Poker is a generic name for literally hundreds of games, but they all fall within a few interrelated types. There are high games like seven-card stud and Texas hold 'em, in which the highest hand in the showdown wins, and low games like draw lowball and razz, in which the lowest hand wins. There are also high-low split games, in which the best high hand and the best low hand split the pot. Among high, low, and high-low split games there are those like five-card draw, in which the hands are closed, and those like seven-card stud, in which some of the players' cards are exposed for all to see.
Playing the river correctly is not easy. It can be tricky when you are heads-up, and it gets even more complicated when you have two or more opponents. And in small stakes games, you will often still have two or more opponents. In this section, we cover the most important principles for skillful river play.
Jokers, wild cards, and special rules may be introduced into any of these games to create such aberrations as Baseball, Follow the Queen, Anaconda, and scores of other variations that have spiced up home poker for decades. Paradoxically, the two types of players who favor these exotic poker variations are generally amateurs who want a lot of action and hustlers who prey on these amateurs because their long experience allows them to adjust more easily to unusual games than their amateur opponents can. However, before a player can become an expert at exotic games, he must understand the basic concepts of standard game.
Many people seem to think that playing the river is straightforward. Some authors write whole books about hold 'em, but literally devote only two or three pages to this topic. Yet small stakes players make countless errors after all the cards are out, including the most costly error possible in limit hold 'em. This topic is so important that we will discuss it thoroughly.