AngusD switched from pro chess to poker two decades ago and has been professionally involved in the game on numerous levels since the very beginning of online poker, including playing as a poker ambassador both online and at major festivals around the globe. He has written much about the game over the years, and brings to YPD a wealth of experience in all aspects of the poker industry. Meanwhile, his many years on the pro chess circuit (he’s an International Master and prolific author) afford him an interesting perspective on the psychology of poker.

· Published 28.12.2020 · last updated 31.12.2020

Here at YourPokerDream we love the festive season as much as anyone, and we hope you’re all making the best of 2020’s unique Christmas period after what’s been a difficult year… Online poker is literally a 365 day per year thing, of course, but it’s fine to have a day off now and then!

Here’s some poker trivia that you might want to share with family and friends while eating and drinking too much, and secretly longing for a few hands at the virtual tables.

First – what connection does Alan Alda, the veteran US multi-award winning star of the classic TV series M*A*S*H and countless films, have with poker? It’s too easy, but if the penny hasn’t dropped the answer will follow soon.

Poker History

Meanwhile, millions of people who love playing poker have no idea from where (or when) the game came. That’s fair enough, in fact, because nobody seems to know for sure. One theory is that its roots go back a good 1,000 years and across numerous continents. For example, it could have all begun with a domino-card game that was a favourite of a Chinese emperor way back in the 10th century, while an alternative opinion is that poker is a descendant of a 16th-century Persian card game called ‘As Nas’…

As for Europe, we have contenders in Poque, a french game from the 17th century, and the German Pochen from the same era. Both stemmed from the Spanish game, Primero, which saw each player dealt three cards, betting, and even an element of bluffing!

Hearts, Diamonds, Clubs & Spades

It was the French who introduced the suits, which represented four ‘classes of men’

  • Hearts ♥ Clergy
  • Diamonds ♦ Merchants
  • Clubs ♣ Peasants
  • Spades ♠ Nobility

And, specifically:

  • King of Hearts ♥ represents Charlemagne
  • King of Diamonds ♦ represents Julius Caesar
  • King of Clubs ♣ represents Alexander the Great
  • King of Spades ♠ represents David, King of Israel

We also have the French to thank for taking Poque to North America, and the English settlers for the subsequent morphing to Poker, which went on its merry way up the Mississippi River, eventually spreading throughout the USA and, ultimately, back across the Atlantic to create the global love of this fascinating game that we play today…

After variants such as five-card draw and seven-card stud the game continued to evolve and saw Texas Hold’em take hold in the 1970s, since when it has remained the peoples’ favourite.

Incidentally, if you’ve ever wondered how it got its name, it is so called because the first ever game was played in Robstown, Texas around 1900.

The cowboy theme lives on in H.O.R.S.E. – this brings together five quite different poker variants in the shape of Texas Hold’em, Omaha hi-lo, Razz, 7-Card Stud and 7-Card Stud hi-lo in a single test of flexibility and overall poker skill.

Hand nicknames

Back to good old Alan Alda, his link to poker is that his name is one of those we use for a pair of aces. There are many names for each of the two-card starting hands, some being more publishable than others.

Here’s a selection, some of which I’ve deliberately not given an explanation to so that you can work it out yourselves (note that this is a sample – some have numerous names):

  • A2 – Hunting Season (a bullet and a duck)
  • 24 – Jack Bauer
  • 44 – Dirty Harry
  • 84 – Big Brother
  • J4 – Flat Tire
  • J5 – Motown
  • K9 – Canine, Fido, Pedigree (suited), Mutt (offsuit)
  • KJ – Harry Potter (J.K. Rowling)

Good luck if you’ll be playing some festive poker!

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