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WSOP Poker Variations: Introduction

When you think of old-time poker, you might think of Five-Card Draw, the game Wild Bill Hickok was playing when he was murdered. Or maybe you picture Five-Card Stud, another old favorite.

The World Series of Poker has always stayed away from the crazier poker variants like Guts, Baseball, Follow the Queen, Five-Card Draw with One-Eyed Jacks and Suicide Kings or pretty much anything with wild cards.1 The problem with wild card games 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. This greatly increases the luck factor, while the WSOP wants to be taken more seriously, and thus have more skill involved.

In the first year, 1970, the cash games included Five-Card Stud, Five-Card Draw, Seven-Card Stud, Seven-Card Stud Hi/Lo, Deuce-to-Seven Lowball, Ace-to-Five Lowball, Razz, and Texas Hold 'Em.

Five of these games were selected for the first tournaments in 1971:

with the last serving as the $5,000 buyin Championship Event.

Game Types

These five events cover 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 has grow from 5 events to 80.

Stud

Three of the 1971 events were stud games: Razz,2 Seven-Card Stud, and Five-Card Stud.

Seven-Card Stud Hi/Lo (a.k.a. Seven-Card Stud 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 draw 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 usually Pot-Limit but sometimes Limit.3 Ace-to-Five Draw is Limit or No-Limit.

High, Low, or Hi/Lo

The 1971 WSOP had three High-only tournaments and two Low-only tournaments. 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.

Summary of WSOP Game Variants

Variant Type Limits High/Low Years Notes
Ace-to-Five DrawDrawLimit or No-LimitLow1971 to 2004Also played as Triple Draw
Chinese Pokern/an/aHigh1995 to 1998The most unpokerlike game ever played at the WSOP (no bluffing).
Deuce-to-Seven DrawDrawLimit or No-LimitLow1973 to presentAlso played as Triple Draw
Five-Card DrawDrawLimitHigh1978 to 1982Also played as Triple Draw
Five-Card StudStudLimitHigh1971 to 1974Not enough action to survive
Mixed GamesVariousLimit or VariousVarious2000 to presentIncludes H.O.R.S.E. and numerous other games
OmahaFlopLimit or Pot-LimitHigh or Hi/Lo1983 to presentHigh/Low variant is called Omaha 8
RazzStudLimitLow1971 to present except 1972 & 1976Seven-Card Stud Low played with or without a qualifier
Seven-Card StudStudLimitHigh or Hi/Lo1971 to presentHi-Lo variant is called Stud 8 or Better
Texas Hold 'EmFlopAnyHigh1971 to presentGame used for the Main Event since 1971