Poker Basics

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   Poker Game Cases

   Poker Vocabulary

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Poker is the quintessential American card games, just about as American as apple pie. It was even played by our founding fathers, and another form was played by Native Americans before the arrival of the Europeans.

In the nineteenth century, every state and territory west of the Mississippi River had casinos. And most, if not all, offered poker. Poker was played on the gambling riverboats cruising the Mississippi in Mark Twain's day (just as it is today).
In the late nineteenth century, poker was played in plush casinos in New York and other big eastern cities. When the New York City casinos were shut down, the casinos moved upstate to Saratoga Springs, where poker was played in "Lake Houses," because many of the casinos were located near a lake.

At the turn of the century, the famous gambler Richard Canfield owned the most popular casino in Saratoga Springs, called The Casino. Many of the richest industrial giants of the time played in high stakes poker games at this location.
Around 1910, political reform and a progressive movement swept many corrupt local governments out of office and closed down all casinos, so, like alcohol soon after, poker was relegated to the back rooms and "speakeasies" of the day, where it flourished.

Gambling was declared illegal in Nevada in 1912, and it wasn't until ZO years later that the state realized it was their only real source of income, and legalized it once again. But the casino operators soon realized they could make far more money with slots, roulette, blackjack, and craps, so poker was soon bumped to the back room areas of the casino.

Bugs Siegel, who is given credit for defining the Las Vegas Strip, did not have poker in mind when he built the Flamingo in the late 1940s. With few exceptions, the Strip hotels built through the 1960s and 1970s did not even offer poker. You had to go to the "sawdust joints" and smoky back rooms of the downtown casinos to find game. And in those days, the locals mainly played poker.

But things changed when Benny Binion, owner of the Horseshoe Casino in downtown Las Vegas, designed a tournament called "The World Series of Poker." This tournament, with its $10,000 buy-in and winner-take-all format, drew many of the professionals from the private poker circuits around the country and began popularizing the games. With the media publicizing the tournament, the tourists and Friday night poker players watched in amazement as huge sums of cash changed hands.

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