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Poker - An Introduction

Poker is probably the most famous card game in the world and is played by millions of people worldwide. When considering the history of the game, it won't take long looking online to see that there are many different versions of how the game came to be in such prominence. No specific date can be found to state the creation of the first poker game though there are any different accounts and claims. One thing is for sure - it's grown into a real beast of a game.

 

Let's take a look at some of these claims surrounding the game:

 

The origin of the name Poker is in great dispute. There are several explanations and myths that give possible birthplaces of this famous game. The following are the different claims that we have found that surround this famous game.

 

1. Chinese

 

This seems to be the most popular explanation of all. It is believed that the game started evolving in the 900 A.D. At that time the Chinese had the domino game. One claim says that the Chinese Emperor Mu Tsung showed to his wife the game of domino cards which would possible be the birth of the game.

 

2. Indian

 

Another claim states that the card deck was originated from an Indian card game called Ganjifa. This game deck was consisted of 96 cards with elegant pictures on them which were used on various betting games that were played at the time.

 

3. Egypt

 

Several pieces of card decks from the 12th and 13th century have been recovered. Whether this has any more meaning, we will never know.

 

4. Persia

 

A famous Persian game of the 17th century called 'As Nas' is also believed by some to be the starting point of poker. This game consists of a deck of 25 cards. The game itself is made up of betting rounds and various hand rankings. This Persian game is one of the most similar games to the game of poker we know today.

 

5. France

The French game 'Pogue' similar to the name Poker is believed to be another alternative possibility of the early stages in the games evolution. This French game involves bluffing and betting exactly as in Poker. Also, it is known that this game was the first that used a deck with cards consisting of hearts, clubs, spades and diamonds. This game dates back to early in the 15th century.

 

6. England

 

England was famous for its three type of betting games: Faro, Brag and Primero. These games were the first that used the casino style gaming were the players would bet against the Bank. There are many similarities with these games and the game we know today.

 

7. Germany

 

Next on the line is Germany. Pochspiel is a famous German game similar to poker both with the style and the way it is played.

 

As you can see, there are many claims and many different accounts. We are unlikely to every know the real truth around where the game was born. It is very likely a combination of many of these games, however who came up with the game and when, is likely never going to be known for sure.

 

The birth of Poker in the US

Poker was being played in live tournaments in the early 17th century when the French colonials came to Canada. They brought with them their famous card game called Poque. The game however became popular in the start of the 18th Century in New Orleans. Specifically in 1829, it is said that the game was played with a deck of 20 cards. Slowly the game was spread to the rest of the United States. In the civil war, soldiers were playing a lot of Poque. During that time the game evolved and the game types of stud and draw emerged. Another account has also Poker being born at that time in 1834 and as the account goes, its name was given by a gambler named Jonathan Green. Several personal writings of this gambler show that there were several versions of the Poque game and also that the games were evolving.

 

One of the first poker games to emerge was called stud or 5 card draw. This game was popular during the American Civil war and was the king of games for nearly a century. Losing its popularity, it wasn't long before 7 card stud emerged to take its place as the most popular variation. This game was very popular during the Second World War and was the game of choice for nearly 40 years. Today there is no comparison and Texas Hold'em is way out ahead in terms of popularity, by a country mile. In fact, it's been the most popular card game from the 70's. This was the time that poker tournaments, especially in Las Vegas, began being popular and attracting players from around the world.

 

How poker is played

There is a token called a dealer button (or button) that rotates clockwise among the players. The button is used to determine the order of betting and also indicates which players post the big and small blind. The two players to the left of this dealer button would post the blinds, with the player to the immediate left posting the small blind and player to his left the big. In Hold'em, the cards are dealt clockwise to each player one at a time, until each player has two cards in hand, otherwise known as hole cards. The betting is fairly straight forward. Once all players have their two hole cards (private to each player), there is an initial round of betting.

 

Texas Hold'em and Omaha belong to a family of games called 'community card games'. These games have one thing in common. They use shared cards that make up part of the hand, in conjunction with the private cards that each player holds. These community cards are shared by all players.

 

In Hold'em, after this initial betting round, three cards are dealt to the board, called the flop. Now players will have two private cards in hand and three on the board (face up). There is another betting round followed by the fourth card being dealt to the board, better known as the 'turn card' or 'Fourth Street'. With two in hand and four on the board, there is another betting round. Finally the fifth community card is dealt to the board, otherwise known as the 'River Card' or 'Fifth Street'. There is a final round of betting, followed by showdown where cards are turned up to reveal players hands.

 

On each round, players can call (match) the bet, fold or raise. Determining how long to stay in the hand is usually based on the strength of hand and opposition. The overall objective is to make the best five card poker hand. Where more than one player makes it to showdown, the players would turn their cards over and the best hand would win the pot (which has all money bet including the blinds and antes).

 

The beauty of the game is that you don't need to have the best hand to win a pot. If a player can make a bet that makes all other players exit the hand, or fold, that player would win the pot uncontested (regardless of the strength of the players hand). The strength of a hand is only important where a player gets to showdown. As a result, there is a lot of bluffing in poker. For those hands that do make it to showdown, here is the ranking of hands that most games follow.

 

Hand Rankings

The hand rankings in poker determine the winner between competing hands. There are 9 different hand rankings. Let’s have a look at them from first being the weakest and the ninth ranking being the strongest of all depending of the case.

 

High card: A high card is a poker hand not meeting any of the below requirements (less than a pair). Let’s say you have an A, K, J, 5, 2, you would have a high card ace.

 

One pair: Is a hand that contains two cards of the same number and three cards of different numbers. An example is K, 5, 3, 7, 7.

 

Two pair: A hand that contains two separate pairs. For example, the hand K, K, J, J, 3 is two pairs (Kings and Jacks) with a 3 kicker.

 

Three of a kind: A hand consisting of three cards of the same ran. For example the hand 5, 5, 5, 8, J would be three of a kind (aka trips or set) with a Jack kicker.

 

Straight: Straight consists of five cards in a sequential order with at least two different suits.

 

Flush: A flush is five cards of the same suit, for example 3-5-9-J-A. This would not cover five cards consisting of 10 through Ace, as this would be a Royal Flush.

 

Full house: It is a hand with three of a kind and a pair in the same hand, for example 6, 6, 6, 3, 3 would be a full house (aka a boat or full boat) sixes full.

 

Four of a kind: It is one of the strongest combinations. Hands with five cards consisting of four cards of the same ranking and one of a different ranking is called four of a kind (aka quads) and can win all of the above combinations. An example of this hand would be 8, 8, 8, 8, K which is quad 8's with a King Kicker (although the kicker won't come into play as two players can't have the same set of quads.

 

Straight Flush: Last but the strongest combination of all is called straight flush. It is a hand that consists of five cards of the same suit in a sequence order. This will beat any combination. If two players with straight flush showdown then the player with the highest last card will win. A, K, Q, J, 10 is the highest of all.

 

Royal Flush: This is the best hand that can be made and one that isn't hit too often. It consists of a straight flush, 10 through Ace. There are four combinations that can be made:

 

10 Spade J Spade Q Spade K Spade A Spade

10 Heart J Heart Q Heart K Heart A Heart

10 Diamond J Diamond Q Diamond K Diamond A Diamond

10 Club J Club Q Club K Club A Club

 

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