Poker, a game derived from brag, and first played about 40 years ago in the southwestern United States. At first it was played with 20 cards, all below the tens being thrown out, and the number of players being two, three, or four, who were confined to the cards first dealt. The game thus played, admitting comparatively few complications, never became popular. Subsequently the entire pack was used, cards being drawn from it to improve the game originally dealt to the players. Poker thus modified, and termed "draw poker" to distinguish it from the first "twenty-deck poker," rapidly spread throughout the United States and even to Europe, completely driving out its progenitor, brag. The manner of playing the game is stated substantially as follows in a pamphlet by Gen. Robert C. Schenck published in England. The deal is of no special value, and anybody may begin. The dealer, beginning with the person at his left, throws around five cards to each player, giving one card at a time. He shuffles and makes up the pack himself, or it may be done by the player at his left, and the player at his right must cut.
To begin the pool, the player next to the dealer on his left must put up money, which is called an " ante," and then in succession each player, passing around to the left, must, after looking at his hand, determine whether he will " go in " or not; and each person deciding to play for the pool must put in twice the amount of the ante. Those who decline to play throw up their cards, face downward, on the table. When all who wish to play have gone in, the person putting up the ante can either give up all interest in the pool, thus forfeiting the ante, or else can play like the others who have gone in by "making good," that is, putting up in addition to the ante as much more as will make him equal in stake to the rest. Any one at the time of going in must put up as much as double the ante, and may put up as much more as he pleases by way of "raising" the ante, in which case every other player must put up as much as will make his stake equal to such increase, or else abandon what he has already put in. Each player, as he makes good and equals the others who are in before him, can thus increase the ante if he chooses, compelling the others still to come up to that increase or to abandon their share in the pool.
All " going in " or " raising " of the pool, as well as all betting afterward, must be in regular order, going round by the left; no one going in, making good, increasing the ante, or betting, except in turn. "When all are in equally who intend to play, each player in turn will have the privilege of drawing; that is, of throwing away any number of his five cards and drawing as many others, to try thus to better his hand. The cards thus thrown up must be placed face downward on the table, and, for convenience, in front of or near the next dealer. The dealer, passing around to the left, will ask each player in turn how many cards he will have, and deal him the number asked for from the top of the pack without their being seen. The dealer, if he has gone in to play for the pool, will in like manner help himself last. The players must throw away their discarded cards before taking up or looking at those they draw. When the drawing is all complete, the betting goes around in order, like the drawing, to the left. The ante man is the first to bet unless he has declined to play, and in that case the first to bet is the player nearest to the dealer on his left.
But the player entitled to bet first may withhold his bet until the others have bet round to him, which is called "holding the age;" and this, being an advantage, should as a general rule be practised. Each better in turn must put into the pool a sum equal at least to the first bet made; but each may in turn increase the bet or raise it as it comes to him, in which case each player in his turn, proceeding around in order, must make his bet equal to the highest amount put in by any one, or go out of the play, forfeiting his interest in the pool. When a player puts in only as much as has been put in by each player before him, this is called " seeing " the bet. When he puts in a larger amount than any before him, this is called "seeing the bet and going better." When the bet has gone around to the last better or player who remains in, if he does not wish to see and go better, he simply sees and " calls," and then all playing must show their hands, and the highest hand wins the pool. When any one declines to see the bet, or the increase of bet which has been made, he "lays down " his hand, that is, throws it up with the cards face downward on the table. If all the other players throw down their hands, the one who remains in to the last wins, and takes the pool without showing his hand.
When a hand is complete, so that the holder of it can play without drawing to better it, it is called a " pat" hand. No one is bound to answer the question how many cards he drew, except the dealer; and the dealer is not bound to tell after the betting has begun. - The following is the relative value of hands in their order, beginning with the best: 1. A sequence flush, which is a sequence of five cards, and all of the same suit. 2. Fours, which is four of the five cards of the same denomination. 3. A full, which is a hand consisting of three cards of the same denomination and two of likewise equal denomination. 4. A flush, which is all five cards of the same suit. 5. A sequence, which is all five cards not of the same suit, but all in sequence. (In computing the value of a sequence, an ace counts either as the highest or lowest card, that is, above a king or below a deuce.) 6. Threes, which is three cards of the same denomination, but the other two of different denominations from each other. 7. Two pairs. 8. One pair. 9. When a hand has neither of the above, the count is by the cards of highest value or denomination. When parties opposed hold each a pair, the highest pair wins, and the same when each party holds threes or fours.
When each party holds two pairs, the highest pair of the two determines the relative value of the hands. When each party holds a sequence, the hand commencing with the highest card in sequence wins; so also when two or more parties hold .flushes against each other. That full counts highest of which the three cards of the same denomination are highest. The two cards of the same denomination help only to constitute the full, but do not add to the value of the hand. When hands are equal so far that each party holds a pair, or two pairs, of exactly the same value, then the next highest card or cards in each hand must be compared with the next highest card or cards in the other hand to determine which wins. In case of the highest hands (which very seldom occurs) being exactly equal, the pool is divided.