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Poker is a family of card games that share betting rules and usually (but not always) hand rankings.

Poker games differ in how the cards are dealt, how hands may be formed, whether the high or low hand wins the pot in a showdown (in some games, the pot is split between the high and low hands), limits on bets and how many rounds of betting are allowed.

In most modern poker games, the first round of betting begins with some form of forced bet.

The action then proceeds to the left. Each player in turn must either match the maximum previous bet or fold, losing the amount bet so far and all further interest in the hand. A player who matches a bet may also raise, increasing the bet.

The betting round ends when all players have either matched the last bet or folded. If all but one player fold on any round, the remaining player collects the pot and may choose to show or conceal their hand.

If more than one player remains in contention after the final betting round, the hands are shown and the winning hand takes the pot.

With the exception of initial forced bets, money is only placed into the pot voluntarily by a player who, at least in theory, rationally believes the bet has positive expected value.

Thus, while the outcome of any particular hand is determined mostly by chance, the long-run expectations of the players are determined by their actions chosen based on probability and psychology.

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History

The history of poker is the subject of some debate. One of the earliest known games to incorporate betting, hand rankings, and bluffing was the 15th century German game Pochspiel. Poker closely resembles the Persian game of As Nas, though there is no specific description of nas prior to 1890.

In the 1937 edition of Foster's Complete Hoyle, R. F. Foster wrote: "the game of poker, as first played in the United States, five cards to each player from a twenty-card pack, is undoubtedly the Persian game of as nas".

By 1990s some gaming historians including David Parlett started to challenge the notion that poker is a direct derivative of As Nas.

There is evidence that a game called poque, a French game similar to poker, was played around the region where poker is said to have originated. The name of the game likely descended from the Irish Poca (Pron. Pokah) ('Pocket') or even the French poque, which descended from the German pochen ('to brag as a bluff' lit. 'to knock'). Yet it is not clear whether the origins of poker itself lie with the games bearing those names. It is commonly regarded as sharing ancestry with the Renaissance game of primero and the French brelan. The English game brag (earlier bragg) clearly descended from brelan and incorporated bluffing (though the concept was known in other games by that time). It is quite possible that all of these earlier games influenced the development of poker as it exists now.

A modern school of thought rejects these ancestries. They focus on the card play in poker, which is trivial and could have been derived from any number of games, or made up on general cardplay principles. The unique features of poker have to do with the betting, and do not appear in any known older game.

In this view poker originated much earlier, in the early or mid-1700s, and spread throughout the Mississippi River region by 1800. It was played in a variety of forms, with 52 cards, and included both straight poker and stud. 20 card poker was a variant for two players (it is a common English practice to reduce the deck in card games when there are fewer players). The development of poker is linked to the historical movement that also saw the invention of commercial gambling.

English actor Joseph Crowell reported that the game was played in New Orleans in 1829, with a deck of 20 cards, and four players betting on which player's hand was the most valuable. Jonathan H. Green's book, An Exposure of the Arts and Miseries of Gambling (G. B. Zieber, Philadelphia, 1843), described the spread of the game from there to the rest of the country by Mississippi riverboats, on which gambling was a common pastime. As it spread north along the Mississippi River and to the West during the gold rush, it is thought to have become a part of the frontier pioneer ethos. Soon after this spread, the full 52-card English deck was used and the flush was introduced. The draw was added prior to 1850 (when it was first mentioned in print in a handbook of games).

During the American Civil War, many additions were made including stud poker (the five-card variant), and the straight. Further American developments followed, such as the wild card (around 1875), lowball and split-pot poker (around 1900), and community card poker games (around 1925). The game and jargon of poker have become important parts of American culture and English culture. Such phrases and clichés as ace in the hole, ace up one's sleeve, beats me, blue chip, call one's bluff, cash in, high roller, pass the buck, poker face, stack up, up the ante, when the chips are down, wild card, and others are used in everyday conversation, even by those unaware of their origins at the poker table.

Poker Room at the Trump Taj Mahal, Atlantic City, New JerseyBeginning in 1970 a series of developments led to poker becoming far more popular than it was previously:

  • Modern tournament play became popular in American casinos after the World Series of Poker began, in 1970. Notable champions from these early WSOP tournaments include Johnny Moss, Amarillo Slim, Bobby Baldwin, Doyle Brunson, and Puggy Pearson.

