Which Poker Games Should I Learn Right Now?

Poker legend Doyle Brunson. Ethan Miller / Getty Images North America / Getty Images via AFP

No-Limit Texas Hold’em is the Cadillac of poker. That’s what legendary rounder Doyle Brunson said in his groundbreaking 1979 book Super/System, and those words still ring true almost 50 years later; No-Limit Hold’em (NLHE) is by far the most popular poker variant on the planet, thanks to the poker boom that Brunson helped ignite. 
But is Hold’em the right game for you? Chances are you’ve already started playing NLHE, whether it’s online poker, live, or both. That’s not the only way to play, though. Let’s see what other options are on the table before we jump into that Cadillac and grab the wheel. 

Texas Tea 

If you’re serious about becoming a poker god-like Brunson himself, make no mistake: Texas Hold’em is still the right place to start. That’s the game almost everyone is playing, especially live. Other variants might suit your personal taste a little better, but if there’s no table for you to sit at, there’s no way for you to apply what you’ve learned studying the game. As they say, the most important ability is availability. 

Read More: Strategy vs. Tactics vs. Logistics In Poker
The good news is that Texas Hold’em is the perfect introduction to the full range of “flop” games you’ll find both live and online. Omaha uses almost exactly the same rules as Hold’em, but with four hole cards instead of two. Things get trickier when you move to Omaha Hi/Lo; now you’re playing a split-pot game where the low hand (if there is one) shares the wealth with the high hand. You’ll have to learn the rules of lowball poker, including the “Eight or Better” rule, to play Omaha Hi/Lo. 

Know Your Limit 

Before we get too deep into four-card poker, let’s focus on two cards. Although everyone and their dog is playing NLHE, the very best game to start with as a beginner is Fixed-Limit Hold’em, or Limit Hold’em (LHE) for short. The betting structure for LHE makes this game much simpler to learn and play and helps protect new players from making big mistakes with big bets. Start with the Limit game if you haven’t already, or make the switch from NLHE if you’re still relatively new. 

Read More: When to Risk It, and When to Dial Back
Once you’ve got the basics of Limit sorted out, you’ll be much better prepared for No-Limit Hold’em and all it entails. Unlike back in 1979, there is a mountain of information out there today on how to play Hold’em well – this series being part of that mountain. Learn what you can for free from trusted sources, then be willing to pay for subscriptions to training sites (Phil Galfond’s Run It Once is the current industry standard) as you improve and your earning potential increases. 

Razz: The Subaru of Poker 

While you should spend most of your early poker years learning Hold’em, you’ll get much better at driving that Cadillac if you take a moment to try all the other games – not just the other flop games, but “stud” games and “draw” games as well. Don’t worry too much for now about getting really good at them, or the order in which you pick these games up, but eventually, learning Razz will give you the fundamental lowball skills you need for games like Omaha Hi/Lo. 

Read More: Advanced Poker Technique: The Naked Bluff
Once you’ve put in your time at the Hold’em tables, both LHE and NHLE, the obvious next step is Omaha – the Game of the Future. Some would even say you should skip Hold’em all together and start with Omaha because that’s the game so many of today’s “whales” are gravitating towards. There’s no ultimate right or wrong answer here; the important thing is to focus on one game at first, master it, then add more games to your poker arsenal. Who knows, someday you might be playing “mixed-game” poker at the same table as Brunson. Tell him TheRx sent you.