One of the gambling games which has seen a massive surge in interest in Ireland over recent years is poker. There is some difference of opinion as to whether this rise in popularity resulted from the introduction of online casinos offering online poker, or whether television programmes such as ‘Late Night Poker’ were the cause. Whichever is the truth there is no doubt that the end of the 1990’s saw the game of poker blossom in Ireland and across the rest of western Europe. Suddenly poker had gone from being a friendly little game played regularly by a group of card fans sharing a few beers, to a serious gambling game played for serious money. The game of poker has of course had that sort of status before, and certainly during the 18th century in America poker was the main card game for gamblers. We all remember the many westerns we used to watch when there was always a game of poker being played in the saloons. Although many people believe that the game of poker has its roots in games that were being played as far back as the 15th century, most agree that the modern form of poker did originate in the gold fields of America and on the Mississippi river boats. Tournament poker gambling also started in America in the 1970’s when a number of American casinos started the World Series of Poker. Since then we have seen many new poker tournaments introduced all over the world, including of course the popular Irish Open. The game of poker and poker gambling has become so popular that most of these tournaments are now oversubscribed in spite of quite high buy-in costs, and many now have qualifying stages before the main event. Clearly although tournament poker gambling has grown dramatically, the number of serious poker fans playing at what is now a semi-professional or even professional level is totally dwarfed by the number of people now playing poker online primarily for fun, or at least for lower stakes. Online poker gambling is now very popular indeed, with many online poker forums offering poker fans the chance to play against other fans all over the world, and almost all the online casinos also offering a range of different forms of poker which can be played against the house for fixed odds.
One of the simplest forms of poker is 5-card Draw poker, which is actually the poker game featured in all those western films we mentioned earlier. Most poker games start with what is usually called an ante bet to establish a pot before any cards are dealt, and this could be the responsibility of one or two players designated for each hand or through a contribution from every player before each hand. In 5-card Draw poker each player is then dealt five cards one at a time and face down, after which there is a betting round. The format of a betting round is also a common factor applicable to all the various poker formats. Each player in turn starting with the player immediately left of the dealer, can choose to fold, call or raise the bet. If a player folds it means they are out of the hand and the cards are left face down on the table. To call a bet is to match the highest stake, and of course to raise is self-explanatory. The betting round is finished when all the remaining players have committed the same stake on the hand. Returning to our description of how to play 5-card Draw poker, at the end of the first betting round each player can exchange any cards they do not want and replace them with fresh cards from the dealer, or they can play the hand as it stands. Once all the players have exchanged any cards they want to there is a final betting round after which the remaining players reveal their hands and the highest ranked hand takes the pot. Again the rankings of poker hands are standard for all forms of the game. Another feature of poker is that if there is only one player still in the game at the end of the final betting round, that player is under no obligation to reveal their hand. This is important because it encourages the art of bluffing which is an important element of the game of poker.
Nowadays it would be impossible to write about the game of poker without mentioning the Texas Hold’em format of the game. This is the version of poker almost universally played in poker tournaments around the world, and has therefore established itself as the most popular poker format for serious poker players everywhere. Texas Hold’em poker is a version of poker which uses what are called community cards. These are cards which are dealt face up in the middle of the table and can be used by all of the players to make up their best 5 card hand. In Texas Hold’em each player is dealt two cards face down in front of them, after which the first betting round is held. Then five community cards are dealt face up into the middle of the table, one at a time with each one followed by a further betting round. The multiple betting rounds associated with the Texas Hold’em format of poker is the main reason why it is so popular among serious poker players, because the final pot is inevitably much bigger for the eventual winner of each hand. For many of us however that is also the main drawback about playing Texas Hold’em poker because it can prove very expensive to stay in the game right through six betting rounds to the showdown stage.
Fortunately the online casinos al offer a variety of other poker gambling games, most of which can be played against the house for fixed odds. These include 7-card Stud poker, Red Dog, Pai Gow and even 3-card poker. There is also another poker format which uses community cards called Omaha poker. There is sufficient choice for us all to enjoy poker gambling whatever our budget or skill level.