Poker History

The global prominence of poker is a 21st-century phenomenon but the history of poker extends back hundreds of years. Over the decades, the game has evolved, mutated and re-invented itself many times and now takes on many different forms. Finding a path into the world of poker can be bewildering for a newcomer. Here you will be able to quickly get a grip on the game's fundamentals.


Poker is a game that consists of three basic components (people, playing cards and stakes) that are organized by three basic mechanisms (card distribution, hand ranking and betting). Any game of poker utilizes the three components and combines them with variations of the three mechanisms to string together poker hands. Hands are the building blocks of any poker game.

Let's deal with the components first.

Poker at BetMGM is only played by people over 21 years of age. As long as you are human and have 21 years of life behind you, you can play poker at BetMGM.

The playing cards used are restricted to those that form a standard 52-card deck. In the deck there are four suits (Diamonds, Clubs, Hearts and Spades) and 13 ranks per suit running from an Ace to a King. Aces have the special honor of counting as both the lowest and the highest cards in a suit.

The stakes, for the sake of convenience, are usually represented in the game by markers known as chips which have agreed denominations and usually have an equal rate of exchange towards something of value. So, if it is decided that the yellow chips will be equivalent to $10, that rule will apply to everyone at all times.

If you are new to the game and would like to practice a little before mixing it up for cold hard cash, there are also games available at BetMGM that use a fake currency known as play money in which the chips have no real value. Play money games are a great way to come to grips with the game and familiarize yourself with our poker software. Once you are ready to play for real, you will find that you can play with a very wide range of stakes at BetMGM. We have poker games to suit all budgets.

Now let's consider the mechanisms.

Over the years, many different distribution mechanisms have been experimented with, but some have shown themselves to be more satisfying than others in terms of playability. At the moment the most popular distribution method is Texas Hold’em. The level of satisfaction or enjoyment of any particular distribution method comes from a complex blend of factors that balance natural breaks in the distribution method with overall pace, fairness and a gradual increase in the information available for all active players.

The next mechanism relates to the ranking of each player’s five-card hand – there has to be an agreement amongst the players about which hands will win and which hands tie. Luckily, probability determines this for the players. In a standard deck of 52 cards, there are more than two and a half million unique five-card combinations that can be made. These unique combinations can be grouped according to certain patterns and the relative scarcity of these patterns gives the possibility to rank one hand type versus another. The rarer the hand type, the more valuable the hand. Also, within a given hand type it should be possible to determine smaller changes in value based upon the face value of the cards. Typically, the higher the number, the better. Given that the suits are all of equal value in poker, it is occasionally possible for two or more players to compete with equal value hands. To spice things up, some slightly more complex games employ two different hand rankings at the same time, high hands and low hands.

The last mechanism, betting, brings the drama and excitement into poker. Betting brings poker to life and can take place at any natural break in the distribution of the cards to players. Bets are either forced or volunteered.

Typically, forced bets are required at the start of a hand in order to make playing the hand more interesting. If players are forced to make bets, there is always something to play for with something always at stake. Of the two types of bets, those that are volunteered are typically much more interesting to poker players. Any bet placed voluntarily represents the confidence the player has in their own hand’s ability to beat the hands that could be held by the other players. Depending on the distribution mechanism used, it may be possible for players to represent confidence through betting in situations where they know they almost certainly do not have the best hand. This is known as bluffing.

All of the bets placed during a hand are aggregated into a group and then distributed to the winner or winners once the hand stops. The aggregated bets are gathered into piles known as pots. A player can win a hand by either revealing the highest ranked five-card combination or by betting in such a forceful way that all other players choose not to continue betting. Three basic rule sets are typically available in relation to betting, which are known as Limit, Pot Limit and No Limit. In Limit, the maximum amount a player can bet during a betting round is restricted to a predetermined set amount. In Pot Limit, the maximum amount a player can bet is equal to the total amount that has already been added to the pot. In No Limit, the maximum amount a player can bet is equal to all of the chips they have with them at the table. Some distribution mechanisms work better with certain betting rule sets rather than others.