The online poker boom was fueled by Texas Hold’em, but that’s not the only game in town. Way before Hold’em, 5-Card Draw was the poker game of choice. Then came 7-Card Stud and lowball games. Finally, “flop” games were brought to the table, and they’ve proven to be incredibly popular. This beginners guide to online poker will introduce you to the three games you can play at Bovada; we’ll look at what makes each game so great.

Introducing Texas Hold’em

Chris Moneymaker may have started the modern poker boom, but would there even have been a World Series of Poker without Doyle Brunson? And would Texas Hold’em have become the game of choice at the WSOP Main Event? Maybe not. Brunson is one of the true pioneers of this mind sport; he started playing underground games in his native Texas, then helped introduce Hold’em to Las Vegas in 1967. The rest is history.

Now just about everyone who plays poker is playing Texas Hold’em. It’s easy to see why; this is a highly enjoyable game, the “Cadillac of Poker,” as Brunson famously said in his influential 1979 book Super/System. It’s also the simplest of the three flop games available at Bovada Poker. Every player starts with two hole cards, then tries to make the best 5-card hand at the table, using at least three of the five community cards available to everyone. With four betting rounds and so many different ways to win, the action gets hot and heavy – especially when you play No-Limit Hold’em, as most people do at the cash tables and at Bovada online poker tournaments.

How to Play Texas Hold’em

Today’s strategies for conquering Hold’em aren’t all that different from what Brunson was doing back in the day. What Brunson arrived at organically, modern computers have largely proven: Aggression pays. If there’s money in the pot, the most direct way of winning that money is to bet – or raise. Playing passively by calling your opponents is sometimes the right choice, but do it too often, and you’ll be handing over your money.

This is where many beginners get stuck. Call it “Fear of Missing Out”: If an opponent takes a stab at the pot by betting, the temptation is always there to call when you’re holding at least a marginal hand or a draw. What if they’re bluffing? What if you fold and they show everyone the bluff? Some people end up calling just to see what cards their opponent has, which is a great way to light money on fire.

There is no one optimal strategy for playing Hold’em – computers are still working on it. But if you start by learning a set of opening ranges for which cards to use pre-flop, and play those cards aggressively post-flop by betting, raising and judiciously folding, you’ll already be well ahead of most opponents you’ll meet at the table. Recommended ranges are widely available on the internet; print them off and put them on your wall if you like. Consider them training wheels that you can take off later once you get your balance.

Introducing Omaha Poker

The game of Omaha Hold’em (known simply as Omaha by most) has only been around for about 30 years. It used to have a different name; Robert Turner introduced this poker variant to the Golden Nugget casino in Las Vegas, and director of operations Bill Boyd tried to call it “Nugget Hold’em.” Thankfully, the name didn’t stick. Now people all over the world are playing Omaha, and this game is still growing in popularity – some even call it the Game of the Future.

Omaha is definitely one of the most exciting poker games you’ll ever play. The structure is almost identical to Texas Hold’em, but instead of starting with two hole cards, you start with four. That makes a tremendous difference. Including duplicates, there are 1,326 possible starting hands in Hold’em, and 270,725 possible hands in Omaha. Just about anything can happen with all those combinations, especially when the flop comes out.

How to Play Omaha Poker

Since you now have up to nine cards at your disposal to make a 5-card poker hand, your chances of making a really big hand are much greater in Omaha than they are in Texas Hold’em. There’s a very important restriction, though: You have to use exactly two of your hole cards and three community cards to make your hand. If there are four diamonds on the board and you have only one diamond in your hand, you do not have a flush. If the board reads Ace-King-Queen-Jack and the highest card you have is a Ten, you do not have an Ace-high straight.

Getting used to this rule and figuring out what hands you actually have can take a while for players who are more familiar with Hold’em. So can adapting to how strong your hand is. In Hold’em, if you have top and bottom pair on the flop, that’s a pretty good hand, one that you might be willing to bet for three streets of value (flop, turn and river being the streets). In Omaha, that hand might be worth one street. King-high flushes also plummet in value when you switch from Hold’em to Omaha. So do non-nut straights and bottom sets. You even have to watch out when you don’t have the best possible full house.

The other key difference between the two games is with their most popular betting structures. While No-Limit Hold’em reigns supreme, Pot-Limit Omaha (PLO) is the preferred way to play four-card poker. There are different decisions to be made when the biggest bet you can make is the size of the pot. It’s not a dramatic shift, though. If you’re comfortable with betting in No Limit Hold’em poker, get started playing PLO with confidence, and the pot-limit structure shouldn’t take too long to master.

Introducing Omaha Hi/Lo

Getting the best hand isn’t always the goal in poker. Some variants of our great sport ask you to make the worst hand instead. These are called lowball games, and in most of these games, the worst hand you can make is 5432A. Straights don’t count – and neither do flushes, so it doesn’t really matter what suits the cards are.

Some poker variants take it up a notch by combining the quest for the high hand and the low hand. These are called Hi/Lo games, and Bovada Poker is very pleased to have Omaha Hi/Lo available to our players. If you haven’t tried Omaha Hi/Lo yet, you’re missing out. This could be the most fun you’ll ever have at the table; people from all online poker styles will find something to enjoy with the Hi/Lo format.

If you’re already familiar with standard Omaha, you’ll understand the “Hi” part of Omaha Hi/Lo: Each player gets four hole cards, and up to five community cards to make the highest hand possible. With Omaha Hi/Lo, you can use any two of those hole cards and any three community cards to make the lowest hand, as well. That means your decisions to bet, raise, call or fold are based on your combined potential to win both hands.

How to Play Omaha Hi/Lo

Winning both hands (also known as scooping) is the key to Omaha Hi/Lo. This is a split-pot game, meaning the pot is split in half between the winning high hand and the winning low hand. If you only have the high hand and someone else has the low, you get half the pot. Worse, if you and your opponent tie for the high hand and he has the low, you get one-fourth of the pot. Getting quartered is no fun – but quartering your opponent is.

There’s one important rule to Omaha Hi/Lo that can’t be overlooked: Cards have to have a rank of Eight or lower to qualify for use in a low hand. This is why Omaha Hi/Lo is sometimes referred to as Omaha Eight or Better (Omaha 8 for short). In this game, the “worst” low you can make is 87654. This is the extreme example of a rough low hand. You want a smooth low, and 5432A is the smoothest low there is.

Like all the games at Bovada Poker, Omaha Hi/Lo is available in fixed-limit, pot-limit and no-limit varieties. Fixed-limit tends to be the preferred structure; with the betting kept small and with many of the pots getting split, Omaha Hi/Lo offers the lowest variance of the three flop games, making it one of the best ways to build a poker bankroll. That’s if you can master the game, of course. Get your feet wet by starting with the lowest stakes, so you don’t have to worry about losing any serious money while you’re figuring things out.

You can find out more about all three of these flop games and how to conquer them by consulting the helpful articles in our Bovada online poker strategy guide. Get started playing today, and we’ll see you on the felt.