Poker is a worldwide popular card game that combines skill and strategy complemented with a dash of luck. It belongs to the genre of card games where players compete for money by wagering chips based on their perceived hand strength. This hand strength is derived from a set of ten standard poker hand rankings in which each hand carries a particular rank. 

Thus, in a game of poker, the player with the best hand wins chips from other players. These chips, known as poker chips, are used to represent money in a poker game. So, if you ask, “What is Poker”, it is a card game wherein players wager chips during a series of betting rounds based on their hand strength to win chips from other players. 

The poker hands of players are typically revealed at the final stage of a hand known as Showdown. All active players reveal their private cards and the player with the best poker hand wins the pot. 

The pot is the sum of money wagered in the form of poker chips during a single hand in a poker game. 

However, if none of your opponents call your latest bet or raise during a hand and happen to fold their cards instead, you win the pot without revealing your hand. 

This is the gist of the question, “What is Poker”. 

There are many variations of poker being played over the years, however one of the games that has stood the test of time is Texas Hold’em poker. This variation of Poker became extremely popular especially in the early 2000s due to its exposure via television and popular culture. 

The second-best and most popular variation is Pot Limit Omaha poker. Like Texas Hold’em, this variation is equally fun and frankly, a notch up in terms of pace and action. Both these games are the most featured poker variations in the world’s most renowned poker event, World Series of Poker.

Meaning of Poker: Name of the Game

When it comes to the meaning of Poker, the name of the game is believed to have been derived from the German word, “pochen”, which means “to brag”. The game of poker as we know today most likely evolved from a series of European card games that featured game rules such as hand rankings, wagering money and bluffing techniques as well. 

Its closest cousin is said to have been a French game known as ‘’Poque” and its German parallel ‘Pochen’, both inspired from a 16th century Spanish game called Primero. The Spanish game involved a dealer distributing three cards to each player and deceiving opponents through betting techniques in order to win. 

Later, the game was traced to French settlers in New Orleans in the United States in the 18th century. The game particularly became a staple in the American gambling culture of the 19th century where it was mostly played in riverboats and game parlors. 

What is Poker and where did the name come from? 

It is believed that its predecessor’s evolution across different regions and cultures gave birth to the name “Poker” as we know it today. The name was most likely born as a colloquial adaptation of Anglicization of the French game called “Poque”.

As poker spread through the United States, different adaptations were born, adding to the diverse range of poker games that we enjoy today. The game’s standardized rules were developed in the 20th century, and the World Series of Poker contributed to its worldwide recognition and popularity. 

Poker’s rich history and evolution lives on even in the 21st century as new variations and formats of the game continue to emerge and evolve in live rooms as well as online poker platforms. 

Standard Poker Principles and Rules

Learning what is poker involves a solid understanding of the rules of the game and the ranking of cards. Knowing their value is significant to making informed and strategic decisions at the table. Let’s begin with an understanding of the standard principles that govern the nature and type of hands featured in any poker game.  

Poker is typically played with a standard deck of 52 cards that consist of the four suits- spades, hearts, diamonds and clubs. Ace is considered both high and low depending on the hand being formed in the game. In a standard scenario, 2 is the card of the lowest value. 

Let’s understand this better with an example. 

Hand 1: A K Q J 10

Hand 2: A 2 3 4 5

In hand 1, Ace combined with King, Queen, Jack and 10 of different suits make the highest straight poker hand, Ace being high in this hand.

In hand 2, Ace combined with 2,3,4 and 5 of different suits also makes a straight poker hand, but the lowest in strength, Ace being low in this hand. 

Poker hands are typically ranked in order of their strength. According to the general poker rules, there are ten poker hands that apply to all poker games irrespective of their variations. They are the cornerstone of the game based on which the winner of the pot is identified at the final stage of each hand. 

As such, to learn what Poker is, you must memorize these ten poker hands to know their strength and probability of winning against stronger and weaker hands. Do remember, when two poker players hit an identical hand; they tie, and the pot winnings are divided equally among both players. 

