Texas Holdem Games & Variations
Texas holdem is the most popular variation of poker played online and in casinos and poker rooms everywhere in the world. Its popularity has led to many different variations, both in casinos and in home and private games.
The first three sections below include information about limits that Texas holdem and its variants can be played in. Any of the variants listed in the sections after the next three can be played in any of the three limits.
The game variants listed in the sections after the limit sections have varying degrees of popularity. Omaha holdem can be found in many poker rooms and casinos and is widely available online. Pineapple can be found in a limited number of poker rooms, and most of the others are only found in private and home games at this time.
A limit betting structure is commonly found in use for Texas holdem games, but it isn't as popular as no limit play. In limit play each betting round has a set betting limit. This limit is usually one amount during the flop and immediately following the flop and twice this amount on the turn and river betting rounds.
A limit Texas holdem game with a 4 / 8 limit has bets of $4 during the first two betting rounds and exactly $8 during the final two betting rounds. So each bet and / or raise is exactly $4 before and on the flop. If player 1 bets $4 and player 2 raises she must put $8 in the pot, $4 to call the original bet and a raise of another $4.
Blinds are usually set based on the limits, with the big blind being equal to the lower betting limit and the small blind being half the big blind. In the example we just looked at the big blind would be $4 and the small blind is $2.
No limit play has the same blind structure found in limit games and usually has a minimum bet limit per round, but at any time a player, when it's their turn to act, may bet up to and including the total number of chips they have in front of them. This is the most common betting structure found in Texas holdem games and also most of the variations listed below except for Omaha holdem.
One of the common misconceptions of non-poker players and beginners is if a player has more money than another and moves all of their chips into the pot that the player with fewer chips can't play or loses automatically. What actually happens is the player with more chips gets back their chips in excess of the other player's total amount.
I player A has $250 and moves all in and player B has $200 and calls, player A receives $50 back so each player has $200 in the pot.
This can get somewhat complicated if multiple players are in a pot with differing chip stacks. When multiple players get all in with different stack sizes the dealer creates different pots with the main pot being the total amount of the player with the smallest stack which anyone remaining in the hand can win.
The first side pot will be bets in excess of the amount the smallest stack held, with only players who contribute to the second pot eligible to win it. A third, fourth, and so on, side pot can be built in large multi way pots. You don't have to worry about this as the dealer takes care of it, but it's good to understand how it works to make sure the dealer doesn't make any mistakes.
A pot ends up with four players all in, and the hand starts with the following chip counts:
- Player A has $700 in chips
- Player B has $800 in chips
- Player C has $900 in chips
- Player D has $1,000 in chips
The main pot ends up with $2,800 in it and any of the four players can win it. The first side pot has $300 in it and players B, C, and D can each win it. The second side pot ends up with $200 in it and only players C and D can win it. Notice that player D will only have $900 invested because she started with at least $100 more money than any of the other players.
At the showdown the player who's eligible for each pot with the highest hand is awarded that pot. Different players can win each pot or the same player can win all of the pots. This example ignores the small amount of the blinds and rake that often make a pot not come out quite so evenly for instructional purposes.
Pot limit is mostly found in Omaha games, but a few Texas holdem games are played in a pot limit format. One of the issues with pot limit play is the dealer has to understand how the betting structure works and be able to quickly determine the pot size. When playing online the software platform takes care of all of the calculations, but in live play the dealer needs to be either experienced, or quite sharp, or both.
The blinds and minimum bets on each round are set by the house, just like in limit and no limit play, but the maximum amount any player may bet at one time is the amount of money in the pot. But the amount of the pot also includes the amount it takes to call an earlier bet, so a pot sized bet can be bigger than most players think. Look at the two following examples for a better understanding of how pot sized bets work.
The pot has $125 in it after the flop and the first player wants to raise the size of the pot. She bets $125 and play continues to the next player. This is fairly straightforward and easy, because the player is starting the betting round.
Using the previous example as a setup, the next player to act wants to raise as much as possible. The pot now has $250 in it, but the maximum raise is actually higher than $250. Though the player must state their intention to raise, the pot size is calculated by first adding the call of $125 to the pot and then determining the maximum raise amount. So once the $125 call is added the pot now has $375 in it, so the player can raise another $375. So they put a total of $500 in the pot, which is the $125 call and the $375 raise.
This is why the dealer needs to understand how pot limit play works and stay on top of the game.
In real life pot limit games it's rarely this complicated and most poker rooms let players operate with bet maximums close to the pot size. If the pot has anywhere between $90 and $110 or somewhere close to this range a player can bet $100. As long as players are close to the pot size with their maximum bets it's usually acceptable for all of the players. This way the dealer doesn't have to keep an exact count on the pot.
