The ever-changing game of poker

With a rich history dating back to at least 1829, and origins dating back much farther than that, you would expect poker to have standardized by now, with set gameplay and set rules. Yet thanks to the huge growth of the game online, poker is still developing and changing all the time. New games and new variations are being invented on a regular basis, as different casinos strive to deliver a unique experience that will draw in the players. These days, ‘poker’ covers so many different games that the name itself has become almost meaningless!

Traditional variations

When poker was first played, the game was very simple indeed, with four players dealt five cards each from a pack of twenty. The hands, as we know them today, were much the same, but there was little room for the skill and psychology that draw so many to the game. It wasn’t until the arrival of the French deck, consisting of 52 cards, that things really got interesting.

Since then, dozens of different variants have appeared in the game, keeping the same basic hands, but changing the number of cards and how they are dealt. Most modern poker games are based on either:

  • Draw poker: (where each player receives five cards face down)
  • Stud poker: (where some cards are dealt face up to go with one or two face-down cards)
  • and Community: card poker (where players share access to several cards to go with their face-down hole cards).

Yet, within these three basic forms, there are endless variations, such as five card stud, seven card stud, Texas hold ’em, Omaha hold ’em and Mexican stud. There are also games that combine the rules of several variations, such as H.O.R.S.E., which combines Texas hold ’em, Omaha high-low, Razz, Seven-card stud and Seven-card stud Eight-or-better.

Making your own rules

Many of us have our own ‘house rules’ when playing with friends
Many of us have our own ‘house rules’ when playing with friends

As if that weren’t enough, many games of poker also include house rules, such as a minimum value hand to open. Casual players will often make the game more interesting by nominating wild cards, which can have any value you like. This increases the chances of getting a good hand, which is useful when you consider that the odds of getting a royal flush straight from the dealer are a massive 1 in 649,740! You can also improve the quality of hands by creating what is known as a ‘royal deck’, which combines the higher cards from two decks to make a much more player-friendly deck.

All of these local twists are great when you are getting together with friends for fun, but they don’t readily transfer to the online game. So how are poker portals rising to the challenge of making their game not only more interesting, but also stand out to potential poker players on the poker comparison sites ?

New innovations

Online poker sites will generally offer all the major variations of poker for their players, with games ranging from the smallest stakes to serious money tournament jackpots that run into the millions. But this is not enough to differentiate them from the competition, so you’ll find some innovative and imaginative variations on offer to draw the crowds. While these are mostly aimed at the casual player, they also offer a touch of fun for the online pros, too.

Some variants up the ante with speed poker—where you have to think fast to stay in the game—while others offer the chance to play hands you could wait a lifetime for. For example, PowerUp, from PokerStars, gives you access to all kinds of information you’d never get in a normal game, such as peeking at the next card down on the deck, or even seeing some of your opponents’ cards. You can switch your hole cards or even swap the flop to give you the best chance at the best hand.

Also new from PokerStars is Unfold Hold ‘em, which gives you a second chance when you’ve made the wrong call. There’s nothing more annoying than folding and then seeing a flop that would have been perfect for your hole cards. With Unfold Hold ‘em, you can jump back into the game, playing against any other folded hands for a separate pot.

With poker more popular than ever, the pressure on casinos, both on and offline, to create something different and original has never been greater. Even though the game is nearly 200 years old, it looks set to carry on developing and growing in new and exciting ways. So, grab your chips and take a seat, because there’s always going to be a new game in town.

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