Poker Games Online
Throughout most of its history the game of poker was always played "live" - meaning face-to-face with other players seated around a table. From its early days on steamships and in back rooms of dusty saloons, poker emerged as a popular activity in California card rooms in the 70s and 80s. Later spreading across the US in land-based casinos and home games over the 80s and 90s.
The early days of online poker began soon after that, with the first real money hand dealt in 1998 on Planet Poker. However, poker really began to take off in 2003, when Tennessee accountant and amateur poker player Chris Moneymaker won the WSOP Main Event. With a knock off effect that kicked up a "poker boom", the effects of which are still being felt reverberating around the world.
Running alongside that boom was the uprising of online poker games, which went from a few computer nerds trading hands on IRC to the rudimentary Planet Poker to the global behemoth that became PokerStars. It's been a fascinating progression to see with its fair share of peaks and valleys. But there's no doubt the accessibility of online poker has changed the game's course forever.
The rules and regulations for online poker games differ across countries and continents. So there's no one "universal" player pool for online poker. But there should be (with just a a few exceptions) online poker games in some form in the country you live in. Check our recommended list of online card rooms above to see which are the best poker sites operating in your country or state. From there you can compare your options and see which welcome bonus may fit you best, with poker room reviews to give you the full low-down on the pros and cons of each site.
If you're not ready to play yet, read on for a quick introduction to the myriad of poker games you can learn to play and practice at many of our poker site partners.
Free Poker Games
If you're hesitating at the idea of putting your money into an imagined world teeming with sharks and grifters online, we can assuage your fears. The world of online poker games is far from a den of inequity. In the UK, US, Europe and Asia, for example, major online poker companies are publicly owned and listed on the stock exchanges. They are licensed and regulated by government oversight agencies like the UK Gambling Commission, Malta Gaming Authority or the New Jersey Department of Gaming Enforcement.
Online poker games are certified and guaranteed to be fair and secure and your online transactions are protected by the latest ssl encryption, just as any online transactions are. As long as you're playing on a licensed and certified poker site, online poker games are as safe as it gets. For many people, though, a very enticing entry point are the free poker games which online poker sites offer without ever needing to create an account or make a deposit.
Free poker games can be found on any major poker site and can be accessed with any Internet browser or smartphone. Simply look for the "play money" or "Instant Play" options on the website. Once you register an actual account you'll still be able to play free games but you'll be able to build your own virtual bankroll and access great real-money rewards like freeroll tickets and satellite seats.
If you'd like to learn how to make bets and play hands on an online poker interface, free poker games are a great way to start. Once you get used to the speed of the software and how hands play out in real time you'll be much more comfortable playing for any amount of real money.
Once you get your feet wet we'd bet you'll even find it as good or better than live poker itself with the freedom to play whenever and wherever you like and more poker hands per hour than you've ever imagined. Online poker even offers amazing variants like Fast Fold Poker, where every time you fold your hand you're instantly moved to a new table with a new table. Find the best places to play free poker online here:
Poker Games - Texas Holdem
The most popular poker variation in the world by a large margin, Texas Hold’em is the game you’ve most likely seen on TV or in recent movies. With two hidden hole cards for each player and five exposed "community" cards shared among the players, Hold’em is a back-and-forth mental tug-of-war packed with great action and strategy in all of its formats.
"No-Limit" Holdem in particular has captured the world's imagination with the opportunity for any player to shove all of their chips in the middle at any point and put their opponent to the ultimate test. It's the signature format of the $10,000 World Series of Poker Main Event and if you've watched even a moment of it on the famous ESPN broadcast you know it's never shy on heart-stopping (or heartbreaking) moments.
If you're interested in playing No-Limit Holdem yourself, there’s always a game available online, 24 hours a day, no matter your budget or skill level. In fact almost 95% of all online poker games play at stakes under $5 so it's a very accessible pastime for any poker player. If you’re just getting started playing Texas Hold’em we recommend checking out some basic articles for a simple understanding of the rules and etiquette of the game and a few of our tips for solid beginner Holdem strategy.
- How to Play Texas Hold'em | Texas Holdem Rules
- Texas Hold'em Strategy - A Complete Beginner's Guide
- Best Texas Holdem Poker Sites Online
Poker Games - Omaha
If Texas Hold’em poker is considered “high-action” poker, Omaha has to be considered “really high action” poker. Growing a ton in popularity over the last few years, Omaha poker is similar to Texas Hold’em in rules and betting structures but has one major difference: In Omaha you get four hole cards compared to two in Hold’em - although you can still only use two to comprise your final hand.
