Seven Things About Poker You Might Not Have Known

By in Poker on
6 Minute Read
Question Mark Chips Table

The game of poker has evolved over these past few decades. It went from a simple game of cards for entertainment purposes to a full-fledged profession.

Today, serious poker players are definitely in it to win it, and a skilled few actually make a living from it. There are tournaments where celebrities are born from the game and revered by adoring fans who find this to be the best spectator “sport.”

It’s an awe-inspiring opportunity to watch as the players don their “poker faces,” behind tinted sunglasses, all while attempting to recognize their opponents’ “tells.”

But there are seven interesting facts about the game that many would find surprising. Keep reading below to learn some poker trivia.

1 – Poker Evolved From Dominoes

Most believe that poker began around 969 AD when Chinese Emperor Mu-Tsung decided to create a deck of domino cards that he and his wife played on New Year’s Eve.

When the 12th century rolled around, the Egyptians opted to play with a deck of cards to while away the time.

Approximately 400 years later, during Persia’s 16th century, the game was called “ganjifa” or “treasure cards” and the players used them for a variety of betting games. A ganjifa deck consisted of 96 elaborate cards, usually formed from paper-thin slices of ivory or precious wood.

They called their game, “As Nas.” It was similar to modern Five-Card Stud and featured similar poker hand rankings, such as three of a kind.

Prior to that, the Spaniards created a card game dubbed “primero” during the 14th century. Dealing three cards per hand, players would bluff their opponents, much in the same fashion as today’s game.

In fact, betting high stakes while holding poor cards to deceive opponents was an integral part of the game. The game is often referred to as “poker’s mother” as it is the first confirmed version of a game directly related to modern-day poker.

2 – Over 300 Million Seven-Card Poker Hand Combinations Exist

This would indicate that only the best players have more than a 5% edge against another seasoned gambler.

One of the “tells” that some players unwittingly display could be leaning forward or backward, an indication of a strong hand. A “tell,” of course, is a visual cue the player might exhibit. This allows his opponents to pick up on how he feels about the cards that were dealt to him or understand how he may feel about a certain move that’s been made.

Eye to eye, or affixing an unbroken gaze, is a trick that the bluffer may use to make the other player uncomfortable and feel somewhat intimidated. Some players are superstitious and insist that only dirty clothes should be worn while whittling away at those opponents. It’s one of many superstitions about getting lucky at the table.

3 – Poker Used to Be Played With Just 20 Cards

Yep, four players would each hold five cards. There wouldn’t be many other options here. Betting would simply begin on who had the best hand.

The deck as a whole wouldn’t be integrated into the game of 52 cards until 1834.

4 – Texas Hold’em Games Are Illegal in Texas

That’s a fact! We’re pretty surprised about it, too.

But there are exceptions. In fact, a casino housed on an Native American reservation found a loophole. It’s all in the language.

And then, offering a membership to a “card and social club,” Sam Von Kenne was able to skate around the law. Von Kennel previously served as the Chairman of the Licensing and Administrative committee.

The “club” was set up in South Austin, TX. Despite the failed attempts in lobbying efforts by casinos like Harrah’s, the Austin “social club” boasted an incredible turnout for their grand opening.

Here’s How It Works

Players pay a monthly or daily membership fee in order to access the card tables. Each table has one dealer and up to nine players per table. There are single-day memberships with rankings in two categories. A single-day “Silver” membership is $25. Gold single-day memberships are $35 and offer additional perks.

The monthly memberships are also broken down into two categories—Gold Level at $150 a month and $100 covers the Founders Level for one month.

5 – The Longest 24/7 Poker Game Lasted Over Eight Years

But to be more precise, the game lasted eight years, five months, and three days and would have probably continued had the building not flooded.

In the Arizona city of Tombstone, made famous by the Earp boys, there was a theatre called “The Bird Cage.”

It was here that the game began. Each player had to pony up $1,000 to sit at the table. Such notables as Bat Masterson, Doc Holliday, Diamond Jim Brady, and even Wyatt Earp himself, were a part of this historic game. The theatre maintained a 10% stipend, and it’s estimated that approximately $10 million changed hands over the course of the event.

6 – There Are Stories Behind Several Hands

One example, called “Dead Man’s hand,” consisted of two aces and two eights. It earned its moniker due to the fact that it was the hand Wild Bill Hickok held when he was shot in the back of the head by Jack McCall.

“Walking back to Houston” is just what the name implies.

This is an expression that T.J. Cloutier once used to describe ace-king. This hand eliminates so many players in Las Vegas that they end up broke.

No money for a flight or drive back home? Walking back to Houston is the only option left.

7 – The Marx Brothers Earned Their Nicknames at a Poker Game

The iconic brothers enjoyed a good game of cards, specifically poker. In 1915, the comedy troupe were in Galesburg, Illinois, with a poker player who went by Art Fisher.

During that decade, the fad was to nickname a person with a moniker ending in “O.” As Fisher dealt out the cards in rapid fire succession, he called out, “Here’s a card for Harpo,” then Chicko, Groucho, and Gummo.

So, Adolph (Harpo), Leonard (Chicko), Julius (Groucho) and Milton (Gummo) would make their comedic rise with these freshly-minted monikers.

The origin of Zeppo’s nickname is up for debate.

Harpo’s alias is easy to understand, he played the harp. Groucho is said to have been named because of this ill-tempered attitude, though he claims he was so titled because of the “grouch” bag he carried, a garment similar to toting property in a knapsack or purse.

Chico’s name was shortened and pronounced differently than the original. Back in that time period, women were referred to as “chickens.” A notorious womanizer, Leonard loved the ladies.

The least recognized brother, Gummo, wore rubber-backed shoes, but Harpo claims that Milton was rather sneaky and would creep up on someone like a gumshoe detective.

Finally, like Groucho, there are two theories as to the birth of Zeppo’s nickname. Harpo said that he was named for a caged monkey that had gained popularity during that time called Zippo. But in 1972, Groucho told a reporter that the name had been derived from Zeppelin airships.

The game of poker has traveled through the annals of history unlike any other activity in the world. So many card games, so little time.

Bonus Trivia

Another piece of trivia I found involves a notorious politician whose connection to the Watergate Hotel would forever be linked to his name.

Richard Milhouse Nixon was an extraordinary poker player. While serving in the Navy during WWII, Nixon polished this player proficiency to the point where he was able to primarily finance his political campaign. Unfortunately, we all know that’s not where his reputation ends.

While that president probably should have walked away from the table, President Warren G. Harding didn’t do too well either. Apparently, he lost the entire set of White House china in a poker game to General Douglas MacArthur’s wife, Louise. Let’s hear it for the ladies!

One last tidbit revoles around the expression “passing the buck.” It’s said to have originated from poker during the American Frontier era. A knife with a buckhorn handle was used to point out the next player in line to deal the cards.

If said player did not wish to deal, he could pass the “buck” to another player.

Conclusion

What other game has not only endured but improved though the centuries?

Whether you have a straight, three of a kind, four of a kind, a full house, a flush, or a royal flush, there’s no denying the adrenaline rush.

And let’s not forget the art of the bluff or maintaining a poker face. With high stakes poker, the player takes his position seriously. And poker tournaments pave the road to riches for some.

All it takes is practice, practice, practice.

Michael Stevens

Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016. ...

View all posts by Michael Stevens
Email the author at: [email protected]