If you’re over 18 and have never played a hand of poker, what are you doing? Saving yourself some money, probably. But more seriously, if you’ve never had the occasion to play poker, you’ve most certainly heard of it at least, but what do you know about it? What about its history, its vocabulary, its universe?
As a birthday special, yours truly walks you through the fascinating game that is poker; everything you need to know to become the next Daniel Negreanu!
HOW TO BASICS: POKER
In my article, I will only be talking about a certain variant of poker called “Texas Hold’Em”, which is really the simplest and most well-known variant. The objective of the game is to make the best combination of any 5 cards. In order to do so the players, usually up to 10 per table, are dealt two cards. After discreetly looking at what they’ll play their hand with, each of them speaks, choosing between a couple of options: they either call the obligatory minimum bet (called the “Blind”), raise that bet, or fold, according to what cards they have of course. After all the players spoke, the dealer puts the first 3 cards in the middle (the “Flop”). Again, each player decides whether they want to bet, raise, or fold.
There are 2 more turns like that, where the dealers adds 1 more card in the middle each time (respectively the “Turn” and the “River”, “Rivière” in french, thus the line “À la rivière j’ai touché la quinte”, in the song Bande Organisée). After all the turns are done, players who haven’t folded show their hands, and whoever has the best combination of 5 cards win the pot (all the chips that have been bet during the hand).
Of course, there are more complicated and subtle rules, but this is all you need to know to understand what poker is about : gambling!
LUCKING OUT IN LOUISIANA
While it is impossible to pinpoint the exact time and location when someone first dealt out some cards, one sure thing is that it started early on riverboats in the swamps of Louisiana in the 1800s. Interestingly enough, the original poker game was played with a deck of 20 cards, the same amount used in an old game called Poque that was played by the French in the region at this time as well. When the French moved to New Orleans, they brought jazz and Poque with them, and through a mix of different card games (the German Pochen, for example) poker was born and quickly became part of the local culture.
The Californian Gold Rush (1848-1855) played an important role in popularizing the game, as it brought a lot of people ready to gamble with their freshly acquired money: the game left the riverboats and branched out in hotels and bars. The game eventually reached Europe, where powerful people quickly got hold of the game, including Queen Elizabeth! Despite gambling being despised at the time, the popularity of poker kept on growing and even became a symbol of the “American dream” in the 1930s.
So of course, despite being born from European parents, poker remains a product of the United States, as it is the country that fostered its development and made the game popular globally.
HITTING THE SPOTLIGHTS
The popularity of poker somewhat stalled for a couple of years, until a man known as Benny Binion (a casino owner in Las Vegas) founded The World Series of Poker (WSOP) in 1970. At first, the event was a series of relatively small tournaments held in Las Vegas, and the winner simply earned a silver cup as his prize! In 1973, just three years after the creation of the WSOP, the tournaments were televised, making them the first ever televised poker games.
From this point onwards, poker became world-class, bringing in more and more people, whether they were amateurs or professionals. Poker works no different than other televised activities: the more people it brings, players or audience, the more money it generates: sponsors of the events rarely add money to the prize pools as those are made of the buy-in fees of the participants. For example, in the recently concluded PCA poker tournament, 889 players paid $10300 to participate, building up the total prize pool to over $8,600,000 (including a $1,500,000 prize for first place, not bad!).
SUPERSTARS AND… SUPERSTARS?
Well of course, superstars! After all, where there’s money, there’s people with… yeah, money, lots of it actually. Let me give you an example: you know Gotaga, right? The french streamer, well, he’s currently playing in one of the biggest Poker event of the year, the $25,000 buy-in PSPC event! (Yes, he paid $25,000 just to enter the tournament, and play against a lot of professionals.)
But more seriously, poker has some insane players that have become legends of the game. My personal favorite is Daniel Negreanu, a Canadian professional who recently surpassed $50,000,000 in winnings in his career! He is one of the greatest poker player on the planet, and brings humor and impressive poker to the table like few others can.
If this article somehow motivated you to learn more about poker, definitely check him out!
… All good things must come to an end, and so this article ends. If you want to learn more about the fascinating world of poker, or start playing the game, FullGames happens to just be the right place for that. Swing by and ask us about it!