POKER, a card game. By most writers its origin has been ascribed to Il Frusso, an Italian game of the 15th century, from which the game of Primiera, called in Spain Primero, and La Prime in France, in which country it was elaborated into L'Ambigu or Le Meslt. In England the game was played under the name of Post and Pair, of which the modern Brag is only a variation. But Mr R. F. Foster proves that, though poker is probably a descendant of Primero, and perhaps of a much more ancient Persian game called As ras, it is not a development of the English Brag, but was introduced from France into the colony of Louisiana, the name being merely an English mispronunciation of Poque, a game described as early as 1718 in the Academic universelle des jeux, and still played in Germany under the name Pocken. The earliest mention of the game in America is in G. B. Zieber's Exposure of the Arts and Miseries of Gambling (1843), and it is probable that poker was generally played on the Mississippi steamboats as early as 1830, twenty cards being used, " full-deck poker " with 52 cards being invented later. " Draw-poker " was introduced about 1860.
Poker is played for money stakes, markers or "chips" of different value being used. These are either divided equally among the players, or, more usually, one player acts as banker and sells chips to the other players, redeeming them at the end of the game. There are several varieties of the game, but Draw Poker, played by from 2 to 6 or even 7 persons with a pack of 52 cards, is the most popular. The player who wins the cut for deal shuffles the pack, which is then cut by the player at his right. He then deals five cards, one by one, to each player. If a card is faced during the deal the player must accept it; if two are exposed a new deal must ensue. Before the deal is complete the player at the dealer's left, who is said to hold the age, and is called " the age," places (or puts up) on the table in front of him half the stake for which he wishes to play. This is called blind. The player at the age's left then looks at his hand and announces whether he will play. If his hand seems too weak he throws his cards away face-down and " drops out " of the game. If he elects to play he puts up his ante, which is twice the amount of the blind. The other players, including the dealer, then either come hi, i.e. elect to play, each putting up his ante, or, deeming their hands worthless, drop out. The age, who has the last say, may then himself drop out, forfeiting his half-stake already put up, or he may come in and make good his ante, i.e. put up his unpaid half of the blind. Each player in his turn has the privilege of increasing the stake to any amount not exceeding the limit, 1 which is always agreed upon before the game begins. Thus, if the limit is i, and the age has put up 6d. as his blind, any player may, when his turn comes to declare whether he will play, say, " I play and make it los. (or a sovereign) more to draw cards," at the same time placing the ante plus xos. (or a sovereign) in the middle of the table. Thereupon all the other players, each in turn, must see the raise, i.e. pay in the additional sum, or drop out of the game, forfeiting what they have already paid into the pool. The " age " being the last to complete, is in the best position to raise, as a player who has already completed is less likely to sacrifice his stake and withdraw from the game. On the other hand each player 1 " Table stakes " means playing strictly for cash ; " unlimited " explains itself, although even when this is the rule a certain high limit is pretty generally observed.
has the right, in his turn, after paying the extra stake called for, of raising it further on his own account, and this goes on until the players who have not dropped out have paid an equal sum into the pool and no one cares to raise further. Each player then throws away as many of his five cards as he chooses and receives from the dealer new ones in their place. In this supplementary deal no player may accept a faced card, but receives one in its place after all the other players have been served. The number of new cards taken by each one should be carefully noted by the other players, as it gives a valuable due to the probable value of his hand. The following list shows the value of hands, beginning with the lowest.
1. One Pair (accompanied by three cards of different denominations). If two players each hold a pair, the higher wins; if similar pairs (e.g. a pair of kings each) then the next highest card wins.
2. Two Pairs.
3. Triplets or Threes of a Kind (e.g. three kings, accompanied by two other cards not forming a pair).
4. Straight, a sequence of five cards, not all of the same suit. Sometimes, but very rarely, these straights are not admitted. An ace may either begin or end a straight. For example: ace, king, queen, knave and 10 is the highest straight; 5, 4, 3, 2, and ace is the lowest. An ace cannot be in the middle. For example, 3, 2, ace, king, queen is not a straight.
5. Flush, five cards of the same suit, not in sequence. If two flushes are held, that containing the highest card wins; if the highest cards are similar, the next highest wins, etc.
6. Full, or Full House, meaning three cards of the same denomination together with a pair; e.g. three sixes and a pair of fours. If more than one player holds a full, the highest triplet wins.
