This section contains
the rules of all the variations of poker found in online
They are brought
to you courtesy of Max Drayman, from Winneronline.
Max is considered the world's expert on online (and land
based) casinos. His regular column "Ask Max"
can be found at www.winneronline.com.
To navigate this
section, simply select the topic you wish to view, if you
want to move back to the index, click on 'Back to Index'
Card Stud Poker
Card Stud Poker
it Ride Poker
Hold 'Em Poker
Card Stud Poker
5-Card Stud is
one of those games that puzzles people. Whenever you mention
it people say something like "you mean 7-Card Stud?"
or "how's that different than Draw Poker?" But
5-Card Stud is a game unto itself although you'll seldom
see it played these days. There are a few good reasons for
that, but let's cover the basics first.
Buy-In, Bankroll, The Ante, and the Deal are all pretty
much the same as 7-Stud and I refer you there for these
details. Keep in mind that because 5 Stud is seldom played
in the casinos these rules often vary. The truth is that
5 Stud is mostly played as a social game these days, so
the rules flex according to the player's tastes.
A round opens with the dealer giving each player two cards.
Traditionally the first is a pocket (hidden) card and the
second is open (face up). There are variations on this and
we'll see why shortly.
Now it's time
for the first bets. Low card opening is standard but it's
not uncommon for high card to open. The game progresses
the same either way. The betting round circles the table
and it's on to Third Street.
The third card is dealt to each player as an open card.
Betting typically follows 7-Card Stud's Third Street play
(Low Limit bets).
Another open card, typically played per 7 Stud's Fifth and
Sixth Street (High Limit bets).
The final card, usually also an open card. Betting as per
7 Stud's Seventh Street (High Limit bets).
I've also seen
games where Fifth Street was dealt as a pocket card.
Trouble with 5 Card Stud
There's a real problem with traditional 5 Card Stud. With
only one pocket card there's not much doubt as to what a
player is holding. Furthermore, since there are only 5 cards
per player and no discards, most hands are going to be pretty
low, mostly pairs and high cards. At least in Draw Poker
the player gets a chance to improve their hand by drawing
new cards. Not so in 5 Stud: you're stuck with what you
get and the other players can see most of that.
The end result?
Players with even basic play experience will read the cards
fast and early. They'll either drop or be going for the
pot and it's tough to drag anyone but a novice along for
the latter streets. Bottom line is it's a slow game for
anything but social events and "friendly" play.
This is where
the variations come in. The more interesting 5 Stud games
I've played are those where there are two pocket cards.
Sometimes it's first and last card, sometimes the two opening
cards with the player on the dealer's left opening the bets.
In the end these
variations are simply attempts to add a little suspense.
The hands are still going to be low. And the extra pocket
card just allows for a little more bluffing and the possibility
of chubbier pots. The fact that even these variations only
appear in social games tells the same story as before: 5
Card Stud has left the building.
Card Stud Poker
it comes to Poker games, Draw Poker is old school, 5-Card
Stud is too rare to speak of, but 7-Card Stud is alive and
well. Texas Hold'Em gets all the press and makes a better
spectator game, but 7 Stud is the game of choice for the
demands strategy and skill and it takes a lot of play to
develop the winner's edge. Top caliber players are few and
far between but they have one thing in common with the rookies:
every player of the game is still learning, even the masters.
begin with the basic rules.
Stud games are defined by their betting limits. The low
stakes online games are usually $2-$4 while the higher games
are typically $8-$16 or $10-$20. I've seen land casino Stud
at $100-$200 or higher, but these stakes are very rare on
game's betting limits tell the Stud player pretty much everything
they need to know about the nature of the game, the expectations
of the players, and the size of the bankroll you should
have before you sit in.
Your minimum Stud Buy-In is typically 10-times the low limit,
or $20 for a $2-$4 game. But playing with the minimum is
not recommended (see Money Management in the Strategy section).
