The origins of poker are difficult to pinpoint. There are a number of theories on the antecedents of the game, and these are widely debated themselves. Common threads can be isolated, however, and what seems certain is that modern poker is more a hybrid of a number of older games, rather than the direct descendant of any one in particular.

The development of card playing

Card playing in itself seems to have originated in the Far East, migrating via the Middle East to Europe. The earliest recorded occurrences of card playing are from tenth-century China. Their "cards" would have more closely resembled paper, another Chinese invention, and the games were likely derived from Chinese dominoes. There is a surviving record of the Emperor Mu-tsung playing "domino cards" with his wife in 969 AD. This is one widely held theory of the origin of poker.

The other popular theory is that poker originated from the Persian game of "As Nas". This is a 5-player game, using a deck of 25 cards with 5 suits. It is remarkably similar in concept to poker: two cards are dealt, followed by a round of betting; then two more cards and another round of betting; then a final card, a final round of betting, and the highest ranked card wins.

A third theory is that poker developed out of the Indian card game of Ganjifa.

The Mameluke Empire was purportedly responsible for introducing card playing to Europe in the Middle Ages. Its realm stretched across the Middle East, including Egypt, where remnants of cards have been discovered, ostensibly dating back to the 12th or 13th century.

The earliest reliable records of card playing in Europe can be traced back to the mid-14th century. The notion of royalty and card ranking was adopted by the first European card makers, who were Italian and Spanish. The 52-card pack emerged from Rouen in France in the 16th century. It became known as the "French pack", and spread to England and America.

The emergence of poker

Research appears to show that the aforementioned Persian game of "As Nas" is probably poker's closest ancestor. The French game of "poque" can also claim some influence on the modern game. Poque was a card game of bluffing and betting, and is reportedly the first use of a deck consisting of the modern suits.
Other historic games that get a mention are the German "pochen" and the English game of "Bragg".

Once poker crossed the Atlantic to America, its origins became easier to trace, and there is more agreement on its development. It is generally thought to have been brought to New Orleans by French settlers, although the first record of an actual game called "poker" only appears in the 19th century. It was played with only twenty cards - four suits from Ace to Ten, each person receiving 5 cards. It soon became the most popular game on the riverboats. From New Orleans it traveled north up the Mississippi and Ohio rivers, and then further afield by wagon and train. The Civil War saw the introduction of stud poker, the draw and the straight, and the joker made an appearance as a wild card in the last quarter of the 19th century.


The Dead Man's Hand is one of the classic Wild West legends. It is reputed to be the hand that "Wild" Bill Hickok was holding when he was shot to death by Jack McCall in Deadwood's Saloon Number 10 on August 2, 1876.

"Wild" Bill Hickok

Hickok was one of the most colorful characters that the early West produced. While he had a number of strings to his bow - stagecoach driver on the Santa Fe Trail, army scout and spy during the Civil War, professional gambler, US Marshall and sheriff, Wild West Show performer, and gold prospector - he was probably most famous as a gunman with a deadly eye.

His adventures were truly the stuff of legends. While a stagecoach driver he was attacked by a bear, which he managed to kill using only a knife (or a knife and a pistol, depending on which version you read).

But his exploits as a gunfighter were the basis of aura that came to surround him. The myth seems to have begun with his shooting of Dave McCanles over a Pony Express station. Hickok apparently killed McCanles and two others, but the story was exaggerated and ended with 10 deaths being attributed to him.

As word spread, his stature assumed larger than life proportions. Because of this it is often difficult to separate the man from the myth, something that he readily exploited, growing a wild mane of hair and actively cultivating his image as a flamboyant yet very tough customer.

His time as a scout in the Army further served to embellish Hickok's reputation, in particular the tale of his single-handedly breaking through a force of 350 Kiowa braves surrounding 40 men of the 3rd Infantry Battalion from Fort Russell in Colorado, in order to summon rescuing reinforcements.

After his stints in the army he held law-enforcement positions in various towns, and became a professional gambler and card player, as well performing in the Wild West Show.

It was at the card table that his past caught up with him. His reputation had naturally ensured that there was any number of men seeking revenge for dead friends, or to enhance their own stature, by gunning him down. In the end it was a fatal error on Hickok's part, which allowed a small-time thief by the name of Jack McCall to shoot him from behind as he was playing. Although Hickok always insisted on sitting with his back to the wall, facing the door, to prevent an ambush from behind, for some reason he accepted a chair with his back to the door. This allowed McCall to step up behind him and shoot him in the back of the head.

The Hand

The actual cards have long been lost, so the composition of the hand cannot be proven absolutely, but it is universally accepted that it consisted of two pairs - Aces & Eights. Most agree that they were the black suits - clubs and spades.
The kicker (5th card) is another matter altogether. This card is hotly debated; the favorite candidates are:

Jack of Diamonds - according to the transcripts of McCall's trial, a witness claims that this was the card.

Five of Diamonds - the town of Deadwood purportedly has this card on display, claiming it to be the actual card.

Nine of Diamonds - according to supposed eyewitness accounts at the time.

Queen of Clubs - Ripley's Believe It Or Not has this card on display.

