Poker Variants | How many different versions of poker are there?

Poker Versions and Variants

Poker Versions and Variants

There are several major families of poker versions. They all contain many variations and are played at different limits (structure of betting rounds). Sometimes complementary game modes are added. Poker has also given rise to casino and board games which abandon their original auction structure.


Poker is played in the form of many versions grouped into three large families. They are differentiated first by the mode of distribution of the cards. The cards can be common to all players or private. They can also be closed (visible to its owner alone) or open (visible to all). We can also distinguish the height of the game played. Winning hands can be high (high), low (low) or both (high / low). In some variations where high and low hands are played, certain conditions are imposed on the low hands. For example, a player’s hand cannot contain cards above eight (eight or better) or aces can only count as high cards (deuce to seven).

1. Draw poker versions

In these variants, each player systematically receives five cards. They are all private and closed17.

  • Draws poker, or Five Card Draw: this is the historical variation of poker, the one that beginners often learn first.
  • Closed nullot, or lowball or ace-to-five or California lowball is played like closed poker but in low ace to five mode.
  • Deuce to Seven or Kansas City lowball is played like closed poker but in low deuce to seven mode.
  • Badugi is the only four-card poker game you need to have weak cards that are not of the same suit.
  • Baducey is a mix between badugi and 2 to 7. The final pot will be split in two, one half for the best badugi game and the other half for the best 2 to 7 game. Unlike badugi where the ace is the best card, in baducey the ace is the worst. So the best possible combination is 23,457 with 2,345 of different colors.
2. Community card poker

In these variants, a part of the cards is common and therefore open (visible) and another is private and closed (hidden).

  • Texas hold’em, Hold’em or Vegas (two private cards, five community cards, exists in Limit, No limit and Pot Limit modes).
  • Double Hold’em, or Double Flop Hold’em (two private cards, two times five community cards).
  • Omaha (four private cards, five community cards, exists in high or high / low modes).
  • Aviation (four private cards, five community cards).
  • Courchevel (five private cards, five community cards, exists in high or high / low modes).
  • The Irish (four private cards, five community cards).
  • The Pineapple (three private cards, five community cards).
  • The Crazy Pineapple (three private cards, five community cards).
  • Royal Hold’em (two private cards, five community cards)

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3. Stud poker

All cards are private, but some are open and others are closed.

  • Five-card stud, Five-card stud or Cincinnati Kid (one closed card, four open cards).
  • Canadian Stud is a particularly interesting variation of five-card stud where four-card suits and suits also count and beat single pair (but remain inferior to double pair). This variant is evoked in the film Havana of Sydney Pollack with Robert Redford.
  • Seven-card stud, Seven-card stud (three hole cards, four cards open, exists in high, low or high / low modes). In the event that eight players are still present to receive the seventh card, 8×7 = 56 or more than the number of cards in the deck, the last card is no longer private but common.
  • Stud Eight-or-Better is the name given to Seven Card Stud played in high / low.
  • Razz or Nullot is the name given to Seven Card Stud played low.
  • Queen and follow is played like seven-card stud but Q’s are wild as well as the card that is given after Q. This card that is given after Q is only wild until another Q is given, in this case it is the card which is given after the last Q which is joker (exists in high or high / low modes).
  • Chicago is a variation of Seven Card Stud where the pot is divided between the player with the highest hand (as in Seven Card Stud) and the player with the highest spade card. This variant is mentioned in the movie The
  • Players (Rounders, by John Dahl with Matt Damon).