7. Fours, or four cards of the same denomination; e.g. four queens, which beat four knaves and under.
8. Straight Flush, a sequence of five cards all of the same suit; e.g. knave, 10, 9, 8, 7, of hearts.
9. Royal Flush, the highest possible straight flush; e.g. ace, king, queen, knave and 10 of spades.
If no player holds at least one pair, then the hand containing the highest card wins.
Each player having received the new cards called for, the betting is opened by the player sitting at the age's left, should he consider his hand worth it; otherwise he throws down his cards and is out of the game, and the next player (whom we will call C) makes the first bet, which may be of any amount up to the limit, but is usually a small one, with a view to later developments. The next player, D, either drops out, trails, i.e. puts up the amount bet by C (also called seeing and calling), or raises C's bet; in other words puts in the amount bet by C plus as much more (within the limit) as he cares to risk. This raise on D's part means either that he thinks he holds a better hand than C, or that he is trying to frighten C out. The last manoeuvre illustrates the principle of the bluff, the most salient characteristic of the game of Poker. If C, with two small pairs in the hand, bets half a crown, and D, with a hand of no value whatever, covers, or sees C's bet and raises it to a sovereign, it is very likely that C will throw down his cards rather than risk a sovereign on his own by no means strong hand. In this case C has been bluffed by D, who, without even having to show his cards, wins the pool, although intrinsically his hand was far inferior to C's. The ability to bluff successfully depends upon self-command, keen observation, judgment and knowledge of character, so as to attempt the bluff when the bluffer is sure that there are no very strong hands out against him. Other wise he will surely be called in his turn, and, having nothing of value, will lose the pool, besides suffering the ignominy of throwing away his money for nothing.
Two players with strong hands will often raise each other's bets repeatedly, until one of them calls the other, upon which the hands are shown and the stronger wins. The complete hands of the caller and the called must be shown. The common practice of throwing away unshown, for purposes of concealment, a losing hand that has called is illegal. No player who is not called is obliged to show his hand, so that the company is often in doubt whether or not the winner has bluffed. When two hands are of exactly equal value the pool is divided.
The game is often varied by a player going blind, i.e. raising the ante before the deal. Another variation is straddling the blind. This is done by the player sitting next the age, who puts up twice the amount of the blind with the words " I straddle." This has the effect of doubling the stake, as every player must then pay twice the amount of the straddle (instead of the blind) in order to play. The straddle may be straddled again in its turn if the aggregate amount does not pass the limit. The straddle does not carry with it the privilege of betting last, but merely raises the amount of the stake.
The regular Draw-Poker game is usually varied by occasional Jack-Pots, which are played once in so many deals, or when all have refused to play, or when the player deals who holds the buck, a marker placed in the pool with every jack-pot. In a jack-pot each player puts up an equal stake and receives a hand. The pot must then be opened by a player holding a hand of the value of a pair of knaves (jacks) or better. If no player holds so valuable a hand the deal passes and each player adds a small sum to the pot or pool. When the pot is opened the opener does so by putting up any sum he chooses, within the limit, and his companions must pay in the same amount or " drop." They also possess the right to raise the opener. The new cards called for are then dealt and the opener starts the betting, the play proceeding as in the regular game. If Progressive Jack-Pots are played, the minimum value of the opening hand is raised one degree every deal in which the pot is not opened. Thus the opening hand must in the first deal be at least a pair of knaves; but if the pot is not opened the minimum for the second deal is a pair of queens, for the third a pair of kings, etc. Jack-Pots were introduced about 1870.
Straight Poker, or Bluff, is played without drawing extra cards. It was the only variety of the game played, although 52 cards are now used instead of 20, as formerly. The first dealer is provided with a marker called a buck, and having, before dealing, put up the antes of all the players, passes the buck to the next dealer, who must in his turn ante for all when he deals. The rules for betting, raising, etc., are the same as at DrawPoker. The hands, of course, average smaller.
Stud-Poker is played like Draw-Poker, except that there is no draw and, in dealing, the first card only is dealt face down, the rest being exposed. Each player in turn looks at his turned card and makes his bet or raise. A common variation of StudPoker consists in stopping the deal after two cards, one face up and the other face down, have been dealt, and betting on those two cards. A third card is then dealt and betting again takes place, the process being repeated after the fourth and fifth cards have been dealt, the value of the different hands changing with each added card. A player failing to " stand " any raise must retire from that pot.
