The most famous game in the casino is poker and it gives skillful players the best chance to make money, but you don’t have to wear a stetson and drink whiskey to learn the ropes. Of all the casino games, poker is the most familiar. There is some dispute as to the roots of the game, but most agree that it is European. Most game historians say that it comes from an eighteenth-century French game, poque, but others say it derived from a German game called pochspiel. Still others look to the opposite side of the world and attribute the name to a Hindu word, pukka. Whatever the derivation, it’s clear that poker became popular in the US in the 1850s.
Poker is today a staple in any gambling hall, legal or illegal. More Americans have played poker than have played golf, tennis and backgammon combined. And whether they play for big stakes, nickels and dimes, or for matchsticks, the players’ enjoyment of poker is the reason it is undoubtedly the most popular card game.
Even when casino gambling was legal only in Nevada, poker could regularly be found in fire halls, social clubs, church basements, and fraternal organisations. It is now played legally in more than half the US, and semi-legally in all the other states and territories. As you might suspect, casino poker varies a bit from your kitchen table variety, but the basics are essentially the
same. What is most different in the casino is the skill levels of the players. You might be the card shark of your neighbourhood, but when you play poker in a casino, there are many other factors to consider, other than which player has the best hand.
You’ve seen that there are professional blackjack players who can make a living playing a game in which they can reduce or eliminate the house advantage. And you learned that good sports gamblers can handicap a sporting event through knowledge of specific details unknown to the average bettor.
But since poker is a game that has no house advantage, you must be prepared for a large collection of players who are trying to make a living from the game. There are more professional poker players than any other type of gambler.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that all the “professionals” are playing the high-limit games, and if you play games with £1
minimum and £2 maximum bets, you won’t have to worry about the pros. That’s not true. You’ll meet the professional poker players at every level, whether they are on the way up the ladder, or have been knocked down and are looking to get back up.
Should this deter you from playing the most popular game in a casino? The answer is a qualified “No”.
Because poker requires skill, it’s not something where you can hope to stumble across enough good luck to win. While there is some debate on how skill is acquired (are good poker players born or made?), you can read enough about the game to understand its nuances and sit down and enjoy a lively session. Just remember that you never stop learning about poker. After appreciating the basics, your education is just beginning. The various plays, the different combinations, but most of all, the variety of players is what often makes this game the most fascinating of all.
There are many different kinds of poker games. Five-card draw and five-card stud may be popular around the kitchen table, but are now a rarity in the casinos. Forget about the “wild card” games you’ve read about. You won’t see any Deuces wild, one-eyed Jacks, or Jokers added to a poker game in a casino. The two most popular poker games by far in a casino are seven-card stud and Texas hold’em. While there are many other poker permutations that you can find – Omaha hold’ em, Omaha Eight-or-better, razz, lowball draw and many more – for purposes of brevity and comprehension, you’ll be wise to concentrate on the two most popular games, which will be covered in this book.