Read also: Poker Card Game | History, How to Play and Rules of Playing

Game modes of Poker Versions

Some common rule variations include

  • High, low and high / low
    There are three ways to compare players’ hands. These modes must be activated and known to the players before the game begins. These three modes describe how the players’ hands will be compared, we distinguish:

    • The high mode: only the strongest combinations count.
    • Low mode: only the weakest combinations matter.
    • The high low mode: the strongest hand wins half the pot and the weakest the other half (often with certain restrictions to be valid).
  • Kill or half-kill
    It is a game option sometimes used in cash games. When a player wins a pot without split (scoop), he receives the Kill button. If this same player in the next round scoops up again, he becomes the killer. A killer must bet at least twice the big blind (starting bet) even if he is in the small or the big blind. Play then continues as if the blinds were doubled. This obligation falls as soon as the killer wins the pot. Sometimes we add conditions, for example a minimum amount of the pot to activate the kill mode. On the other hand, it happens that the killer has the right to speak last in the first betting round. We talk about Half-Kill when we don’t double the blind but only multiple it by 1.5.
  • Look at two and kill
    This option is used in Lowball. Each player can activate this mode after seeing their receipt and looking at their first two cards. He then receives the kill button.
  • Option
    A particularity: in cash-game, the player who follows the big blind can, before having seen his cards, take the “option”: he must then put the double of the big blind and will be the last to speak during the first round of betting.

Chinese Poker versions (also known as Russian Poker)

Chinese Poker (also known as Russian Poker) is a variant of the card game Poker . Each player is dealt 13 cards from a 52-card deck . Typically the game is played with four players, but it can also be played with two or three players.

The name is taken from the American and comes from the fact that it was played in the USA for a long time mainly by Asian immigrants. In the Cantonese origin of the game it is called Sap Sam Cheung which means 13 cards.

This game is particularly popular in Hong Kong and parts of Southeast Asia.

Read also: To Play Poker Like a Pro?

Rules of Chinese Poker

Each player receives 13 cards that are not interchangeable. From this he has to form three hands :

Front hand / front : three cards
Middle hand / middle : five cards (must be better than the front hand – see possible combinations )
Back hand / back : five cards (must be better than the middle hand )
Since the front hand only consists of three cards, the possible combinations are reduced to three of a kind , a pair and the highest card . The hands are then placed face-down in front of the player in sequence.

Surrender rule

The usual way of playing Chinese Poker does not allow the player to fold his cards. However, if you play with the surrender rule, you proceed as follows: If all hands have been placed face down, you announce that you fold. This means that you automatically lose 0-2 against every player (see → Scoring).

Exchange rule

If you are playing with three players, you can optionally play with swaps. If you want to swap, you have to pay 2 points to each player, and you can then swap as many of your cards as you like with the remaining cards. You can play in such a way that whoever announces it first is allowed to swap, or if the dealer changes, whoever is allowed to swap first, who sits first after the dealer.


During the scoring, the individual hands (front / middle / back) are compared with those of the opponents, each against each other. Front hand counts against front hand, middle hand against middle hand and back hand against back hand. If you are better than your opponent in one hand, you get one point, if you are worse the opponent gets one point. In the event that both hands are equally strong, nobody gets a point.

For example: I beat my opponent in the front hand and back hand, and lose in the middle hand. I get 2 points and my opponent 1 point (2-1). If I beat my opponent in all three hands, I get 3 + 1 = 4 (3 points plus 1 bet / ante) points. If there is a tie in a hand, no point is awarded for that hand. With one or more ties, the combinations 2-0, 1-0, 1-1 (plus 1 bet / ante) are possible.

Points systems

There are many different point systems and you can make your own systems. What is common to all systems, however, is that points are exchanged with one another, i.e. the sum of all points is always zero. How much a point is worth can be agreed with each player individually, you don’t have to play for the same amount with everyone.

“2-4” rule

The most common point system is the “2-4” rule, in which a player gets an extra point for winning all three hands. With a 3-0 you get 4 points, the opponent 4 minus points. With a 2-1 you get 2 points, the opponent 2 minus points. With a 1-1 or 0-0 nobody gets any points. A 2-0 gives you 3 points and the opponent 3 minus points, and a 1-0 you get 2 points and the opponent 2 minus points.

“1-6” rule

Another point system is the “1-6” rule, where a player gets 3 extra points for a 3-0. With a 3-0 you get 6 points, the opponent 6 minus points. With a 2-1 you get 1 point, the opponent 1 minus point. With a 1-1 or 0-0 nobody gets any points. With a 2-0 you get 2 points and the opponent 2 minus points, and with a 1-0 you get 1 point and the opponent 1 minus point.


