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What Is The Hardest Poker Game?

Wondering what is the hardest poker variant to learn, master, and play? We’ve gathered the five most difficult poker games and tell you why!

Poker rules presented in the following variations present unique challenges that can test even the most seasoned players. From the additional hole cards to the reverse value of each hand, knowing the gameplay for each variant can give you the edge over other players trying out the game for the first time.

Additionally, virtually every poker player out there starts out learning Texas Hold’em since this is the most popular variant. All the mathematics associated with Texas Hold’em immediately have to be changed and re-learned for any of these poker game variations.

1. Pot Limit Omaha Poker

Four hole cards are the main feature of Omaha poker along with five community cards. While nine cards open a wide range of hand possibilities, you can only use two of the four hole cards to create a hand with the community cards. This rules makes Omaha the second most popular community card poker variant.

To illustrate how Omaha rules work, let us say your hole cards consist of 4 5 6 2 with community cards of 8 K 7 3 2. Beginners may see they have a flush or a straight because of their hole cards. With the Omaha rules, they only have a deuce pair and are vulnerable to a 3 pair hand.

Pot limit is the second feature that makes this variant hard because of a misconception in the betting limit. Let us clear the misconception by providing the right maximum limit computation which is:

Limit = Previous Bet + Pot Size

For example, the pot is $15 after the small blind of $5 and big blinds of $10 were posted.  With the last bet being $10 + pot value of $15, player A can raise $25. Moving to player B, they can raise $65 because of the previous bet of $25 and $40 on the pot. Knowing how much you can raise lets you integrate the right C bet, over bet, and value bet strategy in pot-limit Omaha poker.

quote about how difficult pot-limit Omaha poker is
Pot Limit Omaha takes a while to understand and master.

2. Texas Holdem Poker

Classic Texas hold’em poker involves two hole cards and five board cards consisting of three flop cards, one turn card, and one river card. Each game consists of four betting rounds, which corresponds to the hole, flop, turn, and river draw.

Winning a game in Texas hold’em is to make a more valuable hand than the opponent with the hole and board cards. What makes this poker variant hard is not the rules, it is the bets a player makes during the four betting rounds that can impact the game’s flow.

Deception and psychological reading that occurs with each bet give seasoned veterans an edge. Getting a handle over a player’s checking, calling, and folding habits can tell you if that raise on the river means they have a flush or they are bluffing with a pair.

3. H.O.R.S.E. Poker

Combining Texas Hold’em, Omaha, Razz, Stud, and Eight-or-Better will give you H.O.R.S.E. poker. Five poker variants are played by rotation in each game. Dealers announce the game in play while placing a card on the table to indicate which rule is currently active.

Apart from the revolving rules in each game, H.O.R.S.E. still uses the same rules as the five poker variants it is named after. Because of the revolving games, the different poker mechanics make H.O.R.S.E. challenging for anyone who only plays hold ’em or stud. It is very difficult for an inexperienced player to switch context at every hand.

Knowing how to play razz and eight-or-better variants can give you a better standing against other players. Both games flip the value of the hands where the lowest ranking one wins the game. Lowball variants are the least popular games among players, including veterans or long-time grinders.

Mastering the rules of each game help you avoid mistaking a strong hand for a low valued one. You can also take advantage of anyone struggling with the rules of a specific game with intimidating bluffs or value bets.

Example H.O.R.S.E. game in video at the 2008 World Series of Poker $50,000 H.O.R.S.E.

4. Omaha 8 or Better

Omaha HI-Lo 8 or better uses the same rules as regular Omaha in terms of four hole cards and five community cards. One difference between 8 or better and regular Omaha is the high and low pot.

Winning the high pot requires having the highest valued hand during the showdown. On the flip side, the low pot is awarded to the player with the lowest possible hand. Hands that can win the low pot are made of unpaired five cards that are ranked 8th or low.  New players find the two different pots and qualifying hands for both intimidating.

What new players do not know are hands that can acquire both pots. An example of this is a 5 4 3 2 A, which qualifies for the low pot since straight hands are ignored and the cards are considered the lowest possible hand in the game. With the knowledge of each qualifying hands, you can determine your best course of betting action based on the four hole cards.

5. Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw

Card value in the deuce-to-seven triple draw is similar to other lowballs where the lowest ranks are the best ones in the game. Aces in this lowball variant are considered one of the high ranking cards that include kings, queens, jacks, tens, and nines.

According to the rules, winning hands do not include Straights or flushes such as 23457 (wheel hand). With the ruling on highs, hands such as As 2 3 4 5 is nut ace hand and not a straight. Figuring out the winning probability of a deuce-to-seven triple draw is one of the reasons why this poker variant is challenging.

Drawing mechanics is the second reason why this game is intimidating since there are three betting rounds in each game. In the initial draw, players receive five face-down cards and choose to discard any number of them in exchange for a new one. You can also choose to discard the new set of cards for new ones on the second and third betting round before the showdown.

Reading an opponent’s hand while assessing the odds of winning may seem daunting for many players. However, the same draw poker strategy of using the number of cards discarded, physical tells, and betting habits to form the odds and hand strength can give you an edge over deuce-to-seven triple draw.

Every variant still follows the fundamental rule of poker in terms of hand and pot building. Remember that poker takes a minute to learn, a lifetime to master. Consistently playing these hard poker variants lets you memorize the mechanics and hand rankings, allowing you to focus on reading your opponents’, betting on bluff ranges, and much more.

This article was published on December 8, 2020, and last updated on October 27, 2022.

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