Given the amount of added variables and hand combinations with four hole cards instead of two, you can see how Omaha has action potential on every street. Pot-Limit Omaha is probably the most popular Omaha variant online. You can find out more about its betting structure and game play in our Rules section and check out our beginner strategy series “How to Not Suck at Pot-Limit Omaha.”
- How to Play Omaha Poker | Omaha Poker Rules
- How to Not Suck at Pot-Limit Omaha
- Play Omaha Poker Online
Poker Games 7 Card Stud
The "granddaddy" of poker games, Seven-Card Stud is what most people were thinking of when they said "poker" in the past. The dominant game of our grandfathers, you might have learned it at the kitchen table from one of them. It's definitely not as popular today as it once was - Texas Hold'em is certainly the dominant game of choice now - but you'll still find it in lots of cards rooms (particularly in California) and at the World Series of Poker.
It's also a regular component of Mixed Games like HORSE and 8-Game. A lot of poker die-hards like to think of 7-Card Stud as one of the "purist" of poker games and if you take a couple minutes to try it out online you'll find yourself drawn in with its classic poker feel. Learn the basic rules of Stud poker; if you're looking to play it online you'll find Stud games spread at all of the major poker sites listed above including 888poker, partypoker, Tiger Gaming Poker and PokerStars.
Razz Poker is basically the inverse or "lowball" version of 7 Card Stud. Once you've learned how to play 7-Card Stud you'll have no problem making the switch to Razz as there are only 3 real differences:
- The winning hand is the "worst" or lowest possible hand
- Straights and flushes don't count and aces are always low
- The player with the lowest hand (aka best hand) starts the betting in each round
There's also no qualifier for the winning hand - as long as it's the lowest hand left in the round, it's the winner. As you might have guessed while the game plays like a round of Stud in action, your preferred starting hands and optimal strategy for Razz are much different. Read all about it and where you can play Razz online on our Razz Poker page:
Fast Fold Poker (Zoom Poker)
Fast Fold Poker has swept the online poker market over the past 4 or 5 years. It's one of the most revolutionary innovations ever brought to the poker world and will be a staple of many poker players' online action for years to come. You'll find it under different names on different poker sites - Zoom Poker, Speed Poker, Snap Poker, FastForward Poker, etc - but all fast-fold poker games play the same way:
That's it, really. No waiting around for long hands to play out. No downtime. Just straight poker action, all the time, whenever you fold your hand. You can even auto-fold to make it that much faster. If there ever was a poker game tailor-made for the mobile phone it's Fast Fold Poker as your need for multi-tabling goes away - simply jump into the fast-fold player pool on a single table and you'll get all the action you can handle.
Full Tilt Poker's Rush Poker was the early disruptor in the fast-fold space but PokerStars' Zoom Poker has quickly taken over the mantle as the #1 fast-fold game in town. Learn more about Fast-Fold Poker and play online with a great bonus via our dedicated pages:
Short Deck Hold'em (6+ Hold'em)
Another new poker game variant that has become all the rage is Short Deck Hold'em, also known as 6+ Hold'em or Six Plus Hold'em. Originating in the high-stakes card rooms of Macau and Manila, Short Deck Hold'em has grabbed a lot of attention in Europe and North America over the last few years with Short Deck events in the Triton High Roller series and a new Short Deck event at the World Series of Poker.
What exactly is Short Deck Hold'em? Well, it's simply Hold'em with all the cards below six (2,3,4,5) removed from the deck. That makes for a 36-card deck and a dramatic increase in big hands made. It also, though, changes up your optimal strategy quite a bit. And makes for two important changes to the standard poker hand rankings:
- A flush now beats a full house
- Three of a kind now beat a straight
It might sound a bit weird but it makes sense once you play it. Learn how to play Short Deck and where you can play it online on our dedicated page:
Mixed Poker Games - HORSE
A "mixed" poker game is a game that rotates through different variants and changes after every orbit around the table. The most popular Mixed Games is HORSE, which is a combination of: Holdem, Omaha, Razz, Stud, Eight-or-Better Stud. Put them altogether - H.O.R.S.E. Standard HORSE games run 8-handed and work by playing one rotation (a complete orbit around the table) of each game; the order is always the same (Hold'em, Omaha, Razz, Stud, Stud 8) as you might have guessed from the name of the game itself. All the games are played in Limit format, which may take some getting used to for those coming from a No-Limit Hold'em background.
