Poker games, looked at simply as a card game rather than a social phenomenon, has three main varieties. “Draw poker” is the simplest version of the game; the more complex “stud poker” was the most popular form for a long time; and “hold ‘em” poker, usually called Texas Hold ‘em, is the version that most casinos and poker rooms offer today.
These basic categories have a number of differences, but they also have a number of similarities. To begin with, poker is always played with a standard deck of 52 cards, without the jokers. In many variations of poker, the players pass a “dealer puck” clockwise around the table, so that every player gets a turn as dealer. And in all poker games, the bets are placed with poker chips. All of this is just the bare bones of getting started. As you play the game, you’ll find that, no matter what variety of poker you’re playing, there are other, more important similarities.
In poker, whether you are playing a 5 card or 7 card varieties, the point of the game is to form a 5 card combination in your hand that outranks those of the other players. At various points in a hand of poker, you can place bets, receive additional cards, or discard and replace cards. At the end of the hand, the player with the strongest hand wins the money in the pot.
All of that is obvious. Most people know that much about poker. But what about the basic rules of the different variations? This is where poker can get confusing. It shouldn’t, though. Let’s take a look at the main varieties of poker.
In draw poker, every player is dealt a full hand, face down, at the start of the game. Once you have your hand, make sure that no one else can see it, and take a look at your cards. Use what you see to place your initial bet. After the first round of betting, players can choose to discard and replace some of their hand; this is the “draw.” When the draw is complete, there is a second round of betting, after which the player with the best hand wins the pot.
Stud poker is different. In stud games, each player gets one or two “hole cards,” face down, to start, after which the rest of his hand is dealt face up, for everyone to see. The dealing is interspersed with several rounds of betting, giving stud players a chance to watch their opponents, and to study the other hands on the table. After the final card is dealt, the players have the last round of betting and then the “showdown,” to determine the winner.
Hold ‘em Poker
Hold ‘em poker is similar to the stud games. Seven cards are dealt, with each player getting two hole cards. The remaining five cards, however, are the “flop,” a communal hand in the center of the table. Players must use at least one hole card to form a winning hand with the cards in the flop. Because hold ‘em players form most of their hand from the communal cards, they “know” what most of their opponents “hold.” This gives the players much more of a chance to bluff and strategize during the game. Hold ‘em poker has been called the “thinking man’s poker” because of this.
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