Anything below the $10-$20 level is generally considered
a beginner's game. The skill and strategy levels required
in the higher games are substantial and such games generally
do not provide a friendly environment for the Stud player
still learning their way around.
Ante in Stud is mandatory and changes depending on the betting
limits. The low games usually require a 10% Ante, so a $5-$10
game will have a $0.50 Ante. The high games get up to 25%
on the Ante: that's $25 on a $100-$200 game. The percentages
may vary somewhat but 10% is the typical minimum.
We'll use a $10-$20 game as our working example, so the
Ante is $1, 10% of the low limit.
dealer deals clockwise starting on their immediate left.
They deal one card at a time around the table until each
player has two pocket cards (face down) and a single up
(the "door" card).
this point the dealer indicates which player will open the
betting, determined by the lowest door card. If there's
a tie for low door, suit resolves it: spades over hearts,
followed by diamonds, and finally clubs is the lowest.
Once the initial cards have been dealt, the game begins.
At this point we've got three cards on the table per player
and that's called "Third Street".
The player holding the lowest door card must "bring
it in" by opening with a bet equal to twice the ante
($2 in our example game). If the low door player doesn't
make this bet, they're forced to Fold and the opener passes
to the player on their left.
next player clockwise from the opener can Call by matching
the opener, Raise by betting the low betting limit ($10)
or Fold. Throughout third street all Bets and Raises are
fixed at the low betting limit ($10).
The dealer gives each player another open (up) card. Unlike
third street, the opener in the fourth and remaining streets
is the high hand as determined by the open cards. They may
Check (Pass) or Bet. It they Bet it's at the low limit ($10)
and that fixes all raises in this round to the same.
the high hand is an open pair, the opener can Bet at the
upper limit ($20) and this fixes all Raises in the round
to the same.
and Sixth Street
Again, the card is dealt up and high hand opens. All Bets
and Raises are at the upper limit ($20).
The last card, called the "river", is another
pocket card (face down). All bets and raises are at the
high limit ($20).
After the Bets and Raises have been resolved, the remaining
players enter the Showdown. The opener reveals his pocket
cards. If a player wishes to compete with this hand they
too reveal their pocket cards, or they can yield and muck
the casino it's the dealer's responsibility to call the
winner, as determined by the best 5-card hand under normal
Poker rules. In online games, the software will designate
the winner and the pot will be passed to them.
is any player's right to request to see any final hand that
has been mucked, though this is primarily intended for casino
It's true with all the Poker games, but never truer than
with 7-Card Stud: the rules are barely the beginning. It's
the strategy and gaming skills that make the game. We'll
take a stab at those in our 7-Card Stud Strategy section.
Poker is a favorite game aboard cruise ships and in South
Pacific clubs. It's an easy game to learn and employs many
of the skills of standard 5-card Stud.
You ante in and the dealer deals five cards to you and five
to themselves. The dealer turns one of their cards up. At
this point you can make an additional bet -- the "call"
bet -- or surrender. If you surrender you lose the hand
and your ante.
If you make the "call" bet then the dealer turns
over their cards. To continue to the showdown, the dealer
must "qualify" by holding at least an Ace-King
or better. If the dealer does not qualify, you win the ante
but your "call" bet is simply returned, no matter
what the cards show.
If the dealer does qualify then it's a good old fashioned
showdown, with a catch. If you win, the ante pays even money.
But if you win with anything better than a pair, then the
house pays you a multiple of your "call" bet based
on a bonus ranking. The better your hand, the higher the
There are two betting rounds in a hand of Caribbean Poker.
The first is your ante. The second comes when the dealer
turns one of their cards face up. If you like what you see
and think you're still in the running, you can place a "call"
bet -- which is fixed at twice whatever you anted -- and
play on. If you don't "call" you surrender and
forfeit your ante.
Payoff in Caribbean Poker is very simple. If you place a
"call" bet and the dealer fails to qualify, you
win even money on your ante and the "call" bet
is simply returned.
