Everything You Need to Know About Popular Poker Formats

One of the most popular types of poker is Texas Hold ’em, however, it’s not the only one – there’s loads of games to choose from! It is this variety which perhaps goes to explain why poker is such a thriving industry. In fact, around ten million people worldwide play the game.

As there are so many different types of tournament structure, there is variation in the structure of blinds, limits and overall format. If you know about these, you’ll be better prepared before buy-in.

Tournaments are particularly popular online where players can potentially win a large sum of money, typically up to 30% of the prize pool. However, access to tournaments requires a purchase for starting chips.

The Best 14 Poker Formats Explained

No Limit Tournaments. This is pretty self-explanatory but basically refers to games with no limits or betting restrictions. They are split into knock out tournaments or shootout tournaments.

Knock Out Tournaments. Players pay a ‘buy in’ and are then given their chips. Once in, they’re then spread across several different tables, the maximum number being ten. Then play kicks off! As players become knocked out, players are then shuffled to balance tables. Players must continue to play enough hands or risk also being eliminated. As the game progresses, blinds also increase. As well as the number of marginal hands used to try and steal pots. When ten players are left, all players then move to one table where they continue until one player is left. They are then crowned the winner as they have all the chips.

Progressive Knockout Tournaments. A progressive knockout tournament starts where half of the buy-in goes in the prize pool, then the other half in the player bounty. So, if the buy-in is $200, half of this goes in the prize pool and each player will then have $100. If someone busts someone else’s hand, they will get $50, and their bounty increases to $50. The bounty grows as the game progresses as players still play for the prize. With some online poker sites, instant bounty payout is also offered. Or if they go bust, they might receive a prize pool payout.

Shootout Tournaments. In this type of tournament, players aren’t shuffled in order to balance tables. Instead, each table plays until one winner exists per table. Then, all winners play head-to-head until there’s an overall final winner. This format isn’t used in online poker as software tends to favour knockout tournament formats.

Limit Tournaments. As you might have guessed, these are tournaments that are played with restrictions or limits and can be based on either a knockout or shootout tournament structure. A limit tournament is popular with new players as it protects them from going bust too fast.

Freeze Outs. In this format, players aren’t permitted to re-buy their chips or add to the stack, apart from winning pots. The cost of entry or price for starting chips is set beforehand. If all chips are lost, you’re out of the game!

Re-buy Tournaments. In these types of tournaments, you can buy in again if you happen to lose. In fact, you can do this as many times as you like as long as you’re within the time limit. Due to this, players aren’t as fearful of being busted due to re-buy. However, once re-buy ends, freeze out happens, and no further chips are added to play.

Satellite Tournaments. If you’re seeking a way to gain entry to high buy-in tournaments, a satellite tournament might give you a cheap way to do this. You might even be able to obtain free access! Some online casinos have sections dedicated to satellite tournaments.

Texas Hold ’em. As one of the most popular games, the winnings for Texas Hold’em can be immense, and usually, there’s little restriction on gameplay. Players simply move clockwise around the table, two sitting to the left of the dealer as well as the smart or large blinds. When all players each have two hole cards, their aim is to build the best five-card hand as they can plus five community cards. While the game is pretty easy to learn, the strategy can be a bit more tricky. Nevertheless, it’s a great practice ground for the beginner.

7 Card Stud. This is one of the more tricker games, in fact, it can take many years to master. Nevertheless, you can get up and running pretty quickly. You pay to enter the game, starting with two hole cards, one of which faces up. The player with the lowest value card kicks things off with a nominal or full bet. As things progress, players gain another exposed stress card, up to seven which are known only to the player. The last person to bet reveals their card and the one with the highest value wins.

Omaha (High-Low). An excellent choice for players wanting the excitement of Hold ’em but with quicker play and low risk. Players have four hole cards each, two of which are combined with three community cards. The player with the highest hands and pot-limit wins, or a high low version exists where players can use their highest or lowest hands. To place a low hand, players need five cards ranked at eight or lower. Bluffing isn’t an option, but players with well-connected hands are more likely to win.

Open-Faced Chinese Poker. The game works where a player removes a card from the pack to build the best hand they can. Once they pass through several rounds, they’ll have twelve cards arranged over three rounds, the top round having three cards left. The middle and bottom hands have five-card hands, each of which must be higher than before. The game is most popular with professionals due to its quick pace and high degree of chance. As players win hands, they gain a further three points (the scoop) if they beat their opponents in the other three hands.

5-Card Draw. Another game which is easy to learn, players draw their cards, ridding their old ones for replacements. When this happens, a further betting round happens, which is then followed by a showdown. The player achieving the highest value then wins. A 5-card draw is only usually seen online rather than in actual brick and mortar casinos.

Short Deck Poker. This is similar to Texas Hold ’em, but the gameplay tends to be shorter. Cards numbered between two and five are taken from the deck, and no blinds are posted. Players have to post ‘ante’, and once they’ve done this, the game then kicks off.

Razz Poker. In Razz Poker, players have to put together the lowest possible five-card hand from the seven cards they’re dealt. Straights and flushes don’t count against the player for low, while aces always play low. The best hand achievable is 5-4-3-2-A or 5-high, otherwise known as ‘the bicycle’ or ‘wheel’.

Choosing the Right Poker Format for You

When it comes to different formats of poker, a player’s chances of success is down to their experience and knowledge of the game. This is the beauty of poker – because there’s such a range of different games, there’s really something for everyone. And this is perhaps why the game is so popular in the first place.


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