Poker is a popular type of card game in which players bet on the value of the card combination ("hand") in their possession, by placing a bet into a central pot. The winner is the one who holds the hand with the highest value according to an established hand rankings hierarchy, or otherwise the player who remains "in the hand" after all others have folded (the player who makes an un-called bet.).
Poker has many variations, all following a similar pattern of play. Depending on the variant, hands may be formed using cards which are concealed from others, or from a combination of concealed cards and community cards.
In casual play, the right to deal a hand typically rotates among the players and is marked by a token called a 'dealer' button (or "buck"). In a casino, a house dealer handles the cards for each hand, but the button (typically a white plastic disk) is rotated clockwise among the players to indicate a nominal dealer to determine the order of betting.
One or more players are required to make forced bets (usually called a 'blind' or an 'ante') to create an initial stake for which the players will contest. The dealer shuffles the cards, cuts, and deals the appropriate number of cards to the players one at a time. Cards may be dealt either face-up or face-down, depending on the variant of poker being played. After the initial deal, the first of what may be several betting rounds begins. Between rounds, the players' hands develop in some way, often by being dealt additional cards or replacing cards previously dealt. At the end of each round, all bets are gathered into the central pot.
At any time during a betting round, if one player bets and no opponents choose to call (match) the bet, the hand ends immediately, the bettor is awarded the pot, no cards are required to be shown, and the next hand begins. This is what makes bluffing possible. Bluffing is a primary feature of poker, one that distinguishes it from other vying games and from other games that make use of poker hand rankings.
At the end of the last betting round, if more than one player remains, there is a showdown, in which the players reveal their previously hidden cards and evaluate their hands. The player with the best hand according to the poker variant being played wins the pot. A poker hand consists of five cards, but in some variants a player has more than five to choose from.
The most popular poker variants are as follows:
- Draw poker
- Players each receive five — as in five-card draw — or more cards, all of which are hidden. They can then replace one or more of these cards a certain number of times.
- Stud poker
- Players each receive five — as in five-card stud — or more cards; some cards are dealt face up, one at a time, and displayed to other players at the table. The key differences between stud and 'draw' poker are that players are not allowed to discard or replace any cards in stud poker and that part of a players' hand in stud is exposed rather than the entire hand being hidden as in draw.
- Community card poker
- Players combine individually dealt cards with a number of "community cards" dealt face up and shared by all players. Each player will attempt to make the best five card poker hand using the community cards and their own face down cards. Two or four individual cards are dealt in the most popular variations, Texas hold 'em and Omaha hold 'em, respectively.
See betting (poker) for detailed rules regarding forced bets, betting actions, limits, stakes, and all-in situations. See List of poker variants and poker hand rankings for order of play and other details for the most common poker variants.
The history of poker is a matter of debate. The name of the game likely descended from the Irish Poca (Pron. Pokah) ('Pocket') or even the French poque, which descended from the German pochen ('to brag as a bluff' lit. 'to knock'  ). Yet it is not clear whether the origins of poker itself lie with the games bearing those names. It is commonly regarded as sharing ancestry with the Renaissance game of primero and the French brelan. The English game brag (earlier bragg) clearly descended from brelan and incorporated bluffing (though the concept was known in other games by that time). It is quite possible that all of these earlier games influenced the development of poker as it exists now.
English actor Joseph Crowell reported that the game was played in New Orleans in 1829, with a deck of 20 cards and four players betting on which player's hand was the most valuable. Jonathan H. Green's book, An Exposure of the Arts and Miseries of Gambling (G. B. Zieber, Philadelphia, 1843), described the spread of the game from there to the rest of the country by Mississippi riverboats, on which gambling was a common pastime. As it spread up the Mississippi and West during the gold rush, it is thought to have become a part of the frontier pioneer ethos.
Soon after this spread, the full 52-card English deck was used, and the flush was introduced. During the American Civil War, many additions were made, including draw poker, stud poker (the five-card variant), and the straight. Further American developments followed, such as the wild card (around 1875), lowball and split-pot poker (around 1900), and community card poker games (around 1925). The spread of the game to other countries, particularly in Asia, is often attributed to the U.S. military.
The game and jargon of poker have become important parts of American culture and English culture. Such phrases and clichés as ace in the hole, ace up one's sleeve, beats me, blue chip, call one's bluff, cash in, high roller, pass the buck, poker face, stack up, up the ante, when the chips are down, wild card, and others are used in everyday conversation, even by those unaware of their origins at the poker table.
Beginning in 1970 a series of developments lead to poker becoming far more popular than it was previously:
- Modern tournament play became popular in American casinos after the World Series of Poker began, in 1970. Notable champions from these early WSOP tournaments include Johnny Moss, Amarillo Slim, Bobby Baldwin, Doyle Brunson, and Puggy Pearson.
- Later in the 1970s, the first serious strategy books appeared, notably Super/System by Doyle Brunson (ISBN 1-58042-081-8) and The Book of Tells by Mike Caro (ISBN 0-89746-100-2), followed later by The Theory of Poker by David Sklansky (ISBN 1-880685-00-0).
- In 1987, community card poker games were introduced in California, home of the largest poker casinos in the world. These games proved far more exciting to players than the draw poker variants that were played up until that time.
- In the 1990s, poker and casino gambling spread across the United States, most notably to Atlantic City, New Jersey.
- In 1999, Late Night Poker debuted on British television, introducing poker for the first time to many Europeans.
Poker's popularity experienced an unprecedented spike at the beginning of the 21st century, largely because of the introduction of online poker and the invention of the hole-card camera, which turned the game into a spectator sport. Viewers could now follow the action and drama of the game, and broadcasts of poker tournaments such as the World Series of Poker and the World Poker Tour brought in huge audiences for cable and satellite TV distributors. Because of the increasing coverage of poker events, poker pros became more like celebrities, with poker fans all over the world entering into expensive tournaments for the chance to play with them. This increased camera exposure also brings a new dimension to the poker professional's game—the realization that their actions may be aired later on TV.
Major poker tournament fields have grown dramatically because of the growing popularity of online satellite-qualifier tournaments where the prize is an entry into a major tournament. The 2003 and 2004 WSOP champions, Chris Moneymaker and Greg Raymer, respectively, won their seats to the main event by winning online satellites.
See also Edit
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