Whiskey-Poker is also played without a draw. An extra hand, called the widow, is dealt to the table face down. The first bettor then examines his hand and has the option of taking up the widow and placing his own hand on the table face up in its place, or of passing and allowing the following players in turn the choice. After an exposed hand has been laid on the table in place of the widow the next player may either take up one card from the new widow replacing it with one from his own hand, or he may exchange his entire hand for the widow, or he may knock on the table. If he knocks every other player in turn may exchange one card or his whole hand, and the betting then begins, or there may be an agreement that the best hand wins from all the rest, or that the poorest hand pays a chip to the pool.
Big Dog. Ace high and nine low; not usually played. If played it beats a Little Dog.
Blaze. Five court cards; not usually played. If played it beats any two pairs.
Bobtail. Four cards of a flush or straight, the fifth card not filling.
Bone. The smallest counter or chip.
Buck. A marker, to show when a jack-pot is to be played, viz. when it is the holder's deal.
Burnt Card. Card on the bottom of the pack turned up to prevent being seen.
Cold Feet. Any excuse of a winner for leaving the game before the time agreed upon.
Dead-wood. The discard pile.
Fatten. Adding chips and a jack-pot after a failure to open.
Freeze Out. A game in which a player having lost a certain agreed capital must stop playing.
Inside Straight. Intermediate straight, e.g. 2, 3, 5, 6.
Kilter. Hand with no pair and no card above the nine; seldom played.
Kitty. A fund, to pay for cards or refreshments, made by taking a chip from each jack-pot, or paid by a winner holding a valuable hand.
Little Dog. Deuce low and seven high; not usually played. When played it beats a straight.
Milking. Shuffling by taking a card from the top and one from the bottom of the pack with the same movement.
Mistigris. Poker with the joker added ; the joker may be called any card the holder chooses.
Monkey Flush. Three cards of a flush.
Natural Jacks. Jack-pots played because there has been no ante in the previous deal.
Openers. A hand on which a jack-pot may be opened.
Pat Hand. A hand to which no card is drawn.
Pool. The chips in the middle of the table.
Show-down. Laying the hands face-up on the table after a call.
Show. Part of a pool to which a player is entitled who has bet as long as his capital lasted but is not able to stand further raises. If his hand is the best he wins whatever was in the pool at the time when he put into it the last of his capital.
Shy. Not having put up the jack-pot ante.
Splitting. Having opened a jack-pot with one pair, and holding four other cards of one suit, to throw away one of the pair on the chance of making a flush.
Sweeten. Chipping to a jack-pot after a failure to open.
Triplets. Three of a kind.
Under the Gun. The first player to bet.
Whangdoodle. Compulsory round of jack-pots, usually agreed upon to follow a very large hand.
Widow. An extra hand dealt to ths table, as in Whiskey-Poker.
See Practical-Poker, by R. F. Foster (1904), the most authoritative work.
A very important attribute of a successful poker player is sound judgment in discarding, and this is principally based on the following mathematical table of approximate chances.
To improve any hand in the draw, the chances are :
Having in Hand To make the Hand below.
The Chance is i pair To get two pairs (3-card draw)
I in4J I pair To get three of a kind (3-card draw)
i in 9 I pair To improve either way average value i in 3 I pair and I odd card To improve either way by drawing two cards .
i in 7 2 pairs To get a full hand drawing one card i in 12 To get a full hand drawing two cards . ' .
I in I5i To get four of kind drawing two cards .
i in 23^ To improve either way drawing two cards .
i ing! 3's and I odd card To get a full hand by drawing one card i in 15! 3's and I odd card To improve either way by drawing one card i in llf 4 straight ....
To fill when open at one end only or in middle as 3 4 6 7, or A 2 3 4 i in u| 4 straight ....
To fill when open at both ends as 3 4 5 6 .
I in 6 4 flush To fill the flush drawing one card ....
I in 5 4-straight flush To fill the straight flush drawing one card .
I in 23i 3-card flush To make a flush drawing two cards ....
I in 24 Of course these chances are somewhat improved by the fact that, in actual play, pairs and threes are, on account of careless shuffling, apt to lie together more or less.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)