More than Texas Hold'em: the wider World of Poker
Poker is a game that can appear, to some, to be fairly restricted. However, away from the widely known and widely played variants, poker actually has an enormous number of diverse, interesting, and engaging ways to be played by gamers with different skills and tastes.
This isn’t even mentioning the fact that completely different and separate spin-off games have evolved from a poker foundation. Take Yahtzee as an example. This game has been enjoyed globally, but it actually started off as a variation of the poker dice game. In fact, even within the game of poker dice, you can see that the game has different variants, including "liar's dice", and the versions of the game that helped to spawn Yahtzee, which has risen to popularity through various mobile apps in recent years.
Despite the fact, therefore, that the game of poker is clearly bigger than the variants of Texas Hold 'Em and 7-Card Stud poker, it is clear that outside of the most dedicated players of poker, this is rather an unknown landscape, which means that many millions of players could be missing out on some of the best games on the market as well as on more ways to up their game and improve their skills.
Really Different or Just the Same?
Of course, most people who are looking to enjoy a game of poker want to ensure that the game they play is somewhat recognizable from the original version that dominates mainstream awareness, at least in so far as the game will only feature one deck of cards and players will be competing against each other and not working collaboratively. In this regard, it is therefore easy to suggest that the different variations of poker are no more than window dressing for one main game that really is just about looking to get the best hand.
Well, dig a little deeper and you will see that this assumption is, quite clearly, wrong! Take the reverse version of 7-Card Stud poker, Razz, as a pertinent example. Razz can create a very different style of play, making it an entirely different game that is particularly popular amongst pros. Two parts of this description are of interest, the first being the fact that the game is entirely different to how poker is usually played, and the second being that poker pros really enjoy playing this version, which suggests that it presents a difficult, rewarding game that helps pros hone the skills that help them earn their living. This ringing endorsement suggests that for those looking to get into poker or wanting to improve their skills and knowledge, playing razz, rather than learning a more traditional variation of poker, could be seriously beneficial. Other variants of online poker such as Lowball Draw Game and Badugi are also worth exploring as they help improve players' flexibility and range. In a No-Limit Single Draw game there are only two rounds of betting, which encourages players to play with a large ante. As for Badugi, a recent variant coming from South Korea, it required an aggressive, high-risk strategy, so is again favored by those with strong poker skills.
Razz isn't isolated as a game listed as an intriguing variant, with Omaha, Badugi and a range of other lowball games (where you aim for the worst possible hand) also a draw for those interested in poker.
Is Traditional Best?
One question that must be raised when discussing variations of a classic is of course whether the variants at the center of discussion offer a new, exciting challenge compared to the original, especially when the mainstream variants have become so symbolic and associated with intense excitement in pop culture, in part thanks to movie scenes like those in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels or Casino Royale.
Well, Hollywood excitement to one side, if you look at the world of online poker, the original sites and games were not exactly overflowing with incredible options and didn't really set the internet on fire, with everyone desperate to enjoy poker online. Indeed, over time with tweaks, innovations, and the introduction of a range of new options (many of them more fast-paced than the original), poker has become increasingly popular online. What this shows is that changes and innovations can be brilliant for reinvigorating a game as time marches on.
However, players clearly still want to have the chance to play the more traditional versions of the game. Indeed, there have been cases of the reinventions going too far, detracting from the qualities that made poker so appealing in the first place. A recent example of this can be seen in the form of the lack of widespread enthusiasm for virtual reality technology for online poker - at least at the moment. While in other sectors virtual reality is predicted to take off in 2018, and even though live video poker games have been a hit with consumers, virtual reality is taking longer to be translated into a successful commercial model for the online poker world, even though both variants transport gamers to venues without them actually having to be there.
Clearly, new, wild and wonderful poker variations can be attractive to many poker players and can help to encourage new players to get involved in the game, but these certainly don't need to be used as substitutes for more traditional variants such as Texas Hold 'Em or 7 Card Stud Poker, which are far from outdated.
A Continuing Chance to Diverge and Expand
Poker can be dated back as far as the early 19th century. It is highly unlikely that the first people who played the game would have expected the rules to have been turned upside down or predicted that the game would be played in TV shows like Friends, which presented a huge divergence from the original aim of poker (to win the ultimate game), with the participants trying just to win on a hand by hand basis while working together to defeat one player (poor old Joey!).
What poker variants like razz show, though, is that the world of poker is one that naturally encourages innovation, challenge, and excitement. The game has become varied enough to ensure that it is able to be enjoyed by millions in some format or another across the globe, and in the future it seems increasingly likely that poker will continue to be played using new variations whilst expanding into other spin-off games, like it did with Yahtzee so many years ago in the 1940s. All of this is likely to occur, though, while the primary, traditional versions of the game remain steadfast in gamers’ hearts.
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