Dealer’s Choice poker tournaments are increasingly in vogue. Ever since the Dealer’s Choice was included as a bracelet event at the 2014 World Series of Poker (WSOP), its tournament entrants have been a who’s-who of highly skilled poker professionals.
If you’re bored of playing No Limit Hold’em or Hold’em altogether, Dealer’s Choice could be a fun challenge. That’s because the poker format you play in a Dealer’s Choice tournament can change from hand to hand. The player decides the chosen format for each hand on the dealer button – hence the name.
In some tournament formats, the dealer will choose the format for an entire orbit of the button rather than a single hand.
When you play a Dealer’s Choice tournament live, you’ll get plenty of time to decide your chosen variant. If you take too long to decide with online Dealer’s Choice games, the software’s random number generator will pick one of the available formats on your behalf.
How many poker variants can the dealer choose from?
There are no fewer than 20 different poker formats you can choose in Dealer’s Choice:
- No Limit Hold’em
The most popular poker format of the 21st century, thanks to the poker boom.
- Pot Limit Hold’em
Maximum bets are capped at the current size of the pot.
- Limit Hold’em
Raises are fixed at two times the big blind.
- Pot Limit Omaha
Played just like Pot Limit Hold’em, except players are dealt four hole cards instead of two.
- Pot Limit Omaha Hi-Lo 8 or Better
A split-pot game paid out to those with the highest and lowest ranking hands.
- Limit Omaha
Fixed limits, with raises capped at two times the big blind.
- Limit Omaha Hi-Lo 8 or Better
Capped raises at two times the big blind with a split-pot game.
- Big O
An Omaha variant played with four hole cards rather than five, using a Hi-Lo split.
This form of lowball poker is one of the oldest versions of the game.
- Seven Card Stud
Make the best five-card hand from the seven cards individually dealt.
- Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo 8 or Better
The best high poker hand and the best lowball hand of cards with 8 or lower split the pot.
- Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo (Regular)
The best high poker hand and the best lowball hand of A-5 split the pot.
Single Draw variants
- No Limit 5 Card Draw
Discard and replace cards to build the best five-card hand.
- No Limit 2-7 Lowball Draw
The premise is to build the worst hand in Texas Hold’em, i.e. 2-7 lowball.
Triple Draw variants
- 2-7 Lowball Triple Draw
Another drawing game which uses the lowball hand ranking system.
- A-5 Lowball Triple Draw
A similar game to 2-7 Triple Draw with A-5 lowball hand ranking.
The most popular Asian variant of draw poker.
A blend of Badugi and 2-7 Triple Drawn poker.
A split-pot game requires you to make the best badugi and the best possible A-5 low.
- Pot Limit 2-7 Lowball Triple Draw
Same as normal 2-7 Lowball but with pot limit raises.
What’s the best strategy in dealer’s choice poker games?
Take a step back and monitor how your opponents play each version selected. Just because a player chooses a particular format doesn’t mean they’re going to be the best at it. They might just enjoy the format. They may show weaknesses in their gameplay or strategy, which you can exploit further down the line when the same game is selected again.
One of the main reasons players are tempted by Dealer’s Choice tournaments is their desire to experience different flop games. They’re fascinated by games like Big O and Omaha Hi-Lo. However, few players are drawn to Dealer’s Choice for the thrill of playing Stud poker games. This means many players are found wanting when Stud versions are selected. They might be familiar with Seven Card Stud, but how is their Razz or Stud 8 or Better game?
Be mindful of the age of players at your table in a Dealer’s Choice tournament. The older they are, the more adept they will be at Stud games. After all, many poker players before the boom of the 2000s were brought up on a fare of Seven Card Stud home games.
When it comes to draw games, particularly Triple Draw, these games carry significantly more volatility than your average game. With greater swings from hand to hand, it’s important to take a tight and aggressive approach to draw games in Dealer’s Choice. In 2-7 Triple Draw, only consider hands with a 2 and a minimum of a 7 or 8. Stick to premium holdings.
Pros and cons of playing a dealer’s choice poker tournament
When it’s your turn to be the dealer button, you can choose game formats you’re most comfortable with or variants where you may have a strong edge over others.
This must be the biggest benefit of playing Dealer’s Choice. As you play the various formats selected, you can gauge which games your opponents are most and least confident about and put them under pressure with clever game selection.
Undoubtedly the biggest disadvantage with Dealer’s Choice is that it won’t suit players who focus solely on one variant like No Limit Hold’em or Pot Limit Omaha. It takes considerable time to master all 20 of these poker games. That’s why Dealer’s Choice usually attracts long-standing pros who’ve been there, done it and got every poker t-shirt. It’s not a tournament format ideally suited to poker newbies only just getting used to poker hand rankings.
It’s best to move through the beginner, intermediate and advanced rankings in one variant of poker first before trying other game dynamics. Don’t run before you can walk!