Guide to Poker Types, Formats & Stakes Part 1 (Types)

26 May
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A Wide Selection

You don’t have to step out of your door to find poker action these days, and there’s a wider variety of games running out there today than there have ever been before. 

It can take a while to find your spot in the poker ecosystem, and it can also be tempting to try out too many formats at once, in which case you’ll wind up learning a little about a lot and being unable to excel in anything. This is a good recipe for standing still and failing to progress in your game. It’s fine to get a taste of a few formats, and check stuff out, but don’t get stuck trying to study and progress seriously in several poker forms at once. It just won’t end well.

We recommend reading the following guide to poker formats and stakes, and also potentially reading over our guide to bankroll management, as well as our guides to individual poker sites. It’s also a good idea to check out and sit some orbits of play for a variety of poker formats at the beginning. Once you’ve got a feel and a sense of which format you’d like to study and try to excel in, pick one and go deep with it.

We’ll consider some of the pros and cons of grinding the main available game types and formats below, and there sure are a lot to choose from! We’ll divide this discussion into a series of articles; Game Types (for example No Limit Hold’em, Pot Limit Omaha), Poker Formats (for example MTT Freezeouts, MTT Progressive Knockouts, Spin & Gos, regular cash games, zoom cash games), and Poker Stakes (looking briefly at the toughness across a range of sites for different stakes in different formats).

Game Types

No Limit Hold’em

Far and away still the most popular game type of all time and of the modern game, stands No Limit Texas Hold’em, the behemoth of poker forms. With no limit to the raise size permitted on any street, stacks can get all-in at any moment. 

Ironically largely banned in its home state of Texas, US, NL Hold’em has dominated poker across much of the world for effectively all of the time poker has been a major pastime in the States. 

Each player is dealt two private hole cards before the board is dealt, and there is a round of betting. Your best five card hand is constructed using the board cards which come down amidst three rounds of betting on the flop (3 cards), turn (1 card) and river (1 final card).

You can play so many formats of NL Hold’em it’s bewildering, and there’s far more volume of play of this format both live and online than any other. We’ll look into all the most common forms below. 

There are many other variants of Hold’em, such as Fixed Limit, which used to have greater popularity especially live, and newer emergent variants, such as NL 6+, a game in which some of the usual cards in the deck are removed such that odd effects occur, such as full houses becoming more common than flushes. 

Pot Limit Omaha

Far and away the most popular game type other than NL Hold’em, funnily enough Pot Limit Omaha is also banned across Omaha in the majority of cases. 

PLO is an even more frenetic game of betting than NLHE, even though in practice pots are capped due to the pot limit restriction on betting. This is because there are so many outs and hands to hit in Omaha, as we are dealt not two hole cards but four. Still we are restricted to using a maximum of two of our four hole cards to build our five card hand, which must therefore utilise three of the board cards. Other than these key differences, play proceeds just as in NLHE. 

The upshot of all of this is that equities run very close and therefore variance is higher in PLO than in NLHE, but bad players tend to make bigger and more aggressive mistakes. 

There are many other forms of Omaha including Hi-Lo, a format where half the pot is awarded to the best hand and half the pot to the worst hand, and you can use any two of your four hole cards to make either hand type, thus sometimes holding the best high and low, and scooping the pot. There is also a format with five hole cards dealt, PLO5. 

8-Game & Others

If you ever decide you really want to peek under the hood of poker, there are a lot of fascinating game formats within 8-game, which spreads regularly on Pokerstars. Here you’ll find No Limit and Fixed Limit Hold’em, PLO and Omaha Hi-Lo, as well as Razz (a low card wins format), Triple Draw 2-7 (a super-fun lowball draw game) and 7 Card Stud and Stud Hi-Lo. That’s a load of poker rules to dive into! There are sometimes 8-game tournaments as well.

Another popular format on some of the apps is Open-Face Chinese, which is too diverged from the above formats to do justice here, but is essentially a very complex, but solvable game of rearranging made hands into different sets in a game where you hold a huge number of cards each. 

We hope you’ve enjoyed this little tour of the most common poker types! 

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