HORSE is a very esteemed game in the poker world, especially among the high rollers, and it's seen as a poker game that's a true test of your overall poker acumen. The $50,000 Players Championship at the WSOP used to be a HORSE event and it's original winner, Chip Reese, is considered one of the best poker players to ever live. A big advantage of learning how to play HORSE and all of its games well is you'll find most players don't do the same - meaning they open up plenty of profitable spots in the lesser-played games. Learn all the rules and basic strategy of HORSE and where to play HORSE online on our page here:
Mixed Poker Games - 8 Game
8-Game and 10-Game mix are also becoming more common in both the online and live arenas including at major tournament series like the World Series of Poker. These mixed-game variants add in even lesser known poker games like Badugi, Badeucey and 2-7 Triple Draw (read more about these below). Much like HORSE, as we mentioned above, if you really study the games and play all or most of them well you'll have a huge advantage over most players at the 8-Game tables, who surprisingly DON'T know all of the poker games well.
As for the specifics of the game, 8-Game is a mixed game with 6 players maximum at the table. The game is played like HORSE with one orbit around the table for each game according to a fixed rotation. Games are:
- Limit 2-7 Triple Draw
- Limit Hold’em
- Limit Omaha Hi-Lo
- Limit Razz
- Limit Seven Card Stud
- Limit Stud Hi-Lo
- No-Limit Hold’em
- Pot-Limit Omaha
Learn all about 8-Game and its different variants and strategies here:
2-7 Triple Draw Lowball
While 2-7 Triple Draw is one of the added games to the 8-Game mix it's an esteemed and popular poker game on its own, too. It's a staple of old school live card rooms in California, Vegas and beyond. And it's even been a featured event on the WSOP lineup since the early 70s.
Big name poker pros including Phil Ivey, Phil Galfond and Phil Hellmuth are big fans of the 2-7 poker game. And since it's a Limit game, like many more poker games these days, it requires some deep and detailed understanding of poker odds and outs.
The rules for betting and showdowns in 2-7 Triple Draw Lowball are unique and you'll need to study them pretty well before you get comfortable with the game. For this reason, we've decided to spell it all out for you in our detailed guide, including with a short instructional video, on our How to Play 2-7 Triple Draw here:
While Badugi is a poker game in its own right it's also a specific "thing." A "Badugi" is a hand with each card of a different suit. It's the highest hand you can have in the game of Badugi (although there are different ranks of Badugis as well). It shares quite a few characteristics with other lowball games like 2-7 Triple Draw, as it's a lowball game itself, but when it comes to hand rankings it's a whole new ball game.
Fun fact: The game of Badugi is reportedly derived from the South Korean word "baduk," which means a "black and white" pattern. A sister game to Badugi is Badeucy, which is the split pot combination game of 2-7 and Badugi. Sound complicated? It is, a little bit. But you can learn everything you need to know about it on our dedicated page here:
Open Face Chinese Poker
Much like Badugi, Open Face Chinese Poker is really a different animal. In fact, it's not really "poker" per se. It does use poker hands, though, which allows it to fall under the poker umbrella. Rather than play with traditional bets and raises and pots won by the player with the best hand, Open Face Chinese Poker, or OFC as its known colloquially, is a "points" game. Meaning before the game a point value is decided on (eg. $1).
Players are then dealt 13 cards (either all at once for Chinese Poker or starting with 5 and then one by one for OFC), which they must arrange into three different poker hands:
- A "Top" hand made up of 3 cards
- A "Middle" hand made up of 5 cards
- A "Bottom" hand made up for 5 cards
A player is then awarded a point for every hand that is better than their opponent's. Bonus points are also awarded for:
- Winning all three hands
- Making a particular hand in the top, middle or bottom hand
Players can also enter "Fantasyland" if they make Queens or better in their Top hand and get an extended chance for even more bonus points.
There are a few different ways you can score an Open Face Chinese Poker game but it's fast become a favorite of poker pros and amateurs to play during some tournament downtime. Read all about it and watch our quick OFC/Pineapple instructional video here:
Pineapple and Crazy Pineapple are very close cousins of Texas Hold'em and the rules of play are virtually the same with only a couple of exceptions. The major difference, of course, is each player is dealt three cards instead of two pre-flop. Players then decide on one card they want to discard before the betting begins. In Crazy Pineapple, though, you don't have to discard the one card right away. Instead you get to hold on to the extra card and only have to discard it after the flop betting round.