If the dealer qualifies and you win the showdown, you get
even money on your ante and your "call" pays out
according to the following chart:
If you lose the showdown, the dealer takes both your bets
and it's time for another hand.
Draw Poker is
the basic form of Poker and the place to start when introducing
new players to the game. It's fairly uncommon these days
in the casinos, but it is the form from which all other
Poker games are derived.
The essence of
Draw Poker is that the player builds a hand from 5 cards.
After the initial round of betting the player may discard
some or all of their cards and receive replacements. The
players cards should never be revealed until the final Showdown,
and are only then if absolutely necessary (more on that
later). During the game, all cards are dealt and discarded
There are two
main things to learn when it comes to Draw Poker. The first
is Poker's 5-card hands and their ranking.
The second is the course of play including when and how
There are no wild cards in Draw Poker. All suits are ranked
Course of Play
A round of Poker begins with determining the Dealer. The
Deal usually rotates around the table from the right: if
you've just dealt then the person on your left deals next.
Once assigned, the Dealer receives the deck and shuffles.
Each player pays the "ante" which is a small,
flat fee you pay to purchase the right to play that round.
If you don't ante it means you are "sitting out".
These monies and all others in the game go into the center
of the table in a pile called "the pot". Once
the antes are in, the Dealer deals one card at a time, face
down, to each player around the table, beginning on the
Dealer's left. Then the second card is dealt to each player,
and so on until each player has 5 cards, all face down.
Bet or Fold
Players pick up their cards and assess their hand. The player
to the Dealer's left opens the betting round by either placing
a Bet, indicating a Pass by placing no bet, or Folding by
discarding their hand.
The next player to the left now has the opportunity to Bet.
Or they can Fold. If the previous players Passed then they
can Pass too or place a Bet of their own. If other players
have Bet and they wish to stay in the round they must Call
by matching any outstanding bets. They can then Raise by
placing a bet of their own.
The betting then
moves to the next player on the left, then the next, and
so on back to and including the Dealer.
Once the Dealer
has placed their bet, the other players must Call any outstanding
bets or Fold. Generally speaking, no Raises are permitted
once the betting has passed around to the Dealer.
Players may now Discard any or all of their cards based
on their hopes of building a better hand. Cards are discarded
face down and collected by the Dealer.
The Dealer now deals each player, starting on the left,
their replacement cards, face down.
As before the
Player on the Dealer's left begins the betting and the betting
proceeds around the table.
Again, the Dealer
gets the final Raise. Then everyone else must Call or Fold.
Finally, the remaining players are ready for the Showdown.
If at any time
there is only one player left in the game they take the
pot. This player is encouraged to keep their cards hidden
and muck them to the Dealer.
After the final betting round, and all the necessary Calls,
the players still in the game have reached the Showdown.
The player's hands are revealed. The best hand wins and
the winner takes the pot.
If there are tied
winning hands then the rank of the individual cards determines
the winner. For instance Full House of Aces over Jacks beats
a Full House of Kings over Jacks. If it's still a tie and
there are no kickers (spare cards not used to build the
final hand) then the pot is split.
If the rank of
the individual cards doesn't determine the winner, then
the kicker(s) of higher rank determines the winner. If it's
still a tie, the pot is split.
If there are no
"name" hands (all players have No Pair), then
the highest ranking single card is declared the winning
hand. If it comes to a dead tie (no clear winner, all cards
same rank) then the pot is split.
Suit is never
used to determine a winner in Poker.
While hands and betting are the basic rules, there is much,
much more to being a successful Poker player. Poker is not
about having the highest ranking hand, it's about winning
the biggest pots. How you do that, short of cheating, is
your business and that is what makes Poker the beloved game
that it is.
It Ride Poker
Let It Ride is
a poker-style casino game. It is a variation of 5-card Stud
but differs in that players don't have to beat a dealer's
hand or other players. The goal is merely to compile a winning
poker hand, with a minimum of a pair of tens.