Movies, documentaries and plays have variously portrayed it as the King of Spades, Jack of Spades and Queen of Spades.

Although perhaps we will never know for sure exactly what cards "Wild" Bill Hickok was holding when he was shot, you're on pretty safe ground claiming that you have the Dead Man's Hand if you're dealt black Aces and black Eights.


A five-card hand that has no hand combinations (flush, straight, pair etc), but contains one Ace.

When you bet all your money on a hand, either voluntarily in the belief that you have the strongest hand, or because do not have enough money to cover the full amount bet by someone else. You then contend for the pot in an amount proportional to what you contributed.

The minimum bet that players must place into the pot by each player before betting begins. The ante is placed before any cards are dealt.

Bad Beat
When a good hand that would have been expected to win the pot is beaten by a lucky draw.

Big Blind
The first bet posted by the player to the left of the player who posts the small blind. It is a forced bet. The big blind bet amount is equal to the lower bet. For example, in a $10/$20 game, the big blind is $10.

Applies in the following games:
Texas Hold'em
Omaha Hi-lo

Big Pair
A pair with a value of 10 or greater.

Big Slick
An A-K combination as pocket (hole) cards.

Blind Bet
A forced bet that is placed before any cards are dealt. It is considered a live bet for the first round of betting. You have big blind and small blind bets in the first round of betting.

Applies to the following games:
Texas Hold'em
Omaha Hi-Lo

To pretend that you have a better hand than you actually do, by betting aggressively, in the hope that the other players will fold.

Slang for a full house.

A pair of Aces. If these are your pocket cards, they are also known as "Pocket Rockets".

Burning a Card
Discarding the top card from the deck.

Buy-in Amount
The amount you must bring into a game.

Buy-in Limit
The minimum amount you must bring into a 1-on-1 game.

Applies to Seven-Card Stud Poker

When you place a bet equal to the previous bet.

The limit used to describe the third raise in a round. Betting is then capped and players can only call or fold.

Cash Out
To finish playing and exchange your chips for cash.

When a player makes the hand s/he was drawing to.

When you want to stay in the game but not place a bet. You can only check if no other bets have been placed in the betting round.

To check at the beginning of a betting round and then raise when a player to your left bets.

When players chat about a hand they are involved in, with the intent of misleading or manipulating other players.

Call Cold
Calling both a bet and a raise at the same time.

When two or more players work together in order to win a hand or succession of hands.

Community Cards
Cards that are dealt to the table. All players can use these cards to complete a five-card hand.

Dead Man's Hand
Two pair hand consisting of Aces & Eights. Reputed to be the hand that Wild Bill Hickock was holding when he was shot dead.

A flat disk that is used to signify the Dealer's position on the table in online poker. The disk is usually marked with a D.

A pair of Twos.

Remaining in the round and accepting more cards.

Drawing to a hand
Remaining in the round with the hope of making one's potential hand as more cards are dealt.

Drawing Dead
When a player is drawing to a hand that is not the best hand offered by the flop and will therefore be beaten even if the hand is made.

When all players have contributed the same amount of credits to the pot.

Fifth Street
The third round of betting and is called Fifth Street because the players have Five-Cards each.

The following applies to the Fifth Street:
Bet amounts are at the high limit.
Betting limits are set by the card room.
The player with the highest ranking hand begins the next round of betting.
Applies to Seven-Card Stud Poker.

The first three community cards dealt to the table.

Applies to the following games:
Texas Hold'em
Omaha Hi-Lo


When players throw in their cards. They give up any claim on the pot in exchange for not having to contribute more money to the pot.

Fourth Street
The second round of betting and is called Fourth Street because the players have four cards each.

The following applies to the Fourth Street:
The player with the highest ranking hand begins the next round of betting.
Players can Fold, Call, Raise or Check.
If the highest ranking hand is a Pair, the first player to bet has the option to bet either the low or high betting limit. This becomes the raise amount for the rest of the game. The other players must follow this amount when they raise.

Applies to Seven-Card Stud Poker.

Flush Draw
When a player holds four cards of the same suit and is hoping to draw a fifth card of that suit to complete a flush.

Go on Tilt
When a player loses emotional balance during a game and plays irrationally.

Gut Shot
To draw to an inside straight.

The best combination a player can make with the cards s/he holds plus the communal cards.

Heads Up
A game with only two players in it.

Hole Cards
These are the Down Cards in front of the players. (Also known as "Pocket Cards")

The host of the game (e.g. the casino)

Inside straight draw
Drawing to a straight where the cards needed to complete the straight are those in the middle of the straight. For example, you have 6-7-9-10 and need the middle card (8) to make the straight.

The highest unpaired card of a player's pocket cards.

Limping In
Calling the big blind rather than raising.

Live Blinds
Blind bets that are in play.

Player A posts a small blind bet. Player B joins the game and posts a big blind bet. Player A must now equalize the betting as the big blind bet is in play and is live.

Lowest Card
The card that has the lowest value. Aces are high. If two players have the same lowest card, the value is determined by suit. Suits are arranged in alphabetical order from lowest to highest value - Clubs, Diamonds, Hearts and Spades.

