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Non-Hold’em Games

Five-card draw hand.

No-Limit Hold’em has been referred to as the Cadillac of poker but every now and then you might feel more like cruising around in a ponderous but torquey Ford F150. That’s when some of the other games come into play. Hold’em, and to a lesser extent its four-card sibling Pot-Limit Omaha, gets all the attention but there are plenty of really fun poker games, many of which were popular long before Hold’em became an online sensation. We’ll provide a brief explanation of some of the most popular non-Hold’em games below.

Seven-Card Stud

Seven-Card Stud was actually the most popular poker game in the world prior to the rise of No-Limit Hold’em. It’s still one of the most popular games on the East Coast of the United States.

In Seven-Card Stud cards are dealt in a pre-arranged position with face down and face up cards.

Stud is almost always played with a limit structure and it utilizes a small ante and a bring-in instead of blinds. The limits are described as small bet/big bet. For the first two rounds players are allowed to make small bets but from the third round on every bet must be a big bet.

Seven-Card Stud begins with every player getting dealt two cards facedown (sometimes referred to as the hole cards) and one card face up.

The player with the lowest face-up cards pays the bring-in and has the option of betting even more. Action then continues to the left of bring-in player and continues around the table with either calls, raises or folds.

At this point another card is dealt face-up and the player with the highest poker hand (of the face up cards) begins the betting round with action continuing to their left. Action continues like this until showdown.

In total there are five rounds of betting with four face-up cards and three face-down cards. The final card is always dealt facedown.

Unlike Hold’em suits matter in Seven-Card Stud and are used for tie-breakers (The suits are spades, hearts, diamonds and then clubs with clubs being the lowest).

Seven-Card Stud is a favorite of players who enjoy a slightly slower-paced game compared to Hold’em and don’t like being pushed off hands by huge over-bets.


Razz is very similar to Seven-Card Stud except the lowest hand always wins. This is referred to as a “lowball” variation.

That means that instead of trying to get a royal flush you’re actually aiming for 5-4-3-2-A (which is also known as the wheel).

It also means that you’re actively trying to avoid pairs and sets throughout a Razz hand. Straights and flushes do not count against a player for the low.

In Razz it’s the player with the highest card that pays the bring-in, which is the opposite of Seven-Card Stud.

In the following rounds it’s the player with the highest hand showing that begins the action. Suits also matter in Razz, except that you always want the worst suit. Thus the king of spades is the worst possible face-up card and always pays the bring-in.

Otherwise action in Razz is exactly like Seven-Card Stud with five rounds of betting that bring a total of three face-down cards and four face-up cards with the final card always being dealt facedown.

Seven-Card Stud Hi-Lo

Seven-Card Stud Hi-Lo is essentially a combination of Seven-Card Stud and Razz. It’s also sometimes referred as the rather-lengthy Seven-Card Stud Hi-Lo Split Eight or Better.

It’s a split pot game where there is both a high and low pot. Most of the time the pot will be split between two players but every now and then a player will scoop the entire thing for maximum profit.

The game is otherwise identical to Seven-Card Stud and Razz except that you must have at least an eight-low to qualify for the low hand. That means if you have a your hand is nine-high then you do not qualify.

If there is no qualifying low hand then the high-hand takes the entire pot.

The river card can be very exciting for Seven-Card Stud Hi-Lo players as it can make or break a potential scooping hand.

Five-Card Draw

If you were born before the year 2000 there’s a good chance your first introduction to the game of poker came via Five-Card Draw.

The game is incredibly simple. Every player is dealt five cards and a round of betting commences. If more than one player is still in the hand then the draw phase begins where players are allowed to discard cards they don’t want for fresh ones from the deck. One more round of betting commences and then players must show their hands.

Five-Card Draw isn’t very popular these days and there are a couple reasons why: 1. There are no visible cards so it’s not that interesting to spectators. 2. Deuce-to-seven (either triple draw or single draw) is generally considered the more interesting draw game.

There’s also Five-Card Stud (similar to Seven-Card Stud) but it’s not very popular either.

Many players are familiar with Five-Card Draw because it’s the basis for video poker, which can be found in nearly every casino around the world.

2-7 Triple Draw

Deuce-to-seven (or 2-7) triple draw is another lowball variant that differs from Razz because flushes and straights do count and it’s actually a five-card draw game.

That means you’ll start with five cards and the best hand in 2-7 is the rather odd-looking 2-3-4-5-7. It’s not a straight because it’s missing the six and therefore the lowest possible hand.

Aces are always considered high in 2-7 so A-2-3-4-5 wouldn’t be considered a straight but rather ace-high.

2-7 is actually a drawing game, like Five-Card Draw, where there are three different chances to draw (hence the “triple” draw)

Similar to Hold’em, 2-7 Triple Draw uses a blinds and there is both a small and big blind along with a dealer button. Action progresses like a Hold’em game. For the first round of betting the action begins on the left of the big blind while every subsequent round it starts to the left of the dealer.

The big decision in triple draw often comes down to either standing pat or drawing another card. The final draw can always bring about disaster so bluffing can play a substantial role in the game.

2-7 Triple Draw can be played with limit, pot-limit or even no-limit structures.

2-7 Single Draw

2-7 Single Draw, sometimes referred to as Kansas City Lowball, switches things up from it’s triple draw sibling by offering just just to draw. It’s also only ever played no-limit.

The hand rankings are the same and 2-3-4-5-7 is the best hand.

It’s considered one of the single most exciting draw games and is a favorite amongst pros. It’s also a good game for action-loving Hold’em fans who are looking for something new to play.

Because the game is No-Limit and there are only two rounds of betting it can lead to very exciting hands in a very short amount of time.

Don’t sleep on 2-7 Single Draw. It’s one of the best non-Hold’em games around.