The objective of Let It Ride is to compile the highest 5-card
poker hand (containing at least a pair of tens) from three
dealt cards and two community cards while keeping the maximum
bet on the table.
The player opens a round by placing three identical bets
on the betting circles. The player is dealt three cards
and the dealer places two community cards in the center
of the table, face down. Based on the favorability of the
three hole cards, the player can withdraw the first bet
or "let it ride" and leave it on the table. The
dealer then reveals the first community card. Now the player
decides whether to withdraw the second bet. The second community
card is then revealed and the hand is scored.
Note that the
third bet stays on the table with no option to withdraw.
Also note that withdrawing the second bet is independent
of what was done with the first.
Payoff and the True Odds
If the player qualifies with at least a pair of tens, the
payoff is determined by the quality of the hand. The skill
of the player is in knowing when to stay and when to withdraw
based on the cards known.
While the odds are marginally better for the player than
in Caribbean Stud, Let It Ride still carries about a three
point edge for the casino even with optimal play.
Betting variations include games where players can win a
bonus on top of their payout if they opt to place the additional
$1 Bonus or Side bet and draw Three-of-a-Kind or better.
These are sucker bets and though the specific odds vary
from house to house they're all bad and I say forget the
Omaha Hi is a
version of Texas Hold'Em where players
are dealt four hole cards instead of two. But there's a
catch: two and only two of the hole cards can be used in
making the final hand. Omaha Hi is also known as Omaha Hold'Em
or simply Omaha.
The four hole
cards make Omaha a nine-card game and having more cards
to choose from means players will typically finish with
stronger hands. Poker players being the people that they
often are, the possibility of higher hands typically means
that players stay in longer and the pots will grow accordingly.
In practice, Hold'Em
players will find that the focus in Omaha Hi tends more
towards playing the cards than playing the other players.
For the basics of Omaha, see our Texas
Hold'Em rules. The only variations are:
The player is
dealt four hole cards.
The player makes their final hand from two of the four hole
cards and three of the five community cards
original version of Pai Gow used special dominos and dice.
It's said to be a rather complicated game, played slow enough
to serve as a social event and is rarely seen in gaming
houses outside of Asia.
The modern, Westernized version is played with a deck of
53 cards -- regular deck plus a Joker -- and uses poker-like
hands for ranking. It's still a complex game but the changes
make it more approachable, as indicated by its success in
casinos throughout the world. And it's still a rather slow
game with showdowns often resulting in ties. This serves
as a fine counterbalance to the faster playing casino fare,
and it allows a player with a modest stake to last longer
at the table than would be possible with other games.
Pai Gow is often a multi-player game where the deal rotates
around the table much like regular Poker. One of the traditional
rules is that the dealer also acts as banker for that hand.
In online play all of this is simplified to the player-vs-house
Bets are placed and the player receives seven cards. From
these seven cards the player forms two hands: a two-card
hand called the "low" or "front" hand;
a five-card hand called the "high" or "back"
hand. The goal is to beat the dealer on both hands.
The back hand is ranked as in Poker with the exception that
A-2-3-4-5 is the second-highest straight beating K-Q-J-10-9.
The front hand is singles or a pair, with A-A being the
There are a few additional rules. First, your front hand
should not beat your back. If it does, this is called a
"foul" and both hands lose. Second, the Joker
can be used as a wild card to complete a Straight, a Flush,
a Straight Flush or a Royal Flush. Otherwise it is treated
as an Ace.
Betting in most online games is very simple in that you
make a single opening bet and that is the end of it. In
some Pai Gow games there are separate bets for the front
and back hands, but this is unusual in on-line play.
If both hands lose to the dealer, you lose your bet. If
both hands win, you win even money. If one hand wins and
the other loses, it's a push. If your hands are the same
as the dealer's, called "copies", the dealer wins.
