1902 Encyclopedia > Poker


POKER, a game at cards, -- probably a development of il frusso (played in Italy in the 15th century). A similar but less game, called primiera, was also played in Italy in the 16th century, whence under the name of primero it traveled to Spain. La prime is mentioned by Rabelais (16th century); and later the game of prime elaborated was played in France under the name of l’ambigu or le mesle. Prime was also played in England in the 16th century; and later a bastard kind of prime, called post and pair, was much played in the west of England. Gleek has some points of resemblance to these games, The more modern game of brag is only post and pair with variations. Poker (originally played in America) may be described as developed brag, though in some respects it "throws-back" to the parent games post and pair, l’ambigu, and primero.

Any number of persons may play. If a pack of fifty-two cards is played with, from five to seven players makes the best game. Sometimes an écarté pack of thirty-two cards is used, when three of four makes the best game. There are numerous varieties of porker. Draw poker, with fifty-two cards, is the most common.

The dealer being determined (see Laws), he puts up a sum, previously agreed on (called the ante), generally one chip or counter, and deals five cards to each player. Then each in rotation from the dealer’s left looks at his cards, and ether throws up his had (called going out of the game), when he stakes nothing, or chips, i.e., puts up twice the amount of the ante (say two counters). The dealer finally looks at his hand and either goes up another counter.

The dealer then asks those in rotation who have chipped whether they will fill their hands (i.e., whether they will exchange any cards for an equivalent number from the top of the pack) or play the hand dealt.

When the hands are filled, the players to the left of the dealer have the say in rotation. Each player says whether he will (1) go out the game (forfeiting what he has already staked); or (2) raise, i.e., put up a sum in addition to that already staked. As soon as any one raises, the next in rotation to say must either (1) go out of the game; or (2) see the raise, i.e., put up an equal amount; or (3) go better, i.e., increase the raise. This continues round and round, each succeeding player being obliged either to see the stake made by the previous one, or to go better, or to go out of the game.

Eventually the raising comes to an end, because either every player but one goes out of the game (when all the stakes are taken by the player who remains in, without showing his cards), or the players left in all see the last raise, no one going better. When all the stakes are thus equal, it becomes a call. The last to stake, who makes his raise equal to that of each of the others, sees them., i.e., the player to his left has to show his hand, or rather such part of it as he claims to compete with. The next to the left, the similarly shows his hand, if it can beat the one first shown; if not, he throws up; and so on all round; the holder of the best hand takes the pool, and the next dealer deals.

Hands thrown up, either on a refusal to chip to fill, or on being beaten, and cards discarded when filling, are placed face down in the middle of the table, and no one is allowed to look at them.

It is usual to limit the raise to prevent very high chipping. The modern usage is to play table stakes; i.e., each player puts up such an amount as he pleases at the commencement of each deal, and he cannot be raised more than he has on the table; but he has the option of making good from his pocket a previous raise which exceeds his table stake.

Value of the Hands. – 1. A straight flush (sequence of five cards of the same suit). 2. Four (cards of the same rank, with one other card). 3. A full (three cards of the same rank, with a pair). 4. A flush (five cards of the same suit, not in sequence). A straight (sequence of five cards, not all of the same suit). 6. Triplets (three cards of the same rank, with two other cards not a pair). 7. Two pairs (with one other card not of the same rank with either pair). 8. One pair (with three other cards of different ranks). 9. Highest card.

An ace may either begin or end a straight, e.g., ace, king, queen, knave, ten; or, five, four, three, two, ace. By agreement an ace may be made not to rank in sequence with the two. In no case can ace occupy an intermediate position in a straight, and when an écarté pack is used, ace is not a straight with the seven. A higher straight flush, or straight, wins of a lower one; the cards rank as at whist, except that ace may be highest or lowest. In combinations other than straights ace is highest. High fours win of low ones of two fulls the one that contains the highest triplet wins; of two flushes the one that contains the highest card wins; if equal the next highest, and so on; a straight beats triplets (this is sometimes disputed, but calculation shows a straight is the less frequent hand); or two triplets, the highest wins; of two two-pairs hands, the highest pair wins if both pairs are equal, the highest card; of two hands each containing a pair the highest pair wins, if equal the highest remaining card wins; of hands containing none of the above the highest card wins, if equal the next highest, and so on. In case of an absolute tie between the best hands they divide the pool.

Variations in the Mode of Playing. – Sometimes the ante may be raised by any one who chips to fill his hand, when succeeding players must make good the raise, or go better, or go pout of the game. This is a mere excuse for higher play.

The player to the dealer’s left (the age) is generally allowed to pass the first round after the hands are filled, and to come in again. If he passes he says "my age." Also, sometimes the age puts up the ante instead of the dealer. These useless complications, which only have the effect of making the first player the last player, are better omitted.