  • Later in the 1970s, the first serious strategy books appeared, notably Super/System by Doyle Brunson (ISBN 1-58042-081-8) and Caro's Book of Poker Tells by Mike Caro (ISBN 0-89746-100-2), followed later by The Theory of Poker by David Sklansky (ISBN 1-880685-00-0).

  • In the 1990s, poker and casino gambling spread across the United States, most notably to Atlantic City, New Jersey.

  • In 1998, Planet Poker dealt the first real money online poker game.

  • In 1999, Late Night Poker debuted on British television, introducing poker for the first time to many Europeans.

Poker's popularity experienced an unprecedented spike at the beginning of the 21st century, largely because of the introduction of online poker and hole-card camera, which turned the game into a spectator sport. Viewers could now follow the action and drama of the game, and broadcasts of poker tournaments such as the World Series of Poker and the World Poker Tour brought in huge audiences for cable and satellite TV distributors. Because of the increasing coverage of poker events, poker pros became celebrities, with poker fans all over the world entering into expensive tournaments for the chance to play with them. This increased camera exposure also brings a new dimension to the poker professional's game—the realization that their actions may be aired later on TV.

Since 2003, major poker tournament fields have grown dramatically, in part because of the growing popularity of online satellite-qualifier tournaments where the prize is an entry into a major tournament. The 2003 and 2004 World Series Of Poker champions, Chris Moneymaker and Greg Raymer, respectively, won their seats to the main event by winning online satellites. After the passage of the UIGEA in October 2006, attendance at live tournaments as well as participation in live and online cash games initially slowed, however they are still growing and far more popular today than they were prior to 2003. The growth and popularity of poker can be seen in the WSOP which had a record 6,844 entrants to the main event.

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List of poker hands

In poker, players construct hands of five cards according to predetermined rules, which vary according to which variant of poker is being played.

These hands are compared using a hand ranking system that is standard across all variants of poker, the player with the highest-ranking hand winning that particular deal in most variants of poker. In some variants, the lowest-ranking hand can win or tie.

Although used primarily in poker, these hand rankings are also used in some other card games, and in poker dice.

The ranking of a particular hand is increased by including multiple cards of the same card rank, by all five cards being from the same suit, or by all five cards being of consecutive rank.

The relative ranking of the various hand categories is based on the probability of being randomly dealt such a hand from a well-shuffled deck.

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General rules

The following rules apply to the ranking of all poker hands. A hand always consists of five cards. In games where more than five cards are available to each player, the best five-card combination of those cards must be played. Any cards not included in the hand do not affect its ranking.

For example, if player A holds 3♠ Q♦ and player B holds 3♣ A♣, and five cards 4♣ 5♦ 6♦ 7♠ 10♥ are available to both players, the players hold equally ranking 3-4-5-6-7 straights despite the fact that the player B's ace ranks higher than the player A's queen. Individual card are ranked A (highest), K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 (lowest).

Aces can appear low when part of an A-2-3-4-5 straight or straight flush. In the poker variants ace-to-five and ace-to-six lowball, the ace only plays low, and only plays high in deuce-to-seven lowball. Individual card ranks are used to rank hands that are in the same rank category.

The suits of the cards are used to determine whether a hand forms a flush or straight flush. In most variants, suits do not have an associated value, and play no part in determining the ranking of a hand. Sometimes a ranking called high card by suit is used for randomly selecting a player to deal. Low card by suit usually determines the bring-in better in stud games.

Hands are ranked first by category, then by individual card ranks; even the lowest hand that qualifies in a certain category defeats all hands in all lower categories.

For example, 2♦ 2♠ 3♦ 3♣ 4♠, the lowest-valued two pair hand, defeats all hands with just one pair or high card (such as A♠ A♦ K♦ Q♥ J♣). Only between two hands in the same category are card ranks used to break ties. A poker hand has the same hand ranking regardless of the order in which it is arranged by the deal, by a description, or by a picture. So a hand arranged as 10♠ 8♦ 10♦ 6♣ 10♣ is ranked the same as 10♣ 10♦ 10♠ 8♦ 6♣ even though in the first hand the three of a kind is not immediately obvious. If there are multiple hands of the same rank at the showdown, the pot is divided equally between the winning players.

There are 311875200 ways (5-permutations) of being dealt five cards from a 52 card deck, but since the order of cards does not matter, there are 5! = 120 5-permutations giving any one hand, so there are only:

possible distinct hands.

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