Poker is arguably one of the most popular card games to play with friends, online, or at the casino — but which type of poker game is the most popular in Australia? We dive into which games are beloved most among Aussies.

For many years, poker players did not play the most popular version of the game that is enjoyed today. Times have changed and the cards have been cut differently with them. But what is the most popular current form of poker at Australian online casinos and why?

To answer that question, we’ll need to go back in time and explore the roots of the game, as well as looking to the future to see if the current favoured format will still be in place in a few years’ time.

The Cadillac of Poker

By far the most popular way to play online poker in Australia today is No Limit Texas Hold’em. Often abbreviated to No Limit Hold’em or ‘NLHE’, Doyle Brunson once called it ‘The Cadillac of Poker’ and he would know.

The 88-year-old, known as ‘Texas Dolly’, has won 10 World Series of Poker bracelets and competed in his most recent WSOP event back in the 2021 WSOP Super Seniors Event.

The thrill of NLHE is that on every street, a player in the game can decide to go ‘all-in’. This means that they’re risking all of their chips against their opponent’s stack if that person has more, or as many as any ‘caller’ might have if the all-in player has a bigger pile of chips.

This gives a real sense of excitement to every hand, as within losing two hands, even the chip leader can be out of a poker tournament and on the rail or needing to reload in a cash game.

As well as proving popular around the world to players who enjoy poker at home with friends, NLHE is the staple format that is screened by poker brands such as the World Series of Poker, World Poker Tour and the European Poker Tour. The popularity of NLHE is in no small part attributable to the popularity of televised poker.

From Stud to No Limit

Stud poker games were always the most popular back in the old days. In fact, while NLHE now seems like it has established itself as the way to play the game, it is in fact something of a newcomer as a game variant.

Developing in popularity after five card draw bossed the Mississippi riverboats and gold rush drinking holes, seven card stud would later dominate casinos and becoming the most popular way to play poker.

Well into the 20th Century, however, stud games remained most popular and NLHE was still a relatively newly played game when the World Series of Poker adopted it as the way to prove who was the best player in the world.

Today, we consider this without question, but back in 1970, that wasn’t the case and players and tournament directors alike needed convincing that NLHE was the way forward.

Limit Hold’em is now seen as a slower game than the usual NLHE games that people love to play and watch, but in the final quarter of the 20th century, that wasn’t the majority view. Amateur players didn’t enjoy losing all their chips in NLHE, and limit was seen as a safer game to many.

Players essentially needed it to bridge the gap between stud or ‘draw’ games to Limit and No Limit where the cards you are dealt are the ones you must work with.

The heady mix of two concealed ‘hole cards’ and five open community cards that players combine to make the best five-card hand grew and grew from the 1990s onwards. No Limit Hold’em would finally take its place as the most popular game variant around the world when a massive change impacted poker more than any other innovation in over a century – the internet.

Moneymaker and Beyond

In 2003, an unknown accountant called Christopher Smith registered for the Main Event under the name ‘Chris Moneymaker’. With 838 to battle through, the online satellite qualifier had spent just $80 to play in a game that costs players $10,000 to enter and always has.

When Moneymaker outlasted players such as Phil Ivey in 10th place, previous Main Event winner Dan Harrington in 3rd and Sam Farha heads-up to win the title, the accountant’s victory created ‘The Moneymaker Effect’, a poker boom that kicked the industry up into the air, where it has never landed from since.

Playing real money online poker on the internet to win millions of dollars was pie in the sky to most before 2003, and the imagined route to becoming a pro looked more likely to come from the life of Mike McDermott in the 1998 movie, Rounders.

When Moneymaker achieved infamy in 2003, it changed everything. As great as Moneymaker played, it was his normality and ‘Homer Simpson of poker’ qualities that made him the perfect poker ambassador and saw every average Joe Public aspire to be a world champion like him.

The future of poker may look certain to be NLHE, but that’s what everyone would have thought about Seven Card Stud or Five Card Draw in the past.

Poker is an ever-evolving game and there are many new variations of the game that are growing in popularity. Pot Limit Omaha has become more and more popular over recent years, with the ‘four card game’ mushrooming in terms of WSOP events, side events on live poker tours, and, crucially, online.

It’s possible that a new game that has only recently caused waves to ripple through the industry, such as Open Face Chinese Poker or Pineapple become the way forward. Will it be soon? We’d think it unlikely, if only because of the flexibility of NLHE. It’s simple, yet incredibly complex.

It’s easy to follow on TV, and it provides just the right amount of narrative and drama for a great story to take place at the poker table. No Limit Hold’em requires patience but aggression, skill but daring, and is the Hollywood game that still travels by Cadillac.

There seems to be plenty more miles in the tank for the most popular poker game in the world.

Learn more about online gambling in Australia, or if you love poker, learn more about blackjack online. Our experts have written online casino reviews to help you find the best online casino in Australia to play all your favourite online casino games.

Maddison Dwyer

Senior Writer

Maddison studied journalism at the University of Queensland. However, she decided against going into mainstream media in her final year when she saw her first live poker tournament. From that moment on, she wanted to find out more about casinos, card games and the world of gambling.
As a result, Maddison is our resident table game expert. From blackjack to roulette, craps to baccarat, Maddison knows all the rules and strategies to be successful at the table. When she’s not researching and writing, Maddison can be found kitesurfing or snorkelling along the gorgeous coast of Queensland.

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