Crazy, right? In Lazy Pineapple (aka Tahoe Pineapple) you can keep it even longer - in fact right through to the end of the hand. Only after the river is dealt and all bets are made do you need to get rid of a card. You can also play Pineapple versions of other games, which basically just mean you get to throw cards away at certain points. See OFC Pineapple above. Read more about Pineapple Poker here:
5 Card Draw Poker
It doesn't get more old school when it comes to poker than a little bit of 5 Card Draw. This is the game you grew up playing with your grandparents at the kitchen table or with your friends at a casual home poker game. It's so ubiquitous - and so associated with matchsticks and pennies in most people's minds - that it's hard to think of playing 5 Card Draw for money but believe it or not you still can at the microstakes level (25c/50c) on PokerStars.
And it's fun. Standing pat, gambling on draws, throwing all of your cards away and starting over ... all of the staples of 5 Card Draw poker are there and remind you of the looser days of your poker career when a call or fold or bluff gone awry wouldn't set your bankroll back three months. If you want to play it perfectly, you can do that too though. Read more about the classic poker game - and its cousin, 5 Card Stud - on our dedicated page here.
If you like the pureness of 5 Card Draw mixed with the high-level action and strategy of Pot-Limit Omaha you'll love Drawmaha Poker. Also known as "Sviten Special" (named after the Swede who reportedly came up with the game), Drawmaha is a split pot game that combines those two variants. Half the pot goes to the best Draw hand and half goes to the best Omaha hand. You can even twist things up and make the draw hand the best lowball hand. The result is a non-stop cavalcade of big hands and big action on every street. Some have called it "the greatest poker game ever created." Even if you don't go that far it's definitely a fun one to add in to your home game's dealer's choice mix. Read all about it here:
Courchevel (5-Card Omaha)
There's only one place to play Courchevel online (PokerStars) but if you like your Omaha with some extra gamble, it might be for you. It's a gambler's game and a huge pot game as the extra card (and Courchevel twist) make for massive hands. What's the twist? In Courchevel the first card of the flop is exposed prior to the flop itself and the first betting round! SO you have a sneak peek of what hands you might already be able to make before you even have to make a bet. As you might guess it's a staple for the big-game players who love action and gamble. You can play it on a small scale online, though. More detail here:
Casino Poker Games
Casino poker games, or casino table games that feature poker hands or poker elements, are an entirely different animal. Primarily, of course, you are not playing against other players at the table. You're playing against the house - like you do with every other casino table game such as Baccarat, Roulette, Craps, Blackjack, etc. And as everyone knows about playing against the house, the house is set up to win. Not win a lot, necessarily. But still the odds are in the house's favor.
When you play a standard poker game like Hold'em or Omaha you can build your own edge into the game by how hard you study and just how good you are at outsmarting your opponents. In casino poker games you can't do that. But you can play an optimal strategy for each game that does reduce the house edge substantially.
With a game like video poker, for example, with perfect strategy you can even turn the house odds slightly in your favor. At the very least you can get all your drinks for free in Vegas. To learn more about the most popular casino games that involve poker check our individual game pages here:
Incredibly popular over the last 10 years, poker tournaments of all shapes and forms appeal to poker players for several reasons. To start with, the potential return on your investment is always remarkably huge compared to your initial buy-in. In a small-stakes tournament you can turn a $1 or $2 buy-in into several hundred with nothing more than a lucky run of cards. In a larger buy-in tournament, like the Sunday Million on PokerStars, you could turn $215 into $200,000 or more.
It’s that kind of potential that keeps players coming back for more and more tournaments in between their poker cash games. New players also love the fact that if the cards don't go your way, you know exactly how much you stand to lose (which, generally speaking, is not much).
Multi-table tournaments, sit-and-gos (one-table tournaments that start as soon as the table is full), double-or-nothings, shootouts … the number of tournament variations these days is massive and always growing. See our list below of some of the most popular poker tournament formats you'll find online. Learn more about free poker tournaments online here.
Poker Games for Beginners
Online poker used to be relegated to just Limit Hold’em cash games and the occasional 7-Card stud game but these days there are literally hundreds of poker games variants available to poker players. Here’s a quick look at some of the most common types of poker games you'll encounter online.
Poker Cash Games vs. Poker Tournaments
Every poker game offered online can be labeled as a "tournament" or a "cash" game (also known as a "ring" game). These two different poker games are vastly different in format and strategy. Players buy into a tournament for a one-time entrance fee and receive a select number of starting chips (always the same for all players). Blind levels continually increase to keep the pressure on players to get in the action.
When a player's tournament chips are gone, the player is out of the tournament. Those who last into the top 10-15% of all players entered "make the money" and receive a cash payout. The lowest level of payout is typically slightly more than the original buy-in while the top payout is typically 20-50% of the total prize pool.
