While Texas Hold’em is the most popular form of poker in the world, it is not the only game out there. Most pros will admit that playing Texas Hold’em for a living can get boring after a while. Also, the games have gotten tougher thanks to the massive amount of information out there on Hold’em. This is why some pros have taken up other poker variants and use them as additional revenue streams.
Whether you’re looking for something to break the monotony of Texas Hold’em or are looking for a game that gives you a greater edge over amateurs, check out our alternatives to Texas Hold’em below.
PL Omaha / Omaha Hi-Lo
When Texas Hold’em players are ready to graduate to another game, Omaha poker tends to be the right candidate. The primary reason is that it is very similar to Texas Hold’em but with one or two major differences.
At the start of each hand, players are dealt four hole cards instead of two. Also, in Omaha Poker, players must make the best five card hand using three cards on the board and two in their hand.
Otherwise, the game rules are similar to Hold’em. There’s a flop, turn and river with a round of betting after each. Most Omaha poker games are played pot-limit but you can find a few limit and NL games floating around online.
Another popular variant of Omaha poker is Omaha Hi-Lo. This is a split pot game awarding half the pot to high and half the pot to a qualifying low. A low is a hand with five unique cards eight and under. Straights and flushes do not hurt your hand and you do not have to use the same two cards for low as you do for your high.
Omaha Hi-Lo is typically played as a Limit game in casinos, but PL Omaha Hi-Lo has a huge following online. You will also find more live Omaha Hi-Lo tournaments than PL Omaha.
Seven Card Stud Games
Back before the rise of Texas Hold’em, around the time of the Poker Boom, Seven Card Stud was still played in most casinos around the country. The game’s popularity took a nosedive in early years following the Boom, but the game rebounded in recent years thanks to online poker and the popularity of mixed poker games.
Most Stud games are played in Limit format. The most common variant you will see spread live and online is regular Seven Card Stud, sometimes called Stud High. In this game, each player receives their own hand and must make the best five card hand out the seven cards dealt.
The game starts with each player receiving two cards face down and one up, followed by a round of betting. Three more cards are dealt face up, one at a time and with a round of betting after each card. Finally, the last card dealt face down followed by a final round of betting and then showdown. The best five card hand wins the pot.
Seven Card Stud also has a Hi-Lo split version, aka Stud 8 or Better. This game awards half the pot for the high hand and half for a qualifying low eight-or-below. Stud 8 is also played in Limit format.
One final Stud variant that you primarily only see in mixed games is Razz. Razz is essentially Stud low with the lowest five-card hand winning the pot. Aces are always low, meaning the wheel, an ace through five straight, will be the best hand.
In live games, Seven Card Stud is the game you will find most frequently, unless it is part of mixed game rotation. Most tournaments have phased out Stud tournaments but a few select events, such as the World Series of Poker, still hold them. Stud still has a solid following online and is a game you should learn if you want to be an effective mixed games player.
Chinese Poker / Open-Face Chinese
A game that has grown in popularity over the last few years is Chinese Poker and specifically Open-Face Chinese poker. It is a game that became popular among the professionals and high stake players and has since trickled down.
In standard Chinese Poker, you’re dealt 13 cards and must make three poker hands. Two hands are five card hands and one is a three-card hand. These hands are commonly referred to as bottom, middle and top. The bottom and middle hands are five cards each and the top hand is three cards.
In Chinese Poker, the bottom hand must be higher than the middle hand and the middle hand must be higher than the top hand. If you happen to mix up your hand in some fashion, such as the top being higher than middle, you foul your hand.
Players win or lose points based on whether or not each hand can beat the same tier as their opponents. For example, if you are against two players and you have a full house on your bottom versus a flush and a straight, each player pays you a point.
The same comparison is made for the middle hand and the top hand. Also, in some games there are bonus points awarded to players if they make certain hands. For example, if you make a Royal Flush on the bottom, you get bonus points.
Open-Face Chinese Poker is a popular variant of this game that adds an extra element of strategy. In Open-Face, players do not get all 13 cards at one time at the start of most hands. Instead, they get five cards that they must place face up for everyone to see.
From this point through the rest of the hand, each player gets one card that they must place on their board face up. This allows everyone to see their opponent’s hands and allows them to change strategy on the fly if possible.
A popular variant of Open-Face Chinese Poker is Pineapple. After the first five cards are dealt, players receive three cards at a time instead of one. They must then place two of the cards while discarding the third.
In both variants, there is a special condition known as Fantasyland. If you are able to successfully play a pair of queens or better in your top hand, the next hand you will be dealt all 13 cards right away and can set them without observation from your opponents.
You aren’t going to find many live Chinese Poker games but they are available at a few sites online. This would be a great variant to introduce in your local home game.
Another game that has grown in popularity thanks to the pros is 2-7 Lowball. This game is typically offered in two formats, Triple Draw and Single Draw. In 2-7 Lowball, the objective is to make your lowest five card hand. However, aces are always high and straights and flushes hurt your hand in this game. Therefore, the best possible hand is 7-5-4-3-2
Triple-Draw Lowball is a Limit game with players each receiving five cards, followed by a round of betting. There are three drawing rounds where players can opt to exchange cards or stand pat. A betting round occurs after each round. Following the final draw and subsequent betting round, players showdown their hands with the lowest hand taking the pot.
Single-Draw Lowball is a NL game with just a single drawing round. All other rules apply. Tournament players tend to prefer NL 2-7 while cash game players gravitate towards Triple-Draw.
Unless part of a mixed game tournament, you won’t find many live tournaments in this game outside of WSOP season. You may find some cash game action in larger areas such as Las Vegas or Los Angeles. Otherwise, you will need to go online to become proficient in this game.