Live poker played in card rooms has become vastly popular in the US. All are games of skill played against other players, with the house taking a "rake" from each pot.
Five-card draw is perhaps the simplest of live poker games, but nevertheless, requires time and experience to master. Five cards are dealt to each player from a standard 52-card deck. Betting then takes place, during which time the players are, in turn, permitted to call (match an existing bet), raise (increase the bet), or fold (discard the hand and wait for the next deal). After this, the players who have not folded are permitted to discard some or all of their cards, and draw replacements. Betting again takes place, after which players who have not folded show their hands to determine the winner.
Texas hold'em, or simply holdem, is currently wildly popular, thanks in part to the WSOP (World Series of Poker) on television and the proliferation of online poker rooms. It is generally played with six to ten players, and the two major variations are limit and no-limit.
While the object of the game is the same as poker (getting the best five-card hand), the way this is achieved, and the betting process, is very different.
One player is designated the dealer (the casino actually provides the real dealer) and a disk (called the button) is placed in front of him. The button is moved one player to the left after each hand, so that eventually, each player at the table is the dealer. Players do not ante each round, but rather, "blind" bets (bets that must be made) are required from the first (small blind) and second player (big blind) to the left of the button.
The hand begins with the blind bets being put in the pot. Then, each player is dealt two cards face down (this is often called "the pocket" or "pocket cards"), after which bets can be placed, beginning with the first person to the left of the players who posted the blinds.
Three cards are then dealt and turned face up in the middle of the table; this is known as "the flop" and the cards are community cards used by all the players to build their hands. Another betting round begins with the first active player to the left of the button.
When the betting round after the flop is completed, the dealer turns a fourth card face up in the middle of the table; this is called "the turn." Another betting round ensues, and if this is a limit game (see below), the allowable amount of the bets doubles.
Following the betting on the turn, the dealer turns
up a fifth and final card, called "the river." A final betting round begins.
After the betting is finished, the remaining players use their pocket cards and
the five community cards to make the best hand possible, and the winner is, as
we mentioned at the beginning of this section, the player who makes the best
Limit Holdem: The games are generally referred to as 1/2 or 2/4 or 3/6 games, meaning the bets are restricted to those amounts. Also, the blinds are half of those amounts, e.g., in a 2/4 game, the small blind would have to post $1, while the big blind would post $2. The bets and raises before the turn are restricted to the lower amount, e.g. betting and raising at the flop in a 2/4 game is restricted to $2 increments, while the turn and river bets/raises must be in $4 increments.
No-Limit Holdem: Some say the difference between limit and no-limit holdem is like the difference between checkers and chess, and the amount one may bet or raise does make a huge difference in the number of players left in the game after the river is dealt. Players go "all-in" (bet all the chips they have on the table) frequently, and fortunes appear and disappear with alarming ease.
Seven-card stud is a perennial favorite. Played with a standard 52-card deck, each player is dealt two down cards, and then a single card face-up. High card showing begins the round of betting. Once the initial betting is finished, a second face-up card is dealt, and the betting begins anew. A total of four cards are dealt in this manner, and then a final card is dealt face-down. The winner is the player who makes the best five-card hand from the seven cards dealt to him.
Omaha resembles Texas Hold’em in that it is a game played with five community cards, but the game is very different. There are two variations of the game, Omaha High and Omaha High/Low split. Like Texas holdem, Omaha can be played as a limit or no-limit game.
As with Texas holdem, one player is designated the dealer (the casino actually provides the real dealer) and a disk (called the button) is placed in front of him. The button is moved one player to the left after each hand, so that eventually, each player at the table is the dealer. Players do not ante each round, but rather, "blind" bets (bets that must be made) are required from the first (small blind) and second player (big blind) to the left of the button.
The hand begins with the blind bets being put in the pot. After the blinds are posted each player is dealt four cards face down, starting with the small blind and ending with the button. The first betting round begins with the player to the left of the big blind either matching (calling) the big blind bet, raising the big blind, or folding his hand.
As with Texas holdem, three cards are dealt and turned face up in the middle of the table (the flop). These community cards are used by all the players. Another betting round begins with the first player to the left of the dealer button.
When the betting round after the flop is completed, the dealer burns a card and turns a fourth card face up in the middle of the table. This is "the turn."
Following the betting on the turn, the dealer will burn another card and turn a fifth and final card face up. This is called the "river," and the final betting round begins.
To determine the winner, the players must use two of his four hole cards and three cards from the "Board" to form the highest five-card hand. In some cases two players will tie, which happens often in Omaha High/Low, and in which case, the players split the pot.
One Last Note: If you have any questions about a particular game, ask a
dealer or supervisor for assistance. That's part of their job, and who knows—you
something new. It's a truism that "poker lessons are always expensive"
but many casinos offer free classes on the various games, so save your money, at
least until you've taken advantage of these invaluable free lessons.