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7 Less Popular Poker Games You Need to Learn Now

| June 15, 2022 1:02 pm PDT
Better Than Hold'em text, deck of cards on left and right, people playing in casino

There’s more to poker than Texas Hold’em. I mean that seriously. Before hold’em, there was an amazing and diverse array of unique poker games you needed to learn. And not just know them but acquire some real playing skills.

That is if you wanted to call yourself a real poker player.

Back before the internet, the big card clubs like those you find in California dealt a plethora of card games, and casino poker rooms did much the same thing, although on a smaller scale.

In the early ‘90s, for instance, you would have been hard-pressed to find hold’em being dealt in the California card rooms. The games of choice back then were seven-card stud, five-card draw, and Omaha hi-lo.

Now, of course, hold’em is everywhere. Even James Bond chooses hold’em over baccarat these days.

And all those other poker games, the ones your dad and your uncles played in the garage on Saturday evenings? Well, you might think they’re gone, but they’re seeing renewed popularity thanks to the same phenomenon that forced them into the shadows many years ago: The internet.

You can find most of the games below with a visit to one of the best online casinos. And they’re well worth a try.

Five-Card Draw

The granddaddy of all the poker games, the five-card draw, is simple to learn and play, yet it contains the seed for all the variations you’ll find below. Played with a standard 52-card deck, players are each dealt five cards.

After a round of betting—during which any players may call, raise, or fold—the remaining players are each offered the opportunity to discard one or more cards and draw an equal number of new cards. The intention, of course, is to improve their hands. After all, players have drawn new cards, and another round of betting takes place. Again, players may call, raise, or fold during this betting.

Once all remaining players have matched whatever wagers have been made, a showdown occurs, and the player with the best hand wins the pot.

Hand Rankings (Lowest to Highest):

  • High cardUnsuited, an unpaired five-card hand with a six or higher
  • One pairA five-card hand containing a single pair of cards.
  • Two pairA five-card hand containing two pairs (the odd card is often called a “kicker”)
  • Three of a kindA a five-card hand containing three cards of equal value
  • StraightA five-card hand consisting of unsuited cards of sequential order, e.g., 3-4-5-6-7, or 9-10-J-Q-K
  • FlushA five-card hand comprised of cards of the same suit
  • Full houseA five-card hand containing three of a kind and a pair, such as 5-5-5-9-9
  • Four of a kindA five-card hand containing four cards of identical value, e.g., 7-7-7-7-2
  • Straight flushA five-card hand containing five sequential cards of the same suit
  • Royal flushA five-card hand containing the 10-J-Q-K-A all of the same suit

A five-card draw is the perfect place to start if you know nothing about poker. However, you won’t find much of it at the brick-and-mortar casinos, but you’ll have better luck finding it online.

Seven-Card Stud

Seven card stud

The OG of poker games, the seven-card stud ruled the card clubs and casino poker rooms long before Al Gore ruined everything with his fancy internet contraption.

And in truth, the seven-card stud held its own for many years on the internet. You can still find it dealt with at the best poker websites.

While the winning hands are identical to those in draw poker, how each hand is dealt differs greatly. Instead of discarding and drawing new cards, after the ante, each player is dealt two-hole cards face down, then a succession of four cards face up—a round of betting takes place after each of the up cards is dealt.

In each round of betting, the best hand (face up) starts the betting process. Each round of betting is usually limited to specific amounts and a specific number of raises.

The seventh card is dealt face down. A final round of betting takes then takes place, during which time any player may call, raise, or fold. Once all wagering is finished, the remaining players reveal their hands, and the best five-card hand is declared the winner.

Pros
  • Multiple betting rounds mean bigger pots. Players also see more than just their own cards, which inform their decisions as the game progresses.
Cons
  • Not as easy to find online or off as it once was

Razz

This poker game has been around nearly as long as seven-card stud, which makes sense because razz is nothing more than the lowball version of seven-card stud.

The game’s goal is to make the worst five-card hand of the seven cards dealt with you, with the worst being ace through five.

The cards are dealt identically to seven-card stud—two down, four up, last one down—with wagering taking place with each new card. The lowest-ranked hand initiates each round of betting.

If online live dealer games are more your jam, try your hand at blackjack or baccarat at one of our top live dealer casinos.

Pros:

  • Simple to learn
Cons:
  • Not easy to find online or off

Omaha

Four card Omaha hand

Often called Omaha Hi to differentiate it from other popular versions (Omaha hi-lo-eight or better, pot-limit Omaha, etc.), Omaha is played similarly to Texas Hold’em, with several distinct differences.

While in hold’em, each player is dealt two hold cards, Omaha players are dealt four. The community cards in Omaha are dealt identically to those of hold’em, meaning a three-card “flop” followed by a “turn” card and then the final “river” card.

As with hold’em, a round of betting starts the play pre-flop, with more rounds of wagering taking place after the flop, the turn, and the river. Players may call, raise, or fold during each wagering round. After all, the cards have been dealt, and all wagering is finished, the remaining player’s showdown, i.e., reveal their hold cards to determine who has the best hand.

Here’s the second major difference between Omaha and hold’em: In Omaha, the winning hand is comprised of three of the community cards and two of the player’s own.