Unlike some card games such as Spades and Rummy, suits have no significance in Poker. A Straight Flush or a Flush hand of any suit is valued on equal terms. Therefore, in poker, it’s the ranking of individual cards that decides the value and overall strength of each hand.

The ten Poker Hands common to all variations of Poker include:

As we saw above, Straight is also one of the finest hands in any game of Poker. It ranks 6th highest in strength and is beaten by the top five hands listed in the rankings. To know more about each of these hand rankings in depth and learn how poker hands fare against one another.

Different Forms of Poker

Over time, different forms of poker have been born, some being more popular than others today. To learn what is Poker in its essence, we must explore the most common poker variations that have stood the test of time. 

Let’s talk about the key forms of poker that define almost all poker games known to us today, starting from the most famed to the most enjoyable forms.

What is Stud Poker

Stud Poker belongs to a group of poker variations in which each player is dealt a mix of face down and face up cards. These cards are dealt in a series of betting rounds. For showdown, players select the best five out of seven cards to make their poker hand. 

In Five Card Stud games, players are dealt five cards, four of them being face up. During showdown, players select the best five-card hand to win the pot.

If someone asks what is Poker, it is possible some would discuss Stud poker. This is because historically, it has been the most long-standing variation of Poker that’s still being played today. Although its popularity has waned with time after the rise of community card games such as Texas Hold’em in the 1970s, Stud poker is still played in home settings and live poker rooms.

Learn more about Stud poker games here.

What are Draw Poker Games

In Draw poker games, players are dealt a complete set of hands, hidden from their opponents even before betting begins. During the betting rounds, players have the option to draw and exchange some or all their old cards for new ones with the aim of improving their existing hand. 

The most common form of Draw poker games is 5 Card Draw in which the goal is to form the best five card hand. Other Draw poker games include Badugi and Deuce to Seven Triple Draw. 

In fact, Five card draw was quite the hit during the early-mid 20th century especially in the United States. It was casually played in social clubs, parties and home settings until Texas Hold’em took over. During its reign, Five Card Draw was also featured in movies like “The Cincinnati Kid” (1965) and California Split (1974). 

What are Community Poker Games

Ask anyone what is Poker today, they’ll almost certainly divulge all about Texas Hold’em and Omaha poker. Indeed, the most popular variations of modern times fall under this vary category of card games. You can easily find these variants of Poker on online poker platforms in India

Both these variants are quite similar in terms of rules, the only difference being the number of private cards being dealt. 

Texas Hold’em is played with two private cards known as hole cards while Omaha poker uses four hole cards. Both games feature a set of five community cards that are shared by all players, being dealt in a series of four betting rounds. 

Community poker games share the common goal of making the best five-card hand using one or two of their hole cards in combination with three or more community cards.

What is Poker: A Game of Skill or Chance?

Now we know the type of poker games out there but what really bothers poker enthusiasts is the element of luck in the game. The truth is all card games including poker involve an element of luck, when the cards are dealt. This initial distribution of cards is random and therefore, based on luck. 

However, what separates a gambler from a skilled player is how you play the cards. While luck influences the cards you receive, navigating the game beyond the luck of the draw is what distinguishes you as a skilled player.

So, what is Poker really?

A seasoned player will focus on the myriad skillful aspects of Poker that involves making strategic decisions based on the understanding of the game, reading their opponents well and navigating specific circumstances. These decisions include knowing when to bet, raise or fold. 

Skilled players know when and how to time their bluffs, adding another strategic layer to the game. Among other things, knowing the importance of positional play is also a key skill to learning what is Poker all about. 

In terms of profit, seasoned players apply bankroll management effectively by avoiding excessive risks, ensuring they have the resources they need to weather streams of bad luck. 

Lastly, those thoroughly experienced in the game study poker theory and have a good grasp of the probabilities associated with different hands and use mathematical concepts to make informed decisions at the tables. 

So, if you’re still searching for the answer to What is Poker, in the long term, poker is a game of skill that is thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding in the long run. 

So, what’s keeping you away from the felts? Hit the tables and play!