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Beyond Hold'em

While Texas Hold’em has rapidly become the most popular variant of poker in the world, it should be kept in mind that there are many other variations of poker that are still widely played.  Games of Omaha High, Omaha High/Low Eight or Better, Seven-Card Stud, and Seven-Card Stud High/Low Eight or Better are spread online and in brick-and-mortar venues around the world. Mixed games that alternate two or more of these variations of poker have recently increased in popularity. A well-rounded poker player should become comfortable playing any of these games. Not only will general understanding of poker deepen by becoming fluent in other variants, but a player can choose the best available game at a venue, rather than be restricted to just the games he or she knows.

However learning new games can be confusing and potentially expensive. For example, when transitioning from Hold’em to Omaha, many players are surprised by how much the values of hands shift. If you flop two-pair in Hold’em, you have a strong hand that will hold up for a win most of the time.  If you flop two-pair in Omaha High, your hand is just about worthless, unless you also have straight-draw or flush-draw potential. A high hand of just two-pair is unlikely to win in Omaha and should usually be folded when faced with any kind of action.

Similarly just reading Omaha High/Low hands can be confusing for many novices to the game. If you hold A, 2, J, 10 and the final board is A, 2, 3, 5, 5, your high hand is two-pair Aces and Fives, and you have no low hand. Your A, 2 combination was “counterfeited” by the A, 2 on the board and does not play for low. In fact your Aces up with a Jack kicker loses to someone holding a single Ace and a better kicker, because your pair of 2s doesn’t play at all. I have witnessed many dealers become confused determining the winners in Omaha High/Low games. Players must be very vigilant when showing their hands.

The best way to master unfamiliar poker variations is to go online and participate in either play money or micro-stakes games. An online venue has the advantages of speed, mistake-free dealing, and learning at a low-cost. You can play through many hands of a new poker variant in a short amount of time, and get a feel for the mechanics of the game and the relative value of different hands. High-low games are not slowed down by a confused dealer. If you became confused, you can always request and review your hand history to see exactly what happened, which is another feature of online play not found in a brick-and-mortar venue. You can also learn new games for free, or very cheaply. No brick-and-mortar cardroom can afford to spread micro-stakes games, but these stakes are very popular online.

Venture out beyond Hold’em and expand your poker horizons. You will become a better-rounded player and have more opportunities to play for profit when favorable games are available.