In cardrooms across America, and in kitchens and dining rooms from coast to coast, for the last ten years Americans have been zealously playing the game of poker as though they are patriotically adhering to a nationwide government mandate.
And to just what can we attribute this decade long surge in popularity for a game that has existed for almost 200 years?
Why, the Internet, of course.
That, and a little thing called The Lipstick camera: which allows for television viewers to observe a player’s cards while the hand is being played. And once the general public caught sight of professional poker players winning millions of dollars playing crappy card combinations just like they do at home, it was on.
A Brief History of the Game
Quite a few regions of the world–from France to the Middle East–can legitimately lay claim to at least some aspect of poker’s origins. But poker traces its American roots back to the early 1800’s, when it was first spread across the country via one of America’s most romanticized and iconic figures: the riverboat gambler. Read more about casino History at Wikipedia.org
Poker was a favorite activity of legendary lawman Wyatt Earp, and the infamous shootist Doc’ Holiday, as well as one of the most colorful characters in the history of America, Wild Bill Hickock, for whom the hand of aces and eights was given the ominous moniker, ‘A dead man’s hand,’ after Hickock was gunned down while holding that hand in a card game played in Deadwood, South Dakota, on August 2, 1876.
According to the poker website Online Poker Top Ten, poker has over 100 different variations on the same theme, although it is thought that only about 30 forms of poker are generally played today.
Poker’s Omnipresence in Pop Culture
Lady Gaga wrote a song about her Poker Face. Leonardo DiCaprio met his frigid fate aboard the unsinkable super ship Titanic, in the movie of the same name, after winning a ticket to board the luxury liner in a dockside poker game. And The Super Bowl undoubtedly would not be known by that name, had not H.L. Hunt of Texas not won an oil well in a poker game, which eventually led to him becoming a billionaire; and some five decades later, his son Lamar Hunt, founded the Kansas City Chiefs football team of the AFL. It was Lamar Hunt who gave the NFL vs AFL Championship game its ‘Super’ name, after seeing his daughter playing with a “Super Ball”.
But wait! That ain’t the half of it
The English language is filled with colorful phrases which come directly from the poker table, and which now serve as spicy metaphors that liven up our everyday conversations: e.g., anything concealed or well hidden, and which when utilized gives you an overwhelming advantage, is referred to as “an ace in the hole”. And when being really secretive about your intentions in a matter, you are said to be “playing it close to the vest” And when being in a position which places you in total control over something, you are “holding all the cards”. And if you threaten a show of strength, and you are told to “show me what you got,” they just “called your bluff” And we all know that a real friend is someone who’s not only there when you’re up, but they’re also there “when the chips are down”. And life isn’t fair, thus “we have to play the hand that’s dealt to us”. We “raise the stakes” when we’re hot. When being totally honest and forthcoming, we’ve “put all of our cards on the table”. And sometimes you just can’t get “a fair deal”, or “the deck is stacked against you”, but nevertheless you do your part and “ante up”, because you believe that “you’ve got the best hand”. But then some cheater starts “dealing off the bottom of the deck”, or a “wild card” comes into play. And in the end, all we can do is give it our best shot, “and let the chips fall where they may”
So what does it all mean? “Beats me”
Poker Mirrors Life, and Vice Versa
Just as in life, winning at poker requires patience, discipline, money management, and excellent judgement. And as someone who has had successes in both poker and life, if I had to single out one particular quality which leads to success more often than any other, it would be fearlessness. Or the willingness to take a chance.
Fortune favors the bold, my friends. So whether you’re trying to win a poker tournament or a job promotion, remember this… “No Guts… No Glory.”