three community cards (cards face-up in the middle of the table) are dealt. Another round of betting then takes place before a fourth (turn) and five (river) card are dealt. At each stage of the game, the action only proceeds if there is more than one player in the pot. Any time a player forces everyone else out, they win the pot. However, if at least two players make it to the river, they must expose their two 'hole cards' and the player with the best five-card hand (using either one or two of their cards) scoops the pot.
- Omaha | The only difference between Omaha and Texas Hold'em poker is that you're dealt four hole cards instead of two. The game is otherwise more or less the same – there are betting rounds before the flop, on the flop, turn and river, apart from one key difference – you have to use two of your hole cards to complete a ranked five-card hand. For example, if there were four Diamonds on the board and you had only one Diamond in your hand, you wouldn't have a flush in Omaha (but you would in Hold'em).
- Stud | In Stud Poker (either five or seven card), you're dealt three starting cards, two of which will be face-down while the other is face-up. Instead of having forced antes (blinds) that move round the table in a clockwise fashion, a round of stud is initiated by the 'bring-in'. This bet is a fraction of the main bet and is required of the player with the lowest-value face-up card. As an alternative to community cards, stud players are dealt individual cards face-up (the final card is dealt face-down). If more than one person survives to the river, a showdown takes place and the best five card hand wins.
- Draw | Unlike Texas Hold'em or Omaha, draw poker doesn't involve any community cards and the action takes place before and after the draw. Each player starts off with five hole cards and if they like their hand, they must either call (match the size of the big blind i.e. $2 in a $1/$2 game) or raise. If they don't like their hand they can fold (unless they are in the blind). After this round, the game moves onto the draw, where players can replace any of the cards in their hand by drawing new cards from the deck. At this point everyone left in the hand has the option of folding, calling or raising before a showdown takes place.
Once you've familiarised yourself with the various forms of poker available online, it's helpful to get to grips with the nuances of the medium. Online poker is a much faster way to play the game, and you'll find the following user-friendly features when you ante-up at our recommended online poker sites:
- Auto Buy-In and Top-Ups | If you don't want to manually top up your stack in a cash game, a poker site's software will do it for you.
- Hand Replayers | To recap the last few hands you've played, you can use the hand replayer to build up a better image of your opponents.
- Hot Keys and Quick Bets | Instead of clicking your mouse, you can use your keyboard to adjust and place bets.
- Run It Twice | In games with a lot of variation, such as Omaha, you can choose to deal the turn and river twice and play for half the pot each time if you're all-in and heads-up.
- Auto Muck | If you don't want to reveal your hand at a showdown (unless necessary) you can choose to automatically muck it.
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