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Pick a Poker, Any Poker

Mention “poker” and most people think Texas Hold ‘Em. Iconically captured in the James Bond blockbuster Casino Royale, where a table of elegantly dressed players peek at card corners as they bet, bluff, and fold, it’s this poker variant that gets all the attention in pop culture.

It’s not the only game in town, though. There are plenty of other types of poker to explore, some of which may be a better fit for players with varying experience levels and different personality types. But before you start playing, it helps if you know when to hold ’em and know when to fold ’em. That’s why we’re going to take a closer look at the rules and strategies involved in five popular poker variants.

Try this: To find out what sort of gambler you are – strategist, social player, risk taker, someone who likes to maximize play time – take PlaySmart’s quick and fun Play Style Quiz.

Just remember that these variants won’t necessarily give you a better chance of winning. Results are always based on the random distribution of cards within the deck. To learn more, check out this handy breakdown of how poker odds work.

Let It Ride Poker: Will You Play It Safe or Let It Ride?

Let It Ride is a great place to begin for poker rookies. For starters, you aren’t playing against other players, so there’s no need for a strong poker face. Plus, you’re given the choice of either decreasing your initial bet as the hand progresses or letting it ride.

Players start by placing an equal number of chips on three spaces on the table labelled 1, 2, and $. They’re dealt three personal cards, face down, to look at. Then the dealer deals two community cards, also face down, that will be used by all players at the table. The goal is to combine your personal cards with the community cards to produce the best possible five-card hand.

Before the dealer flips the first community card, players have the opportunity to take back their bet from space 1 or let it ride. They’re given a similar choice after the first community card is flipped: Take back their bet from space 2 or let it ride. The chips in the space marked $ stay in until the hand is over.


Your chances of winning are random, coming down to the cards you’ve been dealt and the odds of what the face-down community cards may be. That said, you can play smart by opting to remove bets or let them ride based on what you know.

Once all cards are revealed, hands are paid out based on a predetermined pay table. Pay tables list winning hands and a corresponding payout for each one. For example, in Let It Ride, two pairs pays 2 to 1. If you bet $1, you would get your $1 bet back plus $2 in winnings.

You can add a little more excitement to the game by making optional wagers. If you’re new to the game, stick to the basics until you get the hang of how the odds work.

Mississippi Stud: To Raise or Not to Raise

This popular variant begins with each player placing an Ante, or opening bet. Players are given two personal cards, face down. Then the dealer deals three face-down community cards into a pile in the centre of the table. These community cards will be combined with each player’s personal cards to build a five-card hand.

As each community card is revealed, players can choose either to fold or to increase their bets between one and three times their Ante. Once all cards are revealed, each player’s hand strength is evaluated. Payouts are determined according to a preset pay table that lists all winning hands. For example, three of a kind pays 3 to 1, so with a $1 bet you’d get back your $1 wager plus $3 in winnings.


Like with all poker games, your chances of winning are random. Mississippi Stud is a little different than most variants in that you may know midway through that you have a winning hand according to the pay table. If this happens and there’s still a round of betting to go, a strategy may be to raise your bet by three times (the maximum).

In contrast with some of the other variants, there are no side bets in Mississippi Stud. But there’s still some risk. With the ability to raise your bet several times during a round, it’s easy for a lot of money to end up on the table.

Three Card Poker: It’s Your Three Cards against the Dealer’s

The odds for this game are relatively good: You have a 44.9% chance of winning a basic Ante bet. That means you’re likely to win around 9 times out of 20.

Play starts with an Ante bet and/or a Pair Plus wager (a bet that you’ll receive a pair or better). Then players and the dealer are each dealt three cards. Once you’ve had a look at your cards, you have to decide whether to raise with a Play bet – equal to your Ante – or to fold and lose your Ante.


Unlike some other types of poker where competing players can re-raise, forcing you to match the newly increased amount to stay in the game, Three Card Poker only pits players against the dealer, so your raise can’t be challenged. Still, choosing to raise will double your bet, so play safe and play smart.

