Poker? I hardly know her! Where Poker got its Name .

Quite possibly the most famous card game in the world and a frequent contribution to the world of cinema and TV whenever a tense mental showdown is needed, poker is a game that just about everyone knows. But despite being so famous, the origin of the name is still a matter of debate with a few competing theories all vying to explain where the name for this most famous of games came from. For that matter, a lot of the terms are quite unique as well, with best bets and theories being the only concrete information we have available. So, here’s the history of a few interesting terms!

The name poker

When was the game invented? No idea! But we do have a decent idea where the name came from, it’s either French or German. Or Irish. See, there’s a French game which is sort of similar to poker called ‘Poque’ which seems like a logical route for the name but that game itself was inspired by a German called ‘Pochenspiel’, which is derived from the German word ‘Pochen’ which literally means “To brag as a bluff”. There was also an Irish game called ‘Poca’ which had a similar set-up. Essentially, three games with similar names any of which could have influenced the game and what name was chosen. 

But the truly unique part of poker, at least according to some authorities, is that the game features a style of betting that did not previously exist. The round-based betting and raising which is so integral to the game’s identity is new and developed in America long after the other games. Which is also why it’s so hard to pin down exactly when poker was invented. No-one has yet proposed a way for this unique form of betting to have inspired the name but it could be involved! With that out of the way, what about the terms? 

Where’d the lingo come from?

  • Bluffing you’d think would be called Poch-ing given the background we’ve talked about here, but it’s probably from ‘Verbluffen’ which means “to mislead” and lends a bit of credence to the idea the game comes from ‘Pochspiel’ (1 point to the Germans)
  • Ante comes from Latin meaning “before” which is pretty far removed from German and actually comes closest to French since it’s a Romance language (1 point to the French here)
  • The Flop, Turn and River come from the sound the cards make as they’re dealt on the table (which is onomatopoeia); the turn is because that fourth card can turn the whole game on its head and the river is because depending on what it is, it can sell you up the river. All of those are of course based on English so we’re going to have to probably give this one to Ireland out of proximity.

Wherever the names came from, poker is well known and well loved, with online poker now the game of choice for many. Why not play a hand or two yourself?