25 Intriguing Facts About Poker! (with Proofs & Pictures)

vintage poker conceptual image with card and gamble chip
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Poker is, undeniably, among the world’s favorite card games. It is played in private residences, in land casinos, and even online. While most believe that poker is largely based on luck, there is actually a great deal of skill involved too. So, much so that some people even make a career out of playing poker. 

You probably think you know all there is to know about poker, but I could share a few fascinating facts with you that would probably surprise you. Keen to learn more? I took the time to put together some of the most interesting poker facts below.

Let’s start from the top and work our way down.

Table of Contents show

1. The Bird Cage Theatre in Arizona once hosted a poker game that lasted 8 years.

I would not stake my life on this fun fact as most reports of this do say “unverified”. According to the tales told, the Bird Cage Theatre hosted a poker game called the Bird Cage Tournament, which started in 1881. The players were all about high stakes with a $1000 buy-in, and it is said that the game lasted 8 years, 5 months, and 3 days.

2. The very first poker chips were made from ivory, wood, clay, and bone.

Before poker chips, as we know them today came about, poker players used to bet with gold bars and nuggets and even gold dust. It soon became quite impossible to assign value to the rounds being played, and so the need for a poker currency was seen. The gaming houses at the time decided to make bone, wood, ivory, and clay chips to symbolize certain values. Poker players could exchange their money and gold for chips, much like it is done today.

3. January 1, 1998, was when the very first real-money online poker game was played.

Vintage computer on a wooden table poker
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Before 1998, online poker games were merely glitch gimmicks with no real money involved. On the 1st of January 1998, real money poker games became available online (on the website “Planet Poker”). This was the start of a multi-billion dollar industry. 

4. Early games of poker were played with a deck of just 20 cards.

According to the history buffs, players only started using 52 cards to play poker in the 1830s. Prior to this, only 20 cards were used with 4 players. Each player was given 5 cards, and the betting would start on whose hand was the best.

5. The very first time that a poker tournament was ever televised was in 1973. 

CBS Sports actually televised the World Series of Poker. Today, you can find many poker tournaments publicized on television, as well as online.

6. Former President Richard Nixon funded his very first political campaign (for congress) with money that he won from poker.

Rumor has it that he was an exceptionally good poker player.

7. The 4 kings in the poker deck actually have meaning and, according to certain sources, have been named after actual kings.

Which kings? They are: Roman Caesar Augustus, Alexander the Great, King David of Israel, and King Charlemagne of France.

four kings poker
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8. Poker is considered an official mind sport. 

The International Mind Sports Association (IMSA) deemed poker a mind sport in 2010. Now poker players can call themselves “athletes”.

9. The odds are 649,740 to 1 of getting a royal flush.

According to Courtney Taylor, Ph.D., a mathematician at Anderson University. 

10. Chinese poker players believe that wearing red brings good luck. 

Many Chinese poker players wear at least one red item when playing a game of poker. Superstition says that it increases their chances of winning.

11. Some superstitious poker players will play poker in dirty clothing. 

Superstition says that dirty clothes will rid you of bad luck and increase your chances of winning. 

12. Johnny Chan, a prominent poker player with many World Series of Poker bracelets, used to carry an orange around with him when playing poker. 

Back in the day, smoking inside was still acceptable. The smoke was not pleasant to Johnny Chan, and he used to sniff an orange when the smoke was getting to him. If you look up photos of Johnny Chan, you may even see his orange featuring in some. 

Fresh sweet italian orange poker
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13. One poker player, Andrei Karpov, used his wife as a stake in a losing poker game. 

After Andrei Karpov also lost that final round, his wife left him for the winner.

14. Many people believe that they can play Texas Hold’em poker in Texas because it is in the name. 

This is not true because poker rooms are illegal in Texas. The only place that you can play poker in Texas is in casinos based in local Indian Reserves. 

15. Players usually unwittingly give away what type of hand they have. 

A strong hand usually makes a player lean forward or backward.

16. Poker was first played by French residents living in the area of New Orleans. 

At the time, the game was known as “Poque” but because the English speakers also started playing it, and mispronounced the name, it quickly became known as poker.

17. “Poker Alice” Ivers was one of the very first women to make a name for herself playing poker. 

Nowadays, more women are getting involved in poker playing. It is no longer seen as uncommon for female players to be at the poker table.

18. Poker is among the most lucrative games (for participants). 

poker chips and money
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19. The Wild Card was only introduced to poker around 1875. 

This was one of a few enhancements that were made to improve and better the game.

20. There are around 133 million possible seven-card combinations in Texas Hold ‘Em.  

21. In Texas Hold’em, there is a starting hand called The Anna Kournikova.

It means “the hand that looks better than it plays”. 

22. The Lady Luck Underwater Poker Tournament in Florida has winners of qualifying rounds playing their final hands underwater. 

The venue provides specialized chips and cards, and players finish their final rounds in the water. Participation in this game is free, and winners get a trophy, prizes, and of course, exposure.

23. The Angola Prison Rodeo hosts an event called “The Convict Poker”.

This is a game for inmates who are seated for a game of poker. During the game, a bull is released. The last man seated at the table for the game is the ultimate winner. This game was started in 1964 and still takes place in April and October each year. 

24. With the rise in popularity of poker, many card companies tried to add an additional suit to the deck. Do you know what it was?

Vintage style black and white image of a flying eagle poker
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It was an Eagle and was proposed as a 5th suite by card companies in 1937. As you already know, it was not well received and never came to be.

25. There is a hand in poker called “Dead Man’s Hand”.

If you are ever holding 2 aces and 2 eights in poker, it is called a Dead Man’s Hand because those are the exact cards a well-known poker player, Wild Bill Hickok, was holding when he was shot dead by John McCall.

Last word

Ever heard of these facts about poker before? Maybe you have heard some, but I bet you have not heard them all! If you find any of them fascinating, share them with your friends.