Game Play

How to play some of the different poker games available


Texas Hold’em (usually shortened to just Hold’em) is the most popular poker game. It can be played Limit, Pot Limit or No Limit, with somewhat different strategies for each. Texas Hold’em is a community card game where players are each dealt two cards while sharing five common cards. The player who stays in the pot until the end and combines their cards with the community ones to make the best five card hand wins, unless no one calls in which case the only remaining hand wins.

Omaha is a community card game similar to Texas Hold’em, Omaha players get four personal cards and share five community cards. Omaha players must use two cards from their held card and three from the exposed community cards. Most often played eight-or-better high-low split, Omaha is also played high only and also can be played Limit, Pot Limit or (rarely) No Limit. All games are played with forced bets known as “blinds,” both a small and big blind. The small blind is usually approximately half the minimum bet of the round and the big blind is equal to the minimum bet of the round. These games also have a “Dealer Button” that travels clockwise around the table to determine which player receives the first card and which player is last to take action.

Stud Poker has many versions. Seven Card Stud is the most popular version played in casinos; however, Seven Card Stud High-Low is becoming more popular. Stud High-Low with an eight or better qualifier is the most common form of High-Low Stud in casinos. Five Card Stud is rarely played in casinos. Seven Card Stud is played with two down (hidden) cards and four face up (exposed) cards followed by a final down card.

What beats what?
Here’s a quick reference for winning hands from highest to lowest

Royal flush. A, K, Q, J, 10, all the same suit
Straight flush. Five cards in a sequence, all in the same suit
Four of a kind. All four cards of the same rank
Full house. Three of a kind with a pair
Flush. Five cards are the same suite
Straight. Five cards in a sequence
Three of a kind.
Two pair
One pair
High card

7 Card Stud is unlike the flop games of Hold’em and Omaha in that each player holds his or her own unique hand, and although several cards are exposed from each hand, there are no “community cards” shared by all.

The most important thing to remember as you learn this stud game is that (unless you fold before the last cards) you ultimately get 7 cards to pick from to make your final 5 card hand, and you don’t have to use any specific ones of the 7 you’re dealt, just whichever 5 give you the best hand. Learning 7 card stud strategy can be tricky, but we’ve laid out the basics of the game below to give you a good start.

Once the cards are shuffled, all players must ante. Antes are “dead money,” meaning they go immediately into the pot: any bets you make will be in addition to the antes. Starting with the player on the dealer’s left and moving around the table clockwise, every player receives two cards face down (all cards face down are known as as down cards or hole cards), followed by one card face up (this card is known as the door card, or window card. All cards face up are collectively known as up cards or show cards).

The player with the lowest-value door card is the one required to “bring it in.” Here’s what you need to discern the losing player for the bring in:

All cards are worth face value and face cards are valued from worst to best: Jack, Queen, King.
Aces are high for the bring in, which means they rank higher than a king.
If two players have the same value low card, suits are used to determine the loser.
Stud uses poker-suit ordering, alphabetic from worst to best: clubs, diamonds, hearts, spades.
The player required to bring in has two choices: 1. They can either bring in by making a bet equal to the size of the ante, or 2. they can complete the bet to the full amount of the small bet.

The player to the left of the bring in is next to act.

Play moves clockwise around the table one player at a time. A betting round ends when two conditions are met:

All players have had a chance to act.
All players who haven’t folded have bet the same amount of money for the round.
Once the first betting round has completed, each player receives one card face up.

In this betting round, and every betting round to follow, the first player to act is decided by the value of the show cards. The player with the highest value show cards acts first. The value of show cards are ranked in the same order as poker hands.

Suit ranks are used in the event of a tie for the highest-ranked show cards. When evaluating rank by suit, the value of the hand is determined by the suit of the highest ranking card. That person acts first. They have the option to check or bet the small betting limit.

The action moves from that player clockwise around the table one player at a time. Each player has the option to Check, Call, Bet/Raise or Fold.

At the completion of fourth street, each remaining player receives another card face up, starting with the first live player to his or her left, moving clockwise around the table.

Once all the cards have been dealt, the betting round starts the same way fourth street started. The player with the best show cards bets first.

In this betting round, players bet using the big betting limit.

Sixth street is identical to fifth street. Every player receives one card face up, and the highest valued show cards bets first.

Sixth street betting uses the big betting limit.

When the sixth street betting round is complete, each player receives the final card face down.

The player with the highest-ranked show cards in the previous betting round is the first to act in this betting round as well.

The final betting round uses the big betting limit.

Once the final betting round has been completed, the players still in the hand enter into the showdown. In the showdown, each player makes the best five card poker hand possible out of their own seven cards.

Fourth Street Open Pair: If a player pairs up their door card on fourth street (giving them a pair as the winning high hand for fourth street), the player has the option of checking, betting the small limit or betting the big limit.

If the player chooses to check, the next player to act inherits the same options (meaning they can check, or bet either the small or big limit).

If a player chooses to bet the larger betting limit, all bets and raises in that betting round must be in the big betting limit unit. For example in a $10-$20 limit poker game, if a player is dealt a pair on fourth street, they can bet $10 or $20.

Capping the Bet: In any one betting round while there are three or more players still in the hand, there can only be one bet and three raises. Once the third raise has been made, the betting is “capped,” meaning all future action in that betting round is restricted to calling or folding.

Running Out of Cards: If you are playing with eight people, it is not possible for the dealer to give every player a full 7 cards, since there are only 52 cards in the deck.

If you ever get to the point where all eight players are in the hand until seventh street, instead of dealing every player one card, you must deal a single card face up in the middle of the table. This card is used as a community card (like in Hold’em or Omaha). Every player shares that card as the seventh card of their hand.