  • Pros: Played virtually everywhere hold’em is dealt
  • Cons: Its similarity to hold’em can lead to some errors in judgment for players only familiar with the hold’em game

Open-Face Chinese Poker

Imagine a card game created by seven-year-olds on a Halloween sugar high. With me so far? Okay. Now imagine those kids describing their game to an adult. For kicks, let’s say the adult is from Finland and only has a one-year high school familiarity with the language the children use to describe their game.

Okay, that may not be exactly how OFC poker was created, but it nevertheless hews closely to the essence of the game’s chaotic nature of the rules and pretzel logic required for winning play.

For reasons that will soon be obvious, up to four players can play OFC Poker. Each player is dealt 13 cards in total from a standard 52-card deck. While regular Chinese poker is dealt all 13 cards at once, in OPC poker, only the first five are dealt at once, with the following eight cards being dealt one at a time.

The 13 cards are arranged in three hands, two of which contain five cards and one of which contains three. The player may arrange his cards into whichever hand he thinks will do the most good, but once the card has been placed, it cannot be moved.

Ho-kay then. Now that you know all there is to know ab—what’s that? I didn’t mention fouling? What about Fantasyland. I talked about Fantasyland, didn’t I?

Crap. Okay, fouling is when you build hands that do not conform to the above-noted legal hand structure. Your front hand (the three-card hand) must be the weakest hand. The middle hand must be stronger than the front hand and weaker than the backhand. Any hand that does not conform to that is fouled, and the entire hand is forfeited.

Legal Hand Structure
Row/Hand Strength of Hand
Front (3 cards) 3rd/Weakest hand
Middle (5 cards) 2nd/Stronger
Back (5 cards) 1st/Strongest

And Fantasyland? That’s when you have a pair of queens or better in the front hand. Provided you don’t foul out, your next hand (OFC poker is played in a series of hands, with players acquiring points for hands won—and for anything else seven-year-olds think is worth a point or two).

There are more rules because, of course, there are, but neither of us has that kind of time.

One of the pros about this game is its popularity in Russia, that country Florida Man seems to get all his best ideas from. Although it makes as much sense as that game, your crazy-but-loveable aunt made up one rainy summer day that involved monopoly money, an Uno deck, and random frames cut out of the Sunday funnies.

H.O.R.S.E.

If you’ve acquired some real experience with most of the above-noted games, then you’re ready to play H.O.R.S.E.—which stands for Hold’em, Omaha hi-li split eights or better, Razz, Seven-card stud, and seven-card stud hi-lo split-Eight or better (that last one’s a bit of a reach, wouldn’t you say?).

Each game is played for a complete circuit (the dealer button passes to each player at the table). Once the circuit is complete, the next game in the HORSE sequence is dealt with for a full circuit.

One of the pros to this it’s harder for players to dominate throughout, given the different nature of each game while the con being it requires a solid understanding of each of the five games to truly succeed.

Let It Ride Poker

Let it ride table

Unlike the poker games that pit you against other players, this casino table game has moved from the brick & mortar world into cyberspace quite easily.

While multiple players can be in the same hand, they are not playing against the other players, nor are they playing against the dealer.

Play begins with each player wagering three equal amounts (three circles labeled 1, 2, and $ are typically printed on the felt in front of each player).

Three cards are then dealt face down to each player, with the dealer receiving two cards face down.

After looking at their own cards, each player decides to either withdraw a third of their wager or “let it ride,” i.e., remain in place for the next step.

And that next step is the dealer turning over one of his hole cards. At this point, the players are again asked to withdraw a third of their total wager or let it ride.

Typical Let It Ride Poker Payouts
Hand Payout
Royal flush 1,000 to 1
Straight flush 200 to 1
Four of a kind 50 to 1
Full house 11 to 1
Flush 8 to 1
Straight 5 to 1
Three of a kind 3 to 1
Two pair 2 to 1
Pair of 10s or better 1 to 1

Once all players have finished making their decisions, the dealer’s second card is turned over, and each player makes the best hand with their own three cards and the dealer’s two.

Since all the payouts are based on multiples of the total wager remaining in front of each player (the three equal parts minus any that were withdrawn from play), the importance of letting it ride becomes quite clear.

This game is simple to learn, but even with optimal play, the house edge for Let It Ride Poker is higher (3.5%) than in blackjack or video poker.

Everything Old Is New Again

Itching to play some of these games? Check out the vetted list of online casinos below to see which options are available.

Just because nobody plays five-card draw anymore doesn’t mean it’s not an excellent game to play. Entire generations of poker players were quite satisfied with it before some of the variations noted above even existed.

Still, forcing your mind to rethink probabilities or get a different take on poker can help improve the game you usually play.

Of course, as someone once said, poker lessons are expensive. So find a safe, legit casino—preferably one that offers some of the best online poker rewards—and then pick a game, post your blind, check your cards, and play to win.

J.W. Paine
J.W. Paine

J.W. Paine is one of the most experienced writers at GamblingSites.com. He's written for television and the printed media, and is a published novelist (as Tom Elliott).

Paine loves writing about Las Vegas nearly as much he loves living here. An experienced gambler, he's especially familiar with thoroughbred horseracing, poker, blackjack, and slots.

More Posts by J.W. Contact J.W.

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