These days, when someone says the word “poker”, chances are a lot of people will think of No-Limit Hold’em alone. However, in reality, “poker” encompasses so much more.
So what makes a card game poker?
There’s no official regulating body in the poker world, something that would be analogous to FIFA in football. Each casino has its own “house rules”. The best we can do is observe how poker is played around the world and draw conclusions from that.
So here are a few features that hold true for all or almost all card games that are referred to as ‘poker”.
- People bet chips on who has the best hand (except for Chinese Poker games).
- There can be a showdown at the end of the hand where the hands are ranked by their strength.
- They are imperfect information games. That means some information you have is hidden from your opponents (except for Open-Face Chinese).
Poker Game Families
With that said, we can group all the different kinds of poker games played around the world into categories. Some poker games have more in common with one that the other.
Community Card Games
The two most popular poker games, No-Limit Hold’em and Pot-Limit Omaha belong to this family.
In these games, players are dealt their hole cards, then, after a betting round, community cards are dealt in the middle. Players make their hands using both their hole cards and the community cards. They also bet chips in multiple betting rounds on different streets.
In these games, none of the player’s hand is exposed. They get dealt a certain amount of cards, usually 5, then they can choose to discard any number of them and draw new cards instead.
Every draw is followed by a round of betting. This way, players need to put their opponents on a range based on how many cards they draw and their betting habits. These draw games are almost always played with fixed betting limits.
Stud Games involve each player’s hand being dealt part face up and part face down. Players receive additional cards on each street, meanwhile betting rounds take place.
The regular blinds structure is replaced by the so-called “bring-in”. Also, position depends on who has the strongest cards showing. Stud Games are almost always played with betting limits.
Chinese poker games have in place the classic Hold’em hand ranking. However, players don’t bet their hands at all. Instead, hands are scored for points. In these games, players have to arrange their cards into 3 rows: front hand (3 cards), middle hand (5) and back hand (5).
The back hand always has to be at least as strong as the middle hand, while the middle hand always has to be at least as strong as the front hand. Otherwise the player fouls. At the end of the hand, players compare their back, middle and front hand to each other’s, respectively.