The thing that always attracted me to poker is simply that it is a card game. I love playing cards! Growing up, I was the kid that was always learning how to play different games like Spades, Gin Rummy, Pinochle, and Cribbage. There were many other card games that I learned over the years but not many stuck and eventually I discovered poker. My first exposure to poker was 5-card draw. Since one of my friends taught me how to play the rules were never clear. Could I draw 5 or 4 or 3? When did we bet? Are deuces always wild? Every time I played it was slightly different, but the winning hands were always the same. Later on when I was in high school, I learned about Texas Hold’Em and never really played any other card games since it was always easiest to find a game of poker.
The most confusing thing about poker is the number of variant forms that you can play. Each one with their own unique set of rules and some with different hand rankings. Only knowing how to play one form of poker may limit you as a thinking player. Other forms of poker can teach you things about poker that you may have never considered before. For example, knowing how to play a low hand in a High-Low split game can translate into knowing how to navigate a board with high cards when you have a small pocket pair or low straight or flush. Then there is just the overall idea of bluffing or what some people like to refer to as “playing poker”. Often in a different variation of poke you find yourself with hand that had gone bad or hand that is not the nuts and could easily be beaten even though it looks like a strong hand. The most important thing that you learn to exercise is your attention to what is going on. Just like Hold’Em there is a lot of information to be observed during a hand. Its up to you to pay attention and observe the little details as they happen.
The first time I played what could be considered a mix game was at a home game many years ago. Before I moved to Las Vegas, a group of my friends started a home game that ran for years. One day one of the guys came back from Vegas with all kinds of stories about how crazy it is and all the different variations of poker there are. The stories he told were unbelievable tales that involved prostitutes, drugs, and gambling. Personally, I held onto my skepticism just because it didn’t sound real to me. To this day I still don’t believe most of what he told us, but I think he may have come across a mix game and just didn’t remember all the rules clearly. It was the first time I was introduced to games like Pineapple, Double Board Hold’Em and Omaha, and something called The Good, Bad and the Ugly. We had fun but later I would learn that the only thing he got right was how to play Omaha. You could argue that he technically showed us Crazy Pineapple, but it’s been so long that I am not sure what we played. The double board games he introduced us to were wrong and eventually I figured out that if you deal a double board then you deal two boards for anything that has not been dealt yet. I won’t even get into what was wrong with The Good, Bad, and the Ugly because I have never seen that played anywhere else but based on what I have read, that was not right too.
Omaha is arguably the second most popular poker variant next to Texas Hold’Em. It is by far the one game that I have played the most next to Texas Hold’Em. Unfortunately, I never really had an in depth understanding of the game, and I am just starting to realize what a good starting hand is in that game. Then there are the variants like Big O or Dramaha (also spelled Drawmaha by some). If you don’t know how to play draw poker variants, then I would suggest staying away from Dramaha until you learn how to play them. You can easily find yourself learning two or three variations of poker at once. I enjoy playing Omaha High-Low split games. It makes for an interesting game format in which you could be quartered if you are not careful.
Stud is a game that used to be played all the time before Texas Hold’Em became the popular choice. I find this game especially fun and challenging because you are forced to remember the face up cards. There are five, seven, and nine card variations of the game but I think seven card stud was the most popular. Just like Omaha there are different variations that you can play like High-Low split or Razz (low). For the longest time Stud high was my absolute favorite variation of poker. I put in a lot of effort to learn as much as I could and play it every chance that I had. I never became an expert, but I understood the game well enough that I could hold my own. Then I discovered Razz and it was like everything I knew about the game was thrown out. My objective now suddenly was to make the worse hand possible. The reason I like Stud so much is that it reminded me of Spades, another favorite card game of mine. In Spades its important to keep track of what has been played. Keeping track of other players face up cards is crucial. If someone folds, you are no longer able to see their faceup cards and if they had something you needed then you are screwed.
The last game I will talk about is 2-7 triple draw. A game that I have recently become addicted to playing. I like it because it reminds of 5-card draw but instead of trying to make the high hand, your objective is to make a low hand. Aces are considered high and unlike other low ball poker games, flushes and straights count against you. In this game the absolute nuts are 2-3-4-5-7, hence the name 2-7. What makes the game fun for me is the bluffing with an 8 or 9 and card elimination base on your draws. The game itself seems easy to play but as you gain experience, you begin to realize there are levels to the game. There is strategy to raising before the first draw and strategy to standing pat to scare your opponents. Because your cards are not exposed, I think it adds an element to the game where you can try to play your hand like you have the nuts but if you get caught, it will cost you. Then there is the understanding of what to draw and how to break certain cards from your hand. The first thing I learned about the game is to push your equity when you have a deuce in your hand. Having a deuce is powerful in this game. I enjoy this game so much that I would seriously consider entering an event at the WSOP just to play 2-7 triple draw.
As I continue this down this path that I call a poker career I know that I can always veer off the main road and take a short detour to keep myself entertained. For now, I may not be crusher at all these different forms of poker, but I will continue to apply myself to learn the fundamentals. I can always find my way back and still easily find a Texas Hold’Em game.
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