Now the dealer reveals their cards. If your hand beats the dealer’s, you win even money. That means a winning $1 bet will give you $2 back. Ties push bets into the next round. If you made a Pair Plus wager, payouts are based on a preset pay table.

If you make an Ante bet, an optional Six Card Bonus wager can be placed. To win, you have to combine your cards with the dealer’s to create a six-card hand. The bonus is paid according to a preset pay table. For example, three of a kind pays 5 to 1.

I Luv Suits: Produce a Flush, Experience a Rush

I Luv Suits is about betting that your hand will have more cards of a single suit than the dealer’s.
Start by placing an Ante. Seven cards are dealt to the player and seven to the dealer, all face down. The player’s cards are revealed first. You’re looking for a “flush,” which means several cards of a single suit.

Based on the strength of your hand you can choose either to fold, losing your Ante, or to raise, which means adding to the pot. The amount you can raise is based on the size of your flush. If you have two, three, or four cards of a single suit, you can add an amount equal to your Ante. If you have a five-card flush, you can raise by twice your Ante. Raise by three times your Ante if you have a six- or seven-card flush.


You can’t control the randomness of cards dealt, but sticking to a strategy can help you wager more responsibly. A common tactic in I Luv Suits is to raise if you have a three-card flush with a 10 or higher. Card values are important because if you have the same size flush as the dealer and their flush has a higher card, you lose. If the dealer and player have the same size flush but yours has a higher card, bets are pushed to the next round.

The dealer must have at least a three-card flush with a 9 or higher to qualify for the hand. If not, the player automatically wins. If the dealer qualifies and you have a larger flush, you win the hand.

I Luv Suits also permits side bets, which have lower odds but the potential for bigger payouts. As with all novelty variants, it’s best to get the basics down before dabbling in riskier wagers.

Pai Gow Poker: East Meets West

Pai Gow Poker combines elements of the ancient Chinese game Pai Gow with Western Poker.

Players place a bet and are then dealt seven cards which are broken into two hands: a rear hand consisting of five cards and a front hand consisting of two cards. The rear hands follow conventional poker rules, with players aiming to produce a strong hand. For example, four of a kind would beat three of a kind. Your goal with the front hand is to get a pair. If you don’t have a pair, the front hand’s score is based on the value of the cards, with aces high. The rear hand must have a higher poker score than the front hand.

To win, both of your hands need to beat both of the dealer’s hands. Beating just one hand results in a push. If you’re unsure how best to arrange your cards, you can ask the dealer to do it for you using a standard method called The House Way. This produces the best possible hand, making it a smart strategy for players new to the game.


It can be easy to lose track of how much you’ve won or lost if you don’t keep your bankroll (how much you’ve planned to spend) and winnings separate. Try keeping your bankroll in one pocket and your winnings in another. When the bankroll pocket is empty, walk away with whatever you have in your winnings.

To get the most out of Pai Gow Poker, you’ll need a good sense of how poker hands are ranked. It’s also good to play with friends. With room for six at a table, much of the fun comes from the social element, with players evaluating others’ hands and cheering them on.

Plan Ahead Before You Play

You can learn how to play these games before heading to the casino or playing online by trying free demos on our casino page. Just scroll to the Card Games section, find the poker variant you want to try, and click “Play Demo.” It’s a good way to practice and familiarize yourself with the rules before playing for real.

And you can find more useful information about poker – including its colourful and distinctive terminology (like “the brush,” AKA the person who manages seating at a casino’s poker tables) – by visiting the PlaySmart poker page.

And remember, no matter which poker variant you choose, it’s always a smart idea to start off with a game plan. Begin by setting your time and money budgets. This will make sure you stay in control. And over the long term, you may want to track your play history so you always know what you’ve won and lost.

If you need a little help, visit My PlaySmart Tools, a collection of useful aids that can help you understand your play habits and remind you to take breaks. By planning ahead, you can ensure your time spent gambling stays fun and safe.