WSOP Poker Variations: Introduction

[LL] “I really enjoy the dealer’s choice cash games after our Hold ‘Em tournaments”, Leroy the Lion opined. “While I appreciate the fact that Hold ‘Em is probably the most accessible game for amateurs, I’m a really big fan of variety. For example, I don’t have a favorite food, so if you ask me what I want to eat, it’ll be something I haven’t had in a while.”

[FF] “I like the fact that it’s a cash game, so you can rebuy if you run out of chips”, Figaro the Fish said. “Busting out of a tournament is just so… final. But I like the variety too. I actually wish we played more different games.”

[RR] “It’s dealer’s choice”, Roderick the Rock reminded Figaro. “Just call whatever you want.”

[FF] “I tried that. But you guys have already banned Baseball, Follow the Queen, Five Card Draw with One-Eyed Jack and Suicide Kings…”

[LL] “You mean every game with wild cards.”

[SS] “There are enough games you can play without relying on the luck of wild cards”, Stan the Stat insisted.

[FF] “But those are my favorites!”

[SS] “There’s a reason no games at the World Series of Poker have wild cards… Actually, did you know that there was one game, played only twice, that had wild cards?”

[RR] “Really!?”

[SS] “Yep. No Limit Ace to Five Draw with Joker was contested in 1983 and 1986. Only 37 and 32 players entered, and it never came back.”1

[FF] “That’s too bad.”

[LL] “The problem with wild card games, Figaro, is that the wild cards are too powerful. If you have one, you have too big an advantage over the players who don’t have one. But like Stan said, there are lots of games to choose from, even if we just stick with what they play at the WSOP.”

[SS] “Very true. Even though a No Limit Texas Hold ‘Em tournament has served as the championship event since 1971 (and that’s been true for pretty much every major poker festival ever since),2 the WSOP has always had a good variety of games.

The first five events were:

  • Limit Ace to Five Draw
  • Limit Razz
  • Limit 7 Card Stud
  • Limit 5 Card Stud
  • No Limit Hold ‘Em

Game Types

These five events covered the three basic types of poker games: stud, flop, and draw. Those early poker pioneers already possessed the skills to handle almost every game that has ever been played at the WSOP even as it grew from 5 events to 69.

Stud

Three of the 1971 events were stud games: Razz,3 7 Card Stud, and 5 Card Stud.

Seven Card Stud Hi/Lo (or Split) was added in 1976.

Flop

No Limit Texas Hold ‘Em was the only flop game played in 1971. Limit and Pot Limit versions would join the mix in 1983 and 1992, respectively.

Omaha would be added as a Limit game in 1983 and as a Pot Limit game in 1984. Both would also gain Hi/Lo versions (1990 for Pot Limit and 2000 for Limit). Big O (Omaha with five hole cards) would join as part of mixed games in 2015.

Draw

Ace to Five Draw was the only flop game played in 1971. It seems like a surprising choice now, as many movies set in poker’s past portray Five Card Draw as the game of choice.

Ace to Five Triple Draw, Deuce to Seven Draw, Deuce to Seven Triple Draw, Badugi, Badeucy, and Badacey are the other draw poker games that have been played at the WSOP, the latter three only in mixed tournaments.

Game Limits

The 1971 WSOP had four Limit games and one No Limit game. The first Pot Limit game was Pot Limit Omaha in 1984.

Hold ‘Em is the only game that has been played as Limit, Pot Limit, and No Limit. Omaha is Limit or Pot Limit.4 Ace to Five Draw is Limit or No Limit.

High, Low, or Hi/Lo

The 1971 WSOP had three High-only games and two Low-only games. The first Hi/Lo game, also known as a Split game, was Seven-Card Stud Split in 1976.

Hold ‘Em and Five Card Stud have only been played as High-only games.

Omaha is a High or Hi/Lo game (called Omaha 8 among other names).

Five Card Draw is a High-only game whose Low-only partners are Deuce to Seven Draw and Ace to Five Draw, which differ mainly in what the low hands are.

Seven Card Stud can be a High-only game or a Hi/Lo game (Stud 8); Razz is the Low-only counterpart.

Badugi, Badeucy, and Badacey are Low-only games.”

[FF] “That’s a lot of poker variations!”

[SS] “More than enough to keep you and Leroy happy for a while, I hope.”

Footnotes:

  1. Mike Cox finished second in 1983 and first in 1986. David Angel finished first in 1983 and third in 1986. Some well known pros also cashed in 1986: Jack Keller (2nd), Dewey Tomko (5th), Bobby Baldwin (6th), Stu Ungar (7th), and Billy Baxter (8th).
  2. In roughly chronological order, the Main Event for all of the following are contested in No Limit Texas Hold ‘Em: World Series of Poker, Super Bowl of Poker, Irish Open, U.S. Poker Championship, World Poker Tour, Aussie Millions, and the European Poker Tour.
  3. Razz is basically 7 Card Stud Low. Razz and all of the other poker variants will be explained over the coming weeks.
  4. No Limit Omaha does exist. The 2016 WPT L.A. Poker Classic had a No Limit Omaha 8 or Better tournament.
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