Poker is a set of frequently played card games which often have similar rules on betting and often times, hand rankings as well. The main difference in the games is how the cards are dealt, the size of the hands, which hand will win in a round – whether the low or the high hand, any limit that is imposed on the sizes of bets and so forth. In a standard game of poker, the betting begins in a manner of a forced bet by another opponent. He or she assumes that the hand he or she is dealt is the strongest ranked and the right to play then goes around the table in a clockwise manner. Each player needs to either call the previous bet or fold, in which case he loses the amount bet in the hand and all other interest in that round. The betting goes around with each player either matching the previous bet or folding; if a player matches a bet, he can raise it as well; like this the betting round goes on till all of the players but one has folded. In that case, the one who wins the pot can choose to show or conceal his hand.
Poker was merely a recreational activity when the 20th century started when it was played primarily by a small group of male enthusiastic players; from thereon it has become a hugely popular entertainment which is watched by huge audiences and involve staggering sums of prize money with women also being participants in this game.
The origins of the game are under considerable debate. While some say that it resembles the earliest 15th century German game called Pochspiel, others say that it originated from the Persian game called As Nas. While many gaming historians agree that it might be descended from the Persian game As Nas, others think that it is derived from the French game Poque. Though the name “poker” has most certainly originated from either the Irish game Poca or the French game poque, it is not clear that the game itself has originated from these earlier games.
A more modern school of thought rejects the theories that the game of poker has descended from these earlier games as mentioned above. Their line of reasoning is that, since the card play in this game is trivial, it could have been put together from any general card game principle. The striking feature of this game is the betting, and such a betting game had originated along the regions of the Mississippi around the 1800s. Joseph Crowell, an English actor, had first reported that he witnessed a poker game in 1829 in New Orleans, where it was being played with 20 cards amongst 4 players and the players had to guess whose hand was strongest. It is believed that the game spread to the rest of the country from the Mississippi region, where the crew on the sailing boats used to play the game as a common pastime.
Since then, the game of poker has become a part of the American culture and pastime and many phrases such as ace up your sleeve, wild card, pass the buck, poker face which originated at the poker table, have become a part of the American English unknowingly to many.