In some smaller single-table tournaments they can also be "winner take all" and the winner gets the total amount of the prize pool.Tournament buy-ins online vary from as little as $.10 all the way up to $25,000-$100,000+ at the highest of stakes in the world. Freeroll tournament are also a popular offering at most poker sites to bring in new players. These tournaments have no entry fess but pay out in real-money (or equivalent) prizes. Read more about freerolls here:
In poker cash games players buy in for a minimum or maximum at each table and play with that amount of money on the table. Every pot they win from other players they can keep and either keep on the table for play or get up and leave the table with a profit. Players can't take a portion off the table and continue to play with just the winnings, though; you'll need to leave the table and then return to a seat later with another set buy-in amount within the minimum or maximum. If a player loses all of his or her money, (s)he can rebuy into the table with another buy-in.
Poker games stakes you can find online are much wider than those you can find at a live casino ro card room. Whereas the smallest stakes at a live casino are usually $1/$2 blinds with a minimum buy in of $20, online poker games range from $.01/$.02 blinds all the way up to $2,000/$4,000! Below are a few of the poker games variants that can be played in tournaments or cash games - and in some cases both.
Short-Handed Poker Games
"Shorthanded" usually means 6 players at a table or less (a full ring game will have 9 or 10). Short-handed poker games tend to be more action-oriented than a table of nine or 10 players. Sometimes these games are also offered with a maximum of four or five players or, in the case of jackpot sit-and-gos like PokerStars' Spin & Gos can have just 3 players. Short-handed poker games can be found in both tournament and cash game formats.
Limit or Pot-Limit Poker Games
Poker cash games can also be played with limits in place to restrict the betting. In other words it’s impossible to lose your entire stack in one hand (unless you have a very small stack). Limit games are available in cash games or tournaments. Pot-Limit games (most commonly found in Pot-Limit Omaha) restrict the bet amounts to the total in the pot at anyone time. Read more about Limit and Pot-Limit betting formats here:
Heads-Up Poker Games
Many consider heads-up poker to be the most pure form of the game. Heads-up is a one-on-one poker game where one player wins and the other loses. It can be played in a sit & go style, across multiple tables in a shootout tournament or in cash games.
Sit & Go Poker Games
A Sit & Go is a short tournament is usually made up of one table, although some include multiple tables. The game begins as soon as there are enough players signed up. Many players prefer this form of poker game because it's perhaps the least time-intensive variant. Online you can find sit & go poker games starting up virtually every minute and at every possible stake level. Once you've created your poker account, simply navigate to the "Sit & Go" lobby to find all the games available to you. When you've found the buy-in level you want to play and a table with an open seat, just click the "register" button and you'll be seated at the table and in the action momentarily!
Jackpot SnGs (Spin & Go's)
A Jackpot Sit & Go, or "Spin & Go" as they're branded on PokerStars, is another exciting new form of poker game developed entirely by online poker sites (although now updated to be played at live tournament series, too). These are 3- or 4-player hyper turbo SnGs where the prize pool is automatically multiplied by a random multiplier before it begins. Buy-ins can range from just $1 or less to up to $500 or so but the multipliers can reach up to 10,000x the original prize pool so they can be quite lucrative.
Most are winner-take-all but at the highest jackpot levels every player at the table splits the jackpot. Read more and play Spin & Gos here:
A multi-table tournament (MTT) lets players sign up for a certain registration period beforehand and when that time has expired the tournament begins. These tournaments usually take more time than Sit & Go's but the prizes are usually much better. These tournaments can range anywhere from 20 players up to 50,000.
Bounty tournaments are simply MTTs where there is a bonus for busting certain pre-designated players. Many online poker rooms put bounties on their pros in select tournaments to help generate interest.
Turbo or Super Turbo Tournaments
Turbo tournaments are exactly what they sound like – sped up versions of regular Sit & Goes and MTTs. Starting stacks are usually very small and the blinds escalate at a rapid pace. These can quickly turn into a shove-fest.
Shootout tournaments are essentially a series of Sit & Go's where the winners move on to the next round. For example in certain Shootout tournaments if you make it through five rounds you get to the final table where there is serious money to be won.
Try Out Great Poker Games Free with No Download Poker!
Want to try out a few different poker games and get some practice in before playing for real money? Free no download online poker games are a great way to learn the ropes of online poker software and try out new game variations without any risk. All the major poker sites offer an "Instant Play" or no download free version you can play without downloading any software.
All you need is a major Internet browser (Safari, Firefox, Explorer, Chrome etc) and the latest Flash update. Learn more about playing free no download poker right here: