What are poker variants and why are they important?

Poker is a hugely popular game all over the world and has become even more widespread since the advent of online gaming. If you want to be a poker star, it’s important to understand how the game is played, but there is not just a single strategy or set of rules. There are many different poker variants, and each affects how the game plays out.

The history of poker can be traced back hundreds of years with its closest predecessor being the French card game Poque. This was Anglicized to ‘poker’ in the early 19th Century in and around New Orleans. From there, it spread up the Mississippi and across the United States. While most versions involved a deck of 52 cards and a hand of five cards per player, regional variations eventually began to emerge. The popular variants have also tended to fluctuate over time.

Five-card draw, and seven-card stud have both been dominant games at different times, for example, while Texas hold ‘em came to prominence from the 70s, when it became the accepted format for premier competition, the World Series of Poker.

You can still find fans and advocates of the many different forms of poker, whether you get together with friends on a Friday night, visit a casino in person or play one of the wildly popular online poker games at an NJ Online Casino.

There’s a lot to learn but here is a brief look at some of the most popular poker variants and what you should know about them:

Draw, stud and community card games

These are the three broad groups of poker variants. With draw games, players are dealt a complete hidden hand and can try to improve it by drawing new cards as a replacement for one or more that they hold.

Stud games seethe player dealt a set number of cards – generally five or seven – and make the best hand out of them.

In community card games, players are dealt ‘hole cards’ that are left face down and community cards they – and other players – can play off to make their best hand.

Texas hold ‘em

This remains the most popular variant worldwide thanks to being the official World Series style of poker. Players receive two hole cards and five community cards are revealed. Betting takes place over four rounds as the community cards are flipped and players aim to make the best hand they can out of their hole and the community cards.

7-card stud

In this variant, players are dealt seven cards – three of which are face-down and four on display. They must make the best hand out of five of these.

5-card draw

Players are dealt five cards but can trade in up to three of them in a bid to make a better hand.


This is a stud game with the variant rule that the player with the highest spade face down (‘in the hole’) receives half of the pot. In Low Chicago games, it goes to the player with the lowest spade in the hole.