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Poker Basics

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Right now is the best time to be a poker player. In fact, new players are entering into the game every day in large numbers. As more people seek opportunities to play poker, more poker rooms and Web sites are opening up. As a result, the coverage of poker on television and the number of books and amount of information made available increases, which in turn bring more players into the game. This cycle continues to feed itself so that the popularity of poker is now at an all-time high.

This article will cover many of the basics of poker -- from rankings of poker hands to the card game's terminology. But to put everything in its proper context, we'll lead off with a quick primer on the history of poker.

Poker Origins

Many people were introduced to poker by seeing it played in the saloons in Western movies, and the poker game played was most often 5-Card Draw. Some people may also have heard stories of riverboat gamblers on the Mississippi River. For these reasons, a lot of people grew up believing poker began in America in the 1900s, and the only poker game ever played was 5-Card Draw. Actually, both assumptions are false.

The actual origin of poker is not known. Some say the Chinese played with cards as early as the tenth century a.d. In another part of the world, archaeologists recovered fragments of cardlike items dating to the twelfth or thirteenth century in Egypt. Of course, we don't know what the Egyptians used these cards for, but it could have been the first form of poker. We do know that in the sixteenth century people in India played a betting game called Ganjifa, which used a deck of 96 cards; and in the seventeenth century the Persians played a five-player card game, which they called As Nas, using 25 cards in five suits.

The current 52-card deck is often credited to European countries. In the fifteenth century, France introduced the current suits of clubs, diamonds, hearts, and spades in a game called Poque. It is quite possible that the word "poker" is derived from that word. Others, however, claim that the word "poker" comes from the German card game pochspiel or the German bluffing game pochen, which dates back to the sixteenth century. Also, the British are credited with the introduction of games called "Brag" and "Faro," which were played in many saloons in the Old West.

Eventually, poker migrated to the United States in the late eighteenth century and continued to spread throughout North America. Variations of poque called "draw" and "stud" became popular during the Civil War. These terms are still used today.

Next, we'll move onto the fundamentals of playing the game, specifically the rankings of poker hands.

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