Obviously that’s an attraction of playing dealer/banker
in multi-player games. In such games, you minimize your
losses by betting low when you are a player and being dealer/banker
If the player wins, the house takes a 5% commission: you
get $4.75 of a $5 winning bet.
There are a number of issues related to the multi-player
games when it comes to the dealer/banker question. Keep
in mind that none of this applies to typical single-player
Dealer/Banker: In multi-player Pai Gow games the bank rotates
from person to person, where a player may pass the deal
if they choose. If you want to deal you must have enough
money on the table to broker all other bets made. If you
are uncomfortable with the full risk of banking, another
player may co-bank with you as dealer and the two of you
will split the wins and losses. The house will bank if no
player is willing to do it. If a player is banking, the
dealer can be a player, wagering as the banker asks. If
a player is the banker then the dealer will first compare
their own hands to that of the banker and make the appropriate
payments. Then the dealer will take the banker's cards and
compare them to the other players, using the banker's money.
All wins in Pai Gow are at even money, less the house's
Red Dog is a card
game similar to Acey-Deucey and In-Between. The game is
played on a blackjack-sized table with two betting spots
-- "bet" and "raise" -- using a 52-card
deck. Only three cards are played per hand. Card suit is
not relevant in Red Dog.
The popularity of Red Dog is largely due to its simplicity.
As the pros say, if you can remember the number seven and
know how to subtract, then you can play Red Dog as well
as anyone in the world.
As a player, you place an opening bet and the dealer will
deal two cards. The object of the game is to bet on the
likelihood that the rank of a third card is going to fall
between the first two. If it does fall between, you win.
If it doesn't, you lose.
So far, it's too simple. This is where the "raise"
bet comes in and it's based on the "spread". Spread
is the number of card values that lie between the two initial
cards. The value of any card from 2 to 10 counts at face
value, a jack counts as 11, a queen as 12, a king as 13,
and an ace counts as 14.
A couple of examples are worthwhile. Let's say the dealer
deals a 7 and a 10. What's the spread? Since 8 and 9 fall
between the 7 and 10, the spread is 2. Ok, let's say the
next hand plays a 4 and a 5. The spread? Since the cards
are consecutive, no cards fall between 4 and 5, it's called
a "tie", you keep your money and the hand is over.
The interesting part of Red Dog is betting on the spread.
This is an optional second bet where you go for a bonus
payout. The house sets the odds based on a simple principle:
the narrower the spread, the higher the potential payout
As indicated, you open with a bet and the dealer deals two
cards. The cards are placed face up on the table and the
dealer will place a marker to indicate (a) the spread and
(b) the odds the house offers on an additional bet (the
"raise"). If you bet no further, you will win
your original bet at even money if you win the hand.
If you do decide to raise, you're betting at house odds
as printed on the Red Dog table. If you win, you get your
original bet at even money and the raise bet at the odds
If the first two cards are a tie -- consecutive cards --
you keep your bet.
If the two cards are a pair, betting stops but you'll get
paid at 11:1 if the third card makes it three of a kind.
Otherwise you lose your bet.
Finally, if the third card matches either of the first two,
you lose your bet.
In a winning hand, opening bets are always paid out at even
money. Raise bets are paid out based on the spread as follows:
Hold 'Em Poker
is the darling of pro Poker players, spectators, and the
media. It's an aggressive, flashy, intense and unpredictable
game that gets the dollars on the table and changing hands
like no other contemporary form of Poker. All that and it
looks deceptively simple to play. The old hard-nut players
may prefer 7-Card Stud, but everyone else is in love with
Hold'Em. It's no coincidence that Hold'Em is the game that
players at the World Series of Poker play to determine who
takes home $1,000,000 and the champion's custom 14-karat
Hold'Em is clearly
a descendant of 7-Stud in that players form a five-card
hand from seven available cards, but that's where the similarity
ends. In fact, only two cards are actually held by the player
as pocket cards. The other five are open, dealt to the middle
of the table and shared by all players. Of course this means
there are less cards in play, which is why Hold'Em typically
seats nine or more players at the table.