Royalties are bonus hands that give a player extra points. Here, too, there are different ways of distributing the points.

Three of a kind in the front hand : 3 points
Full house in the middle hand : 1 point
Four of a kind in the middle or back hand : 3 points
Straight flush in the middle or back hand : 4 points
Royal flush in back hand : 5 points
The points for royalties are also offset against each individual player. For a four of a kind in the back hand you get 3 points from each opponent, and accordingly each opponent 3 minus points.

Natural Royalties

Natural Royalties are bonus hands with which you automatically win against any opponent and get the corresponding points. In this case, no further scoring takes place, nor is it offset against possible royalties from the opponents.

Six pairs : 6 points (Four of a kind can be used as two pairs )
Three flushes : 3 points (e.g. three hearts in the front hand, 5 spades in the middle hand and 5 spades in the back hand)
Three streets : 3 points (e.g. KQJT9, TJ987, 32A)
13-card straight: 13 points (AKQJT98765432)
13-card royal flush : 50 points (13-card straight in one suit)
Straights and flushes in the front hand are only available for scoring a natural royalty , not for normal scoring.


An example of a showdown in Chinese Poker.
The scoring is done in order, comparing each hand with each other. Player 1 (above) with his hand [8-8-8 KQJT-9 7-7-7-TT] loses 3 points to player 2 (middle) with his hand [3 spades 5 diamonds 5 clubs] because Player 2 has a natural royalty in the form of three flushes. The three of a kind in the front hand does not give player 1 any points in this case.

Against player 3 (below) with the hand [QT-5 AA-2-2-4 3-3-3-3-6], player 1 wins the front hand and the middle hand, and loses the back hand, i.e. 2- 1. According to the “2-4” rule, player 1 wins two points against player 3, plus the royalties . For three of a kind in the front hand, player 1 receives three points from player 3, and for the four of a kind in the back hand, player 3 receives three points from player 1. Overall, player 1 wins 2 points from player 3.

Player 2 also gets 3 points from player 3 because he has three flushes, and here too, four of a kind player 3 does not earn any points.

If all players play for the same amount per point, the results can also be offset against each other, and player 1 receives 1 minus point in this round, player 2 receives 6 points, and player 3 receives 5 minus points. As always, the sum of the points for this round is 0.

Kuhn poker

Kuhnpoker is a poker variant that has been reduced to minimal requirements and was developed by Harold W. Kuhn for the purpose of game theory studies. It is a zero-sum game for 2 players. The deck of cards consists of only 3 playing cards , for example a king , a queen and a jack . Both players put an ante into the pot. After both players are dealt a card, they can either fold or bet (another ante). The first player has the option, after he has passed and player 2 has bet, to now also bet.

If both players choose the same option, there is a showdown and the highest card wins. If one of the players has passed but the other has bet, the latter wins. With this game, Kuhn demonstrates that it is impossible for player 1, despite an optimal strategy, not to suffer ruin in the long run if player 2 also plays perfectly. Player 1 can only win if player 2 deviates from the optimal strategy. His exact loss is 1/18 ante per hand.

Optimal strategy

The game has a Nash equilibrium of mixed strategy ; When both players play balancing strategies, the first player should expect to lose at a rate of -1/18 per hand (since the game is zero-sum, the second player should expect to win at a rate of +1/18). There is no balance of pure strategy. Kuhn showed that there are infinite equilibrium strategies for the first player, forming a continuum governed by a single parameter. In a possible formulation, player one freely chooses the probability α ∈ [0, 1/3] with which you will bet when you have an Ace. So, having a King, you must bet with the probability of ; you must always check when he has a Queen, and if the other player bets after this check, he must call with the probability of α + 1/3.

The second player has a unique balancing strategy: Always betting or calling when having a King; when having a queen, check if it is possible, otherwise call with the probability of 1/3; when you have a Jack, you never call and bet with the probability of 1/3.

Photo credit: Pxhere

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