Occasionally you'll play against a player who can keep the running pot amount in his or her head and announce it whenever anyone needs to know. This can be a bit intimidating, but most of these players aren't any more than decent poker players. Just because you can keep track of a pot doesn't mean you're a great poker player.
Pineapple poker is played exactly like Texas holdem except you start with three hole cards instead of two. You discard one card face down before the flop. Traditionally you discard your third card after the pre flop betting round, but in some places you discard it before the pre flop betting round. It doesn't really matter which way you play, as long as you stay consistent.
Most Pineapple games are played as no limit, but it can easily be played in limit and pot limit. In comparison to Texas holdem, Pineapple hand values run a little higher, but not extremely so. Three of a kind hands and flushes are more likely to happen in Pineapple because it's easier to start with a pocket pair and it's more likely to have two cards of the same suit.
Overall, if you can beat Texas holdem you should be able to quickly adjust your game to be a winning Pineapple player. The same concepts of tight and aggressive play tend to do well in Pineapple, just like in Texas holdem. Poor players tend to play too many hands in Pineapple because they have a third starting card, making it look like they have a better hand than they really do.
Crazy Pineapple starts the same way as regular Pineapple, but you don't discard your third hole card until after the betting round following the flop. This tends to make players stay in the hand longer, leading to larger average pots than in a similar Texas holdem game. It's usually played in no limit format.
The average winning hand strength is better than in a Texas holdem game because of the extra starting card and the possibility to see six total cards before the turn and river. Just like regular Pineapple, if you're a good holdem player you shouldn't have much trouble adjusting your game to be a winning Crazy Pineapple player.
Omaha holdem, often just called Omaha, is the second most popular form of poker played online and in poker rooms around the world. The main differences between Texas holdem and Omaha are each player receives four hole cards instead of two, and each player must use exactly two of their hole cards and three community cards to make a hand.
Omaha is sometimes played as high only, like Texas holdem, but it's also played in high / low, usually with an eight high qualifier. Though 7 Card Stud can be played high / low, Omaha is about the only game found at this time that is played for low. Razz is a low only game, but finding a game is almost impossible.
In a high / low Omaha game the pot is split between the best high hand and the best low hand if a qualifying low hand is shown down. A qualifying low hand must have five unpaired cards ranked eight or below. See our Omaha poker section for a complete explanation of the rules.
From a strategy standpoint if you're starting to play Omaha and have been playing Texas holdem, the most important thing to remember is just because you have twice as many hole cards it doesn't mean you can play twice as many hands. You should actually play no more hands than a winning Texas holdem player does, and many good Omaha players play fewer hands.
You can't use more or less than three community cards. This can lead to costly mistakes if you forget it.
Omaha, in both high only and high / low, can be played in no limit, pot limit, or limit, but most games are limit and pot limit.
Aviation holdem is a cross between Omaha and Pineapple. You start with four hole cards and discard one before the flop and another one after the flop. This form of holdem is rare and most players aren't familiar with it. The odds of it passing Omaha in popularity aren't good because it's almost exactly like Omaha high only, but in Omaha you keep all four cards for the entire hand.
The value of winning hands at showdown is almost identical to Omaha high only, which means better than the average Texas holdem hand, but not outrageously better. Winning Texas holdem players and wining Omaha payers won't have much trouble adjusting to Aviation holdem winning play.
Tahoe Holdem or Lazy Pineapple
Tahoe holdem, also called Lazy Pineapple in some places, has each player receive three hole cards and keep them throughout the hand. It's a cross between Texas holdem and Omaha. Other than three hole cards it plays exactly like Texas holdem.
This variation can be played in a high / low split version like Omaha high / low, but it's rarely played this way. The average winning hand value is slightly better than Texas holdem, but not extremely better.
Of all of the variations listed on this page Speed holdem is probably the rarest and is only found in home or private games. In Speed holdem each player is dealt four hole cards and each player immediately discards two of them. Then all five community cards are dealt face up in the center of the table. This is followed by the single betting round and showdown.
All other rules are the same as a normal Texas holdem game and Speed holdem can be played in limit, pot limit, and no limit varieties, but it's almost always played in no limit.
It's easy to get bored playing regular Texas holdem, which leads to all kinds of problems. When you get bored you may play too many hands, let your mind wander so you miss important parts of the game, and just play worse than normal overall.
Now you know how to play many of the popular variations of Texas holdem, so the next time you start getting bored or just want a change, look for one of the variations listed above. Or get some friends together and start your own game of Pineapple or Tahoe holdem.