When anyone thinks of the game of poker, their first image is usually of a big party of men in a dingy room filled with cigar smoke playing around a round table. With many famous films using this iconic imagery with stars like Brando in ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ it is no surprise that these ideas have become central to the reputation of the game.
Poker nowadays is enjoying a real renaissance in the form of Internet gambling. Despite a relatively late introduction to the world of the online casino, the first poker room was established in 1998 four years after the first casino was opened, it is now making up for that lost time. Online poker is now amongst the most downloaded software on the net. Some of this popularity is due to the publicity generated by the incredible winnings gambling newcomer Chris Moneymaker walked away with when he won the first live poker tournament, beating 834 entrants worldwide.
Taking in to account these developments it is incredible to be able to trace back the origins of poker to a sixteenth century Persian game called ‘As Nas’. This was a game using five suits and twenty-five cards in a set-up quite similar to five-card stud poker. As with most popular card games, it was when this European invention made its way into America with the many immigrants that it began to develop into the game we know today.
The breeding ground was nineteenth century New Orleans, which was filled at this time with spectators and travellers, the perfect risk-taking people to develop poker. After a period of freedom and acceptance these frontier towns began to settle into a social structure and gambling began to lose favour and was eventually forced onto the steamboats that chugged up and down the Mississippi river. Card games like poker were the most popular games onboard the boats, as they didn’t involve heavy equipment like the roulette wheels. From this point on the image of these steamboats carrying cheating cardsharps has stayed with the game of poker.
The rules of the game have evolved significantly over time with early versions only involving one round of betting. With only five cards dealt and no draw, the opportunities to make profits were not so apparent as modern-day poker. By introducing the ‘draw’, ‘wild cards’ and ‘bluffing’ to the strategies of poker there were instantly more chances to cheat as well as more room for skill. That is where so much of the appeal in poker lies. The rules are not too difficult to grasp but there is a real art to being a good poker player.
‘Texas Hold-em’ is considered to be the most popular of the many forms of poker, which can differ slightly in their rules and strategy. The dealer deals two cards face down to each player and then three cards face up, then a fourth card down to the table and finally a fifth card down. These last five cards dealt are called ‘community cards’ and all players have access to them. The idea of this game is to make the best poker hand out of any five of those seven cards.
The different hands are ranked combinations of suits and sequences of numbers and it is the highest hand that wins and takes the pot. Players can choose to bet, check, fold, call, raise as the game progresses around the table until the final showdown reveals the best hand. Winner takes all but for the rake, which is a percentage share for the house.
The Internet has hundreds of websites dedicated to the game of poker and all its many forms. There are opportunities to play for free and for vast amounts of money, to play for enjoyment and to play in tournaments and competitions. The opportunities for this game are as limitless as the net itself since Pokers explosion onto the online scene in the millennium.