Writing About Poker

Poker is a card game played by two or more players. A standard 52-card deck is used, and the goal is to have the best five-card hand at the end of a betting round. Each player puts down money for the game before he begins playing, and in turn is dealt cards from which he may make bets. The winner of each round takes all the chips placed in the pot.

Players reveal their hands at the end of a betting round to determine who has won. The winner of the showdown wins the pot and all the bets placed during that round. There are many variants of poker, but all have the same basic rules.

The earliest known mention of poker was in an edition of Hoyle’s Games from 1845. Earlier vying games that had similar characteristics are Belle, Flux and Trente-un (French, 17th – 18th centuries), Post and Pair (English and American, 17th – 19th century), Brelan (French, late 18th – early 19th centuries), Bouillotte (French, late 19th – early 20th centuries) and Brag (American, around the time of the American Revolutionary War).

If you’re writing a scene in which people play poker, focus on their reactions to the game rather than on the cards themselves. The key is to evoke emotion. Describing a series of card draws, bets, checks and reveals will feel lame or gimmicky. Instead, if you focus on the characters’ responses to the cards they are dealt – who flinched, who smiled and who didn’t even blink – then your reader will experience the excitement of the scene as a whole.

Depending on the game variant, one player – designated by the rules of the particular poker variant being played – has the right to place the first bet in the betting round. This player is also sometimes given the privilege of raising his own bets during the betting round. In the case of a raise, a player must either match or raise the amount of the previous bet if he wishes to continue to compete for the pot.

Each player is allowed to place a number of chips into the pot, which represents the amount that will be bet during the current round of play. A player can also choose to fold, which means that he will not reveal his hand at the showdown and will not be in contention for the pot.

Once a betting round has been completed, the player with the highest poker hand wins the pot and all of the bets made during that round. The players’ cards are then revealed and the winning hand is declared. If no hand is declared to be the best, then all of the players must reveal their cards and a new betting round commences. Depending on the variant of poker, some hands are better than others. For example, a straight hand is ranked high, while three of a kind is low.