As long as poker has been played, there have been crooked players trying to beat the game through cheating. The history of poker is not perfectly clear, but the game was played on Mississippi riverboats in the early 1800s and one of its first references was in a book written by Jonathan H. Green in 1843 where he called it “the cheating game.” In all likelihood, poker as it is commonly played today evolved from seventeenth century vying card games such as the French game of brelan and Persian game as nas. The origin of the word poker is debatable, but one possibility is that it derived from the underworld slang term “poke” which was commonly used by pickpockets to describe a wallet. Before one can cheat, or be cheated at the game of poker, a basic understanding of the rules and strategy is necessary.
Mark Twain might have overlooked the invention of the pocket cam when he stated, “There are few things that are so unpardonably neglected in our country as poker. I have known clergymen, good men, kind-hearted, liberal, sincere, and all that, who did not know the meaning of a flush. It is enough to make one ashamed of one’s species,” as today poker has reached people of all ages, classes, and jurisdictions. It is hard to imagine someone today in the free world that lacks the understanding of a flush, but here is a brief explanation of the rules of poker for those new to the game.
Poker is played in seemingly endless variations, but the traditional concept is that a dealer, using a deck of 52, distributes cards face down (and sometimes face up) to as little as two and as many as ten players at a table. After the initial deal, a round of betting ensues with the remaining players then seeing more cards and wagering again. The best hand or set of cards determines who wins the pot and hands of equal value split the proceeds.
Hand rankings from least to best go as follows: highest card, one pair, two pair, three of a kind, straight, flush, full house, four of a kind, straight flush. A straight is any five cards in sequential order (8, 9, 10, J, Q), a flush is any five cards of the same suit, a full house is a five card combination of three of a kind and a pair (10, 10, 10, 2, 2), and a straight flush is five cards of the same suit in sequential order. In variations involving more than five cards, player are typically required to make the best five card hand, using down and community cards.
Once a player understands the rules and settles on a variation, a strategy typically begins to form. Player styles range from tight conservatives who only bet with ideal cards to those who play loose and want to see as many cards as possible. Poker psychology enters into the game when it comes to the key components of poker strategy: reading opponents, bluffing, and betting. The ability to pick up tells, or physical and mental responses a player has to their cards, is considered the ultimate advantage despite that tells are incredibly difficult to ascertain and can be unreliable.
Bluffing is a risky action that can bring great rewards or disappointment since common bluffs involve a player making a grand wager on a hand that stands little chance of winning. Betting is a central concept of the game because wager size brings in all the strategic elements of the game, with the most powerful bet in poker occurring in a no-limit game when a player risks all of their chips by going all-in. It is said that good poker players are born with the necessary skills to achieve greatness and wealth, however statisticians and amateur ungifted players have shown that with patience and an adequate bankroll, anyone can become a poker ace.
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People throughout history have not had too much trouble learning the rules and strategy of poker, however they have had some difficulty with finding places to legally play it. As poker spread rapidly across the country, states responded to the new form of gambling with laws that restricted and forbid the game. While in 1910 Mississippi tolerated many forms of gambling, Nevada made it a felony for any person to run a gambling game and California declared that poker was a game of skill and therefore the state’s anti-gambling laws did not apply.
In 1920s, a person traveling coast to coast in the United States would pass through jurisdictions with different tolerances, laws, and consequences relating to the game of poker. In 1931, Nevada legalized gambling and Las Vegas built the first casinos for card players and gamblers of all sorts to flock to. As the decades went on, society’s views on gambling games such as poker fluctuated. While some states outlawed gambling as a destructive nuisance, other jurisdictions, like New Jersey’s Atlantic City, saw legalizing gambling in 1978 as a profitable opportunity.
In 2017, poker can be found being played in every part of the country due to the incredible popularity of the poker variation Texas Hold’Em, which has reached the masses through television shows that highlight poker professionals’ unique personas, celebrity tournaments, and large sums of money for the taking. As an increasing amount of people are playing poker at home, bars, card clubs, Indian reservations, casinos, and online poker rooms, the law is trying its best to sort out where and how it is legal to play. Furthermore, the huge sums of money now available by new poker players, or fish, have brought out the poker sharks, professionals, and cheats in record numbers. While poker sharks or professionals typically play in a fair and legal fashion, cheaters disrupt the game and literally rob money from honest players looking to have a good time.
This article will focus on the legal consequences of players who cheat in poker games at home, in brick and mortar casinos/clubs, and over the Internet.
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