From friendly games with the family to scenes in classic Westerns… Famous players on TV to a casual reason to get together with the guys… Poker is a game for all types of people, with a long, rich history full of weird anecdotes.
Because the game has so many variations – and so many quirks – there’s no shortage of fun facts to learn. These can be great conversation starters the next time you play poker with friends or family!
The Deck Has Changed
In the early days, the first versions of poker were played with a 20-card deck: 4 suits of 10, Jack, Queen, King, and Ace. As the game gained popularity, more and more people started using the English 52-card deck to allow for more possible hand combinations.
In the late 1930s, there was even a fifth suit added – but this quickly fell by the wayside, as people used to the game didn’t want to buy new cards!
The Game is American… Kind Of
The earliest accounts of poker as we know it – five-card hands and the name we use today – come from Louisiana in the early 1800s. The French settlers of that region would have been familiar with a game known as “poque” – which likely lead to the American version (and the name).
Still, even the history of those games is contested. Scholars also compare poker to a Persian game called As-Nas, as well as the French game brelan and the Italian game primero.
The Longest Game
The Birdcage Theater in Tombstone, Arizona (yes, like the movie!) held the longest running poker game in history – or so the story goes. They claim the game ran continuously, day and night, for 8 years, 5 months, and 3 days. Supposedly, more than $10 million exchanged hands, and famous people like Doc Holiday took part!
First TV Appearance
3 years after its debut, the World Series of Poker was first televised on CBS in 1973. Walter “Puggy” Pearson won the main event for $130,000! In fact, you can watch the tournament coverage on YouTube!
A Game of Stats
Master poker players can calculate their odds of winning based on a variety of factors, especially when playing Texas Hold ‘Em (where all players can see “the flop”). The probabilities can be misleading, with hundreds of millions of possible combinations among just 5 cards.
Here are a couple examples that can lead novice players astray:
If you need two exact cards on the turn and the river (the 4th and 5th card turned over), your odds of getting both are just 0.3%
Top starting hands like pocket Aces, Kings, A/K, or “picture pairs” only happen about 2.1%of the time
Having two suited cards only improves your hand by about 2.5%
This is just a small look at all the things there are to know about poker. You can learn different games, betting strategies, and the huge list of terms experienced players use to describe their hands, their bets, and other parts of the game. The best way to learn is to start playing!