The age is sometimes allowed to go blind, i.e., to raise the ante before he sees his cards. The next player may double the blind, i.e., raise to double what the age staked; the next may straddle the blind, i.e., double again; the next may double the straddle, and so on. Only the age can start a blind, and any one who refuses to double or straddle prevents a further raise; but he must make good the previous stake or go out. The player to the left of the last straddler has the first say; i.e., on looking at his hand an before filling, he declares whether he will make good or go out. Going blind, like raising the ante, is a mere pretext for higher play.

Some players do not consider straights in the game, and omit them. This makes four aces, or four kings and an ace, invincible; and it is open to the objection that if those cards are held the player is backing a certainly.

Hints to Players. – 1. The dealer should generally go in, as half his stake is already up. 2. When drawing to fill a hand, it should be done off-hand and without hesitation. If in doubt, it is better to go out of the game at once. A player may lose by going in, but can never lose by going out. 3. In filling to a pair it is generally right to draw three cards, unless drawing to a low pair, with a king or ace in hand. 4. In filling to two pairs, to a four, or to a straight or flush which wants one card, exchange one. It is not advisable to chip to fill to a straight or flush is usually a dear purchase. With a four the hand cannot be improved by drawing., but one card should be taken that the value of the hand may be concealed. 5. In filling to triplets one card only should be drawn, or triplets are at once declared; but, 6. Players should vary their mode of discarding to mystify the opponents, and should be sometimes cautious, sometimes bold. 7. A good poker face is essential; the countenance should not betray the nature of the hand. Talking without regard to facts (poker talk) is allowed, and is considered fair; but the best players our their cards face downwards on the table and leave them there, and neither move nor speak until it is their turn to say. 8. Bluffing (i.e., raising high on poor cards), in hopes of inducing the other players to go our of the game, may be resorted to occasionally with success; but, as a rule, the player who goes in best will come our best. When about to bluff draw only one card or no cards. 9. A straight or higher hand may be backed freely, but the other players are more likely to go on staking if the raise is by small sums at a time. The only general rule that can be given is to change the raising tactics pretty frequently.

Laws of Poker. –These vary considerably. The following are based on "the American Hoyle." Determination of Deal. – 1. One card is given to each player. Lowest has the deal. Ace is lowest. Ties of lowest card have one card each given again. The deal goes in rotation to the left of the last dealer. Shuffling, Cutting, and Dealing. – 2. Any one may shuffle, the dealer last. 3. The player to the dealer’s right cut at least four cards. The dealer to the dealer’s right cuts at least four cards. The dealer reunited the packets. If before the deal a card is exposed, there must be a fresh cut. A blank card is usually placed under the pack to prevent exposure of the bottom card. 4. The dealer musty deal form the top of the pack, one card to each player in rotation, beginning to his left. 5. If the dealer deals without having the pack cut, or shuffles after it is cut, or misses a hand, or gives too many or too few cards to any player (but see Law 6), or exposes a card in dealing, he forfeits an ante to the pool and deals again. The forfeit does not raise the other players, and the dealer must still make his first ante good when it comes to his turn, or go out of the game. (Some players merely require a fresh deal without any forfeit, and some require a player to take the card dealt him if only one card is exposed.) Filling the Hands. – 6. If a player, after lifting any of his cards, is found to have too many or too few cards, he must go out of the game. (Some players give a hand with only four cards the option of going in ). 7. If, when drawing to fill, the dealer gives a player too many or too few cards, and the player lifts any of them, he must go out of the game. If the error is discovered before lifting, it can be rectified, -- in the case of too many cards by withdrawing the superfluous ones, in the case of too few cards by filling from the top of the pack. 8. If, when drawing to fill, a card is exposed, it us be placed at the bottom of the pack, and the top card given instead (sometimes the top card after all the other players are served). 9.Cards thrown out must be placed face downwards in the middle of the table before any are drawn; otherwise the player is liable to the penalty for holding too many cards (Law ^). 10. Any player before taking up his filled hand may ask how many cards the dealer drew. Chipping. – 11. If all the players pass without chipping to fill, the dealer takes back his ante, and the deal passes. If, after filling, no one before the dealer raises, the dealer takes the pool. 12. If a player chips with more of less than five cards (but see note to Law 6), he must go out of the game, But, if all the other players have gone out of the game before the discovery is made, there is no penalty. 13. A player who passes or thrown up cannot come in again. 14. Players are bound to put distinctly the amount they chip, separate from their other chips. Aftercomers. – 15. The place of an aftercomer is determined by dealing a card between every two players, The aftercomer sits where the lowest card was dealt. Incorrect packs. – 16. The deal in which an imperfection of the pack is discovered is void. All preceding deals stand good. (H. J.)

The above article was written by: Henry Jones ("Cavendish"), M.R.C.S.; author of The Laws and Principles of Whist by "Cavendish"; and of guides to croquet, bézique, eucre, and other games.

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