The dealer in
Hold'Em is marked by a disk called the button. For each
hand the button rotates to the left. Players are identified
by their seat position. The dealer is seat one, the player
to the dealer's left is seat two and so on, clockwise around
the table to the player on the dealer's right which is typically
In practice, casino
Hold'Em has a fixed (house) dealer and the button rotates
around the table simply to mark the rotation of theoretical
dealer. Betting position significantly affects a player's
opportunities so the button's position in not simply symbolic.
in many low-limit/high-limit forms. Beginner games are typically
$1-$2 or $2-$5, but the high end can be as much as $300-$600,
$500-$1000 or more. Regardless of the limits, Hold'Em is
designed to be a money game. Instead of a small ante in
7-Stud, Hold'Em uses two forced bets, the blinds, to get
Bets on the table right from the beginning of the game.
The first player to the dealer's left -- seat two -- is
the small blind and must kick in half the lower limit ($5
in a $10-$20 game). Seat three is the big blind and must
kick in the full value of the lower limit ($10 in a $10-$20)
The deal rotates
clockwise around the table beginning with the player to
the big blind's left. Each player is dealt their first pocket
card in turn, then their second.
Since the blinds
opened with their forced bets, seat four, the player to
the big blind's right, bets first. They Call by matching
the big blind ($10, the lower limit) and may also Raise
by kicking in the big limit, $20 in our $10-$20 example
game. In this round Checking is not permitted so a Check
is the same as Folding.
The blinds in
Hold'Em are live in that they can Call, Raise or Fold when
the betting has returned to them.
Once the first betting round has completed, the dealer lays
out the first three community cards in the center of the
table. This is called the flop.
This betting round
begins with the blinds, or the first remaining seat on the
dealer's left. Checking is permitted now and for the rest
of the hand. Bets are placed at the lower limit ($10 in
A fourth community card it dealt onto the table.
with the blinds, as before. Now, and for the rest of this
game, Bets and Raises are at the high limit ($20). As such,
the turn is the first expensive street.
The fifth and final community card is dealt.
This is also an
expensive street: Bets and Raises are all at the high limit
As in 7-Stud, the best 5 card hand wins. Players may form
their final hands from any combination of the table cards
and their own pocket cards, even ignoring the pocket cards
and using only the table cards if they wish.
One point on which
Hold'Em departs from other poker games is the option for
any player to see another player's pocket cards once they've
been mucked. Provided the requesting player has Called or
Raised the last Bet made, they simply ask the dealer and
the mucked cards will be retrieved and shown.
To the newcomer
this move may seem incredibly invasive, especially if they
come from a Draw poker background where such a move would
be heresy. However, in the Hold'Em context, it's one of
the few ways to gain insight into an opponent's play style.
And how and when the pocket cards are played is a critical
part of the game.
A, K, Q, J, 10 all of
the same suit. The Big Kahuna. The hand everyone strives
for and the reason we play this game.
Any five card sequence
in the same suit. (Ex: 8, 9, 10, J, Q and A, 2, 3,
4, 5 of same suit). You can take this hand straight
to the bank.
Four of a Kind
All four cards of the
same index (Ex: K, K, K, K). A great hand when you
can get it.
Three of a kind combined
with a pair (Ex: A, A, A, 5, 5). Many a round has
been won and lost on this hand. Mostly won.
Any five cards of the
same suit, but not in sequence. No need to turn red
with embarrassment with this hand.
Five cards in sequence,
but not of the same suit. After all, you wouldn’t
want to clash.
Three of a Kind
Three cards of the same
Two separate pairs (Ex:
4, 4, K, K).
Two cards of the same
rank. (Q, Q) Sometimes called a San Francisco Pair.
Highest card in your
hand. Well at least you tried.
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