Over the years there has been a multitude of different poker games come and go, but only three could be said to have truly stood the test of time. In the online poker market, you’ll be hard pushed to find Five-card draw being offered anywhere but the largest rooms with huge player bases – leaving just Texas Hold’em and Omaha as the only two truly widespread and popular forms of poker played online.
All of the main poker variants that have enjoyed extreme popularity over the years can be roughly divided into three types:
- Draw Poker: Each player is dealt a complete hand face-down at the start of each hand, then set about trying to improve their eventual holdings by opting to hold or replace cards during several rounds of betting. The most well-known game is undoubtedly the Five-card draw, but the Asian variant Badugi has also been seeing some limited growth in recent years.
- Stud Poker: Players receive a mixture of face-up and face-down cards at the beginning of the hand, and receive further cards after each round of bets has been made. This form of poker is still quite well-liked in the USA, especially at private games, but attempts to introduce its most popular variant Seven-card stud to the online poker world have been largely unsuccessful.
- Community Card Poker: In these games, players will be dealt a number of “pocket” cards face down at the start of the hand – two or four being the most common numbers, but six and even eight are used in some variants. A number of “community” cards are then dealt face up onto the table, which can be combined with the player's pocket cards to complete a full five-card poker hand. Each round of betting is followed by the addition of one or more additional community cards to the “board” – the name given to the current collection of community cards.
Whereas in Stud, each player can be certain of a selection of the holdings of each other player, community card games instead tell you only what possibilities each player COULD be beholding by analyzing their betting patterns, and when they choose to check, raise or fold. This introduces far more drama to the table but doesn’t completely explain how Texas Hold’em came to rise to its dominant position given that it trailed long behind Stud for several decades.
A large amount of strategy is required to play both Stud and Community Card types of poker at a high level. Perhaps one area where community card games manage to pull ahead in terms of popularity is by simultaneously providing more information to every player seated at the table, whilst also making it impossible to say anything with certainty about what each particular player’s five-card hand could genuinely turn out to be.
The shift began sometime around the 1970s but accelerated rapidly during the 1990s – right around the time that hole card cameras allowed poker to become a spectator sport, which, combined with the advent of online poker, fueled a poker boom like nothing that had ever been seen before. Today, millions tune in each year to watch the best players in the world battle it out at the World Series of Poker.
Bluffing is a major part of the game of poker, and community card games provide the most possible scope for bluffing your opponents. You might receive the best possible pocket cards prior to the first round of betting, make a large bet and then find that the next cards to be dealt with have devastating consequences for your chances of winning the hand.
Texas Hold’em is an easy game to learn but an extremely difficult one to master, making it an ideal way to learn how to play poker. Omaha Hold’em is even more strategy intense – don’t be fooled into thinking you simply receive four-hole cards instead of two. Whereas in Texas Hold’em you can use any of the seven cards available to form your hand, in Omaha, you MUST use two of your hole cards and three of the community cards to form a five-card poker hand.
Will another game arrive to dethrone Texas and Omaha anytime soon? History would certainly suggest so, but with more people playing poker today than ever before, it could be that these games are nowhere to stay.