A very loose and aggressive player, playing almost any hand and usually raising rather than calling.

A very strong hand.

When you do not want to show your hand to the table. The hand is discarded without being displayed to the table. You can muck a losing hand in a showdown, or the winning hand if everyone else has folded before you.

The best possible hand, that cannot be beaten, at a particular point of the game.

Nut Flush
A flush containing the Ace.

Cards of different suits.

Cards that will make the hand that the player is drawing to.

Paint Cards
The picture cards (King, Queen, Jack).

Pocket Cards
The cards dealt face down to each player. (Also known as "Hole Cards")

Pocket Rockets
A pair of Aces as your pocket cards (hole cards).

Post Now
A choice given to new players joining an existing game. They can either post now or wait for the big blind bet. If they decide to post now, they bet the equivalent of a big blind bet and receive cards immediately.

The pot is the pile of chips that accumulates as each player ante, bet and raise. All winnings are paid from the pot. The value of the pot varies. It is dependant on the stakes involved and the amount the Players bet. The pot goes to the winner of each round.

The House takes a small percentage of the pot. This is known as the "rake".
If two or more Players have the same winning hand, they split the pot equally.

Four of a kind (four cards of the same denomination)

When Players tie with either a high or a low hand and earn a quarter of the pot.

Applies to Omaha Hi-Lo Poker.

Percentage of the pot taken by the house.

Useless cards - cards that don't improve a hand.

When the board contains 3 or 4 cards of different suits.

When you increase the bet made by a preceding player. This increases the stakes for remaining Players, who now have to match the total amount including the raise.

Ring Game
A normal real money table game, as opposed to a tournament game.

River Card
The final community card dealt.

A player who will only play the best hands and nothing less.

Scare Cards
High board cards (e.g an Ace that appears on the flop).

To see someone is to call their bet.

To bluff with a hand that still has drawing potential and could improve to be the winning hand.

Seven Deuce
The acknowledged weakest starting card combination in Texas Hold-em (7-2)

Seventh Street
The fifth and final round of betting, and is called Seventh Street because the Players have Seven-Cards each.

The following applies to the Seventh Street:
The river card is dealt face down.
The player that played first on the Sixth Street plays first.
If there is more than one player left in the game after another round of betting, the game is resolved by means of a showdown.
You expose the best five-card hand possible. The winner is awarded the pot.

Applicable to Seven-Card Stud Poker.

After the last betting round, when the remaining players compare hands to determine the winner. The player with the highest value hand wins the pot.

Sitting Out
When you choose to leave a table for a few hands.
If a player sits out for more than fifteen minutes, or has missed two rounds of blinds, they are removed from the table.

Sixth Street
The fourth round of betting and is called Sixth Street because the players have six cards each.

The following applies to the Sixth Street:

Bet amounts are at the high limit.
The player with the highest ranking hand begins the next round of betting.
Betting limits are set by the card room.

Applies to Seven-Card Stud Poker.

Slow Playing
Playing non-aggressively with a powerful hand; calling and betting instead of raising. This in the hope of not driving players out of the hand and thus sucking more money into the pot. Also called "sandbagging".

Small Blind
The first bet posted by the player to the Dealer's left. It is a forced bet. The small blind bet amount is equal to half of the lower bet. For example, in a $10 - $20 game, the small blind is $5.

Splash the Pot
To toss chips into the pot instead of placing them. Seen as bad etiquette.

A player's chips.

To try and win the pot by betting when everyone else has checked, or by making a large raise when everyone else has called.

Suited Cards
Cards of the same suit

Third Street
The first round of betting and is called Third Street because the players have three cards each. The player with the lowest card displayed brings-in the betting in this round.

Applicable to Seven-Card Stud Poker.

The fourth community card dealt.

Applies to the following games:
Texas Hold'em
Omaha Hi-Lo

Under the Gun
The player who must act first in the betting round.

Visible Cards
Cards dealt face up to each Player. Players use these cards to complete a five-card combination.

World Series of Poker.


When playing poker online you're not sitting face-to-face with other players at a table, but there are still points of etiquette that you should observe to help ensure that everyone has a pleasant playing experience.

1. Use the Chat feature politely - no swearing at the other players, or use of bad language in general.

2. Do not use the Chat feature to badger other players or to criticize their playing abilities.

3. Do not discuss your cards with other players while the hand is still being played - even if you have folded.

4. Only use English when chatting.

5. f you need to take a break, click the "Sit Out" button or option so that your hands will automatically be folded.

6. Refrain from constantly discussing your hands after the fact, especially if you have folded and are tempted to discuss what could have happened had you stayed in the pot. You are the only one interested in this and it is irrelevant to the other players.

7. Do not send repeated messages to a player who is not replying - remember that many players play with the Chat feature disabled, so as not to be distracted.

8. Do not point out mistakes to other players, or gloat over having won a hand.

9. Do not become so distracted while chatting that you hold up the game - remember that you are there first and foremost to play, not to chat.

10. If you are playing at more than one table, be sure to pay attention so that you don't hold up the game at any of the tables you are playing at.