Steps for Success When Playing Unfamiliar Poker Variants

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BetMGM Apr 18, 2024, 3:13 AM

Poker enthusiasts are often drawn to new and unfamiliar poker variants that offer fresh challenges and opportunities. Although most people are familiar with the classic version of poker that typically involves five cards, there are actually many different variants, each with its own unique set of rules and strategies. However, stepping into unfamiliar territory can be daunting. 

Explore the steps needed for success when playing unfamiliar variants of poker, delve into the importance of basic strategy and take a look at the different variants that are worth mastering.

Understanding Unfamiliar Poker Variants

Unfamiliar variants of poker are those that differ from well-known games like No-Limit Hold’em or Omaha. These variants may have unique rules, hand rankings and betting structures. They may also require specific strategies. Recognizing what sets them apart is the first step towards becoming comfortable with the unfamiliar.

Embrace the Power of Basic Strategy

No matter the variant, the foundation of poker strategy remains the same. Basic principles such as position, starting hand selection, pot odds and bankroll management hold significant value in any poker game. Applying these principles to unfamiliar variants can provide a solid framework that’ll help you make sound decisions and adapt to the new challenges that are presented at the table or in online casino games

Some Basic Principles To Aid Your Poker Strategy

Poker strategy when playing unfamiliar variants can be aided further by adaptability, observation and by getting lots of practice. 

Adapt and Observe

Adaptability is crucial when playing unfamiliar variants of poker. You need to pay close attention to the game dynamics, study your opponents’ tendencies and adjust your strategy accordingly. 

Remaining flexible and open-minded allows you to make informed decisions based on the unique aspects of the variant so that you can exploit any potential weaknesses in your opponents’ play. Patience is also key. Learning a new poker variant takes time, so don’t expect to become a master overnight. 

Study and Practice

The level of proficiency required doesn’t need to be anything grandiose but you should be able to quickly identify the best possible hands, given the limitations imposed by the visible cards. For the draw games, recognize the most common patterns of card numbers that players draw and their likely implications for hand strength.

Divide all possible starting hands into broad categories of “best,” “good enough to play,” “marginal” and “dump.” Furthermore, be able to explain why a given starting hand is either good or problematic to play.

Practice Some More

Do you have a general feel for how much strength your hand needs to be a likely winner? If you’re betting all the way in Omaha with the top pair/top kicker as you might in Hold’em, then you need a lot more practice.

Don’t be afraid to seek out resources such as books, online poker forums, tutorials and videos dedicated to the specific variant you wish to learn. Engage in free play or low-stakes games to gain practical experience and refine your skills.

The Most Popular Poker Variants

A solid foundation in the following seven games will stand you in good stead in the chaotic world of obscure poker variants, as nearly everything you’ll encounter is based on one of these seven (or combines features of each.)

1. Get a Good Foundation in HORSE

The cluster of games commonly referred to by the acronym HORSE — and popular in online poker tournaments — consists of No-Limit Hold’em, Omaha Eight-or-Better (or Hi-Low,) Razz, Seven-Card Stud and Seven-Card Stud Eight-or-Better (or Hi-Low.)

If you’re only familiar with Hold’em, expanding your repertoire to include these other games introduces you to new principles. Some of these include making two hands simultaneously in hi-low games and dealing with restrictions on using community cards in Omaha. 

The game structure and rules also differ significantly from Hold’em; playing for the low requires practice to determine the winning hand. It’s advisable to focus on learning one game at a time rather than diving into all four simultaneously, as it can be overwhelming and lead to confusion.

2. Include Balugi

Next, you should learn how to play poker variants like Badugi. This game also uses the triple-draw structure, so that won’t be new if you have a good grounding in HORSE. 

It also rewards having the lowest hand, which, by this point, will be familiar to you from the Omaha Hi-Low, Razz and Stud Hi-Low rounds of HORSE.

What will be new here is playing with a four-card final hand, something that might be disconcerting to first-timers. Another novel feature of Balugi is learning the importance of drawing to a “rainbow” hand (four different suits.)

3. The Intrigue of Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw

Finally, one variant definitely worth exploring is Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw. In this lowball game, players are dealt five cards face down. You then have three opportunities to discard and draw new cards. The objective is to make the lowest hand possible, with 2-3-4-5-7 being the best hand. 

Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw is a relatively low-variance game, meaning your results are less likely to be affected by luck. Understanding the unique hand rankings and strategies involved in this game can offer a competitive advantage in mixed games and add versatility to your poker repertoire.

It’s Time To Get Familiar With the Unfamiliar

Venturing into unfamiliar poker territory doesn’t have to be a daunting prospect. By following the steps discussed, including gaining a deep understanding of the different variants and implementing basic strategies, you can prepare yourself for just about any hand you might encounter. Register at BetMGM and start practicing captivating games like Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw and other poker games online. Adapt and win.

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Our BetMGM editors and authors are casino experts with a wealth of knowledge of the online casino industry at all levels. Their coverage includes company news, game reviews, how-to instructional articles, strategy guides, and editorials showcasing BetMGM’s superior product and game library.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are casino experts with a wealth of knowledge of the online casino industry at all levels. Their coverage includes company news, game reviews, how-to instructional articles, strategy guides, and editorials showcasing BetMGM’s superior product and game library.