The term "Poker" applies to any card game in which the participating players wager on the outcome of each hand. Many gambling-oriented card games have surfaced and evolved throughout the history of Poker, as well as strategic approaches to mastering the art of these poker games
Due to the tactical opportunities afforded players of poker games, unlike games of chance such as dice or coin-tosses, poker is a game in which skill and strategy can significantly affect the outcome. Many poker players throughout the centuries have relied upon psychology, both to mislead opponents as well as to read unintentionally telegraphed information. In recent decades, poker has increasingly come to be recognized as a game of statistics and mathematical probabilities, in which a player can project long term earnings by choosing to act in accordance with the calculated odds.
Though gambling is known to date back to ancient times, poker didn't come along until the invention of playing cards. Evidence suggests that the precursors for modern playing cards were created between 900 and 1200 AD in China, but the 15th century invention of the printing press in Europe was the catalyst that sparked the widespread distribution of affordable playing cards. Card games with one or more rounds of betting soon became popular among commoners and aristocrats alike.
Though there is much dispute on the subject, the Spanish game "Primero" - a wager-based card game in which players each received three cards, and often attempted to bluff opponents into folding with high raises - may be the direct ancestor of modern day poker games. Many similar wager-based games spread across Europe, and eventually into the New World.
In America, poker forms have seen explosions of popularity through the last two centuries. The American Revolution and Civil War gave rise to the spread and popularity of early Stud Poker variants, Draw Poker caught on throughout the "Wild West", and Texas Hold'em Poker
migrated slowly from a tiny agricultural settlement west of Corpus Christi to the high-rolling poker rooms of Las Vegas. 20th Century technology utilized to broadcast World Series of Poker tournaments
ushered Poker into the next millennium, effectively launching online poker
into the multi-billion dollar industry it has become.
Regardless of the poker form, the objective of every poker game is to win the pot into which each wager is placed. Depending upon the variant, this can be accomplished with the highest ranking hand, the lowest ranking hand (in lowball versions), or even both (in the case of Hi/Lo Split games). However, convincing one's opponents that it would be in their own best interest to fold is equally as profitable as a winning hand.
The most recent generations of poker players have introduced into the mainstream a mathematical approach to poker; seeking not necessarily to win every hand, but to win the most profitable hands based on statistical data. Utilizing hand odds (the probability of one's current hand improving), pot odds (the ratio of the total pot-size to the cost of calling the current bet), implied odds (pot odds based on the estimation of future bets within a hand), and pot equity (the expected value of the current deal), poker players can choose their actions based on the long term profitability of each situation.
The debate over whether poker player successes are rooted in skill or luck has become a topic of much debate, which has initiated scientific research into what makes certain poker players more prosperous than others. The top professional poker players
have been eager to share their secrets to a thriving career in the field, every one of them pointing to their years of studying the game. While chance plays a role in which cards a player receives in a hand, all evidence suggests that it is how those cards are played on a consistent basis - not just the decisions a player makes, but also the confidence with which one makes their choices - that determines the bottom line for each individual player.
The legendary live poker tournament and high stakes
cash game players of past decades combined their knowledge of the game's rules and limitations with finely honed observation skills that allowed the identification of "tells" - minute physical indicators of anxiety, discomfort, or elation that can reveal information about the actual strength of an opponent's hand. Realizing the importance of psychology to their poker victories, these player were also inclined to master their own tells in order to gain further advantage in poker tournaments and cash games.
However, a whole new generation of players have begun to develop expanded, highly successful poker strategies
in light of internet poker's lack of visual interaction. Among these is the application of mathematical formulas with varying degrees of simplicity and complexity; a systematic means of determining the most prosperous action to take in any situation. However, it is not required to be a mathematical genius in order to turn a profit at online poker.
In 2003, a 27 year old accountant from Tennessee won a seat in the World Series of Poker's $10,000 No Limit Hold'em Main Event playing a $39 online poker satellite tournament at PokerStars
. Outlasting 838 other entrants, amateur poker player Chris Moneymaker astounded audiences by claiming the coveted championship title and WSOP bracelet.
The inspiring $2.5 million dollar victory launched a massive rush of new poker players into the online poker arena; a phenomenon that came to be known as "The Moneymaker Effect." Chris Moneymaker was able to quit his job in order to continue the pursuit of his suddenly lucrative hobby, and accepted a position as a member of Team PokerStars.
Now, many more online poker rooms
strive to provide numerous satellite qualifiers that furnish the winners with entry into one of a growing field of major live tournaments. Many of these satellite competitions offer freerolls
- poker tournaments without an entry fee - in which players can earn a free seat in the satellite competition. This makes it entirely plausible for an online poker player to gain entry into a major poker tournament without paying a single buy-in.
Millions of returning online poker players are joined daily by new members seeking the opportunity to carve out a destiny similar to Chris Moneymaker's. Whether motivated by fortune, fame or a love of the game, individuals all over the globe have flocked to online poker with fervor. Many online poker sites
offer players the opportunity to compete against, chat with, and learn invaluable strategies from the top professional poker players in the world, and a multitude of online poker players have begun to emerge as strong contenders and top earners in the field.