As one of the only casino games pitting players against one another, rather than the house, poker has become the most popular card game ever played. Evolving from the earliest card games played in Europe and the Middle East, poker added the essential elements of betting and bluffing as early as the 17th century.
Various forms of poker were devised over time, eventually leading to the game’s arrival on American shores shortly after independence was gained. Nearly all of the adaptations that make up modern poker, from the allowance to draw additional cards to the use of community cards shared by each player, came after poker’s introduction to American players. You can learn more on our history of poker page.
Many people have observed over the years that poker “takes a minute to learn, and a lifetime to master,” and truer words have never been spoken. The game is simple on the surface: players are dealt cards, before betting, raising, or folding.
The highest hand shown down wins the pot, while forcing all opponents to fold is also sufficient. A standard 52-card deck is used and a hierarchy of hand rankings from high-card through Royal Flush is used to determine winners. Forced blind bets and antes ensure that every pot is worth contesting, and players can bet a portion or all of their chips depending on the table limits. A more in-depth explanation of poker rules can be found on our poker rules page.
The thrill of playing poker comes from the fact that it’s a partial-information game. This means you only know a few pieces of the puzzle at any given time, and the game is based on trying your best to assess each situation and make the best possible decision.
While strong hands are always nice to have, the best players know that poker is based on bluffing, so representing a big hand with big bets provides the game’s inherent drama. You’ll find nothing in the gambling world quite like moving all-in for a stack of chips, with not as much as a pair in your hand, before staring your opponent down.
Your heart will race and the tension will mount, and when they finally fold, you’ll realize why millions of players around the world enjoy mixing it up on the felt. More information on the gameplay and mechanics of poker can be found on our how to play poker page.
As a skill-based game, poker is based on understanding a basic set of probabilities, odds, and relative hand strength. But what separates poker from games like chess is the human element, as players can actively deceive, intimidate, and otherwise impact their opponents at the table.
The term “poker face” has become a household term to describe someone who is tough to read, and that’s because reading one’s opponents at the table is an essential poker skill. As Kenny Rogers once sang, “you’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, and know when to fold ‘em” – and this is more than a simple ditty.
Knowing when and how to make the optimal decision for any given scenario is the key to winning at poker, because the best decision makers are rewarded by the odds over the long run. You can learn more on our poker strategy page.
Playing poker can provide one of the most entertaining and interactive experiences on the casino floor. It’s a social game, one full of swings and streaks, rushes and dry spells, and periods of calm punctuated by heart-racing moments. People as young as 18 (and as old as 100) call themselves poker players, and the game’s widespread appeal shows no sign of slowing up anytime soon.