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Poker is played with a standard 52-cards deck. Well, mostly — there are variations which don't use all 52 cards, or add one or more jokers. Mostly played for money, sometimes just for fun, and sometimes for the clothes you wear. The Professional Gambler does this as a kind of day job.

The history of poker is a bit unclear; some claim it developed from the old German Board Game Poch which already had hand rankings, bluffs and bets on cards. It gained a lot of popularity in the Wild West, and much later again with Chris Moneymaker winning the WSOP (World Series of Poker) in 2003.

Currently the most popular and well-known variant is Texas Hold'em, largely because it's what they play in most of the public events such as the aforementioned WSOP. This can learn to Anachronism Stew moments in fiction when you see people e.g. in The Wild West playing it; it was actually invented in the early 20th century.

Often has cases of Beginner's Luck. Reverse Psychology often helps here. Also expect I Know You Know I Know on higher levels. In media, depictions often use The Magic Poker Equation. Several pros use Trash Talk for more success.

Most often the game in cases of Lost Him in a Card Game.

The basic play of poker is: people are dealt a hand of cards, which have a certain 'ranking' and will beat poker hands of a lesser ranking (ranking is determined by the rarity of the hand - a straight of ten, jack, queen, king, ace will generally beat a hand with just a pair of queens, for example). They keep their hand secret, and then bet money on it. The other players have to put in at least the same amount of money if they want to continue. If it comes down to a showdown, the players show their cards, and the best hand wins all the money bet by all the players! This is why bluffing is possible; you can put in more money that your hand is really worth, in the hope that players will think you've got something great, and back down.

Inspired the trope name Misery Poker. May have inspired in some way Bluffing the Murderer, Bluff the Impostor and other tropes with "bluff" in the name.

Remember: Aces and Eights are the Dead Man's Hand, thanks to Wild Bill Hickock losing his life in Deadwood.

Also, always keep in mind: Know When to Fold'Em, which this named. A Fool and His New Money Are Soon Parted.

Examples of poker in media:


  • Rio -Rainbow Gate!- has its plot centered in a Casino, so poker is part of it, even though the series was based on a video game involving pachinko.
  • Up till now played twice in Liar Game. Due to nature of the title both times it had some variation of the rules to make it suit Liar Game Tournement - once it was 17 card poker and current (as of the time of writing) arc concentrates around Bidding Poker (players don't draw cards but bid on them like in auction, similiarly they bid for cards other players discard when they want to change something with their hand).

Collectible Card Games

  • The Deadlands CCG Doomtown uses poker hands to determine who wins shootouts, adding an extra dimension to deck construction. This being a CCG, you can stack your deck, but you can also get in trouble for it (and you tend to make less money, as the money-making phase includes a round of lowball poker). Each dude in your posse is either a "stud" or a "draw", letting you draw extra cards (as in stud poker) or discard cards and replace them (as in draw poker).
    • The Dead Man's Hand (with a Jack of Diamonds) is the best hand possible, even beating five of a kind. [1]

Comic Books


  • Rounders, the best poker movie out there.
  • James Bond plays poker with Le Chiffre and wins in the new Casino Royale. In the original, it was baccarat instead. Arguably an improvement, as baccarat is based mostly on luck. Poker wasn't the high-stakes casino game it is today back when the novel was written. The only game played in casinos for stakes relevant to Le Chiffre, and in which the house didn't massively stack the odds against you, was baccarat.
  • Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels
    • Actually that's 3-card brag, a British game with some similarities to poker but some fairly major rules differences, especially regarding betting. It's perhaps even more suitable than poker for setting up the "hero loses silly amount of money to villain and spends rest of film trying to repay it" plot, as Brag has a way of getting out of hand very quickly indeed and is typically not played for table stakes.
  • Gone with the Wind. Gerald O'Hara is a good poker player (esp. when there's heavy drinking involved), and Rhett Butler worked as a professional poker player earlier in his life.
  • Used as a plot point in Penelope, as Lemon finds "Max", a habitual poker player, at his usual Texas Hold'em table. His ability to later walk away from the game shows his character development.
  • Poker night at Oscar's house is a setting for many of the best gags in The Odd Couple.
  • The Cincinnati Kid, a poker film starring Steve McQueen, set during The Great Depression.
  • Maverick, where every major character plays poker, and they all end up in a poker tournament for a half million dollars.
  • Tombstone

 Wyatt Earp: Come on, Doc! You've always said gambling's an honest trade!

Doc Holliday: No, I've said poker is an honest trade. Only fools buck the tiger (a common pseudonym for playing Faro).

  • In In Time, the protagonist wins an Absurdly High Stakes Game. He has 8-4 versus the queens of his opponent, the Big Bad. The board is: Queen - seven - jack (flop); six (turn); five (river). In other words, the villain was way ahead with his set of queens, but thanks to the Magic Poker Equation, the hero got a straight with the last card. Don't try to play poker like that, unless you want to lose.

Live Action TV

  • Many or most works set in The Wild West, including:
    • Deadwood. Dramatized the death of Wild Bill Hickock.
    • Maverick, the original TV series which the above film was based on.
  • Battlestar Galactica, both old and new, featured a very poker-like card game called "Pyramid."
    • Which, bizarrely, shared its name with a very basketball-like sport.
      • The Reboot fixed this by naming the card game "Triad."
  • In an episode of Supernatural the brothers have to face a he-witch who plays poker betting life years instead of money.
    • Dean also finances the brothers, at least in part, by cheating at poker games. In the episode where the boys allow themselves to get caught in order to infiltrate a prison, Dean comments that playing poker against the other inmates is "like picking low-hanging fruit".
  • Thursday's Game, a very funny '70s Made for TV Movie written by James L. Brooks and starring Gene Wilder and Bob Newhart.
  • Tilt, an ESPN series created at the height of the WSOP popularity starring Chris Bauer, Eddie Cibrian, and Michael Madsen.
  • To the point of a Running Gag in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Frakes even pointed out what a Badass gambler his character must be. He's playing with an android who can count the cards, a guy who might be able to see through the cards, and his empathic ex-girlfriend...and usually cleans their clock.

 Kirk: Not Chess, Spock. Poker!

  • The Friends episode "The One with the Poker".
  • The poker game is a major scene in the film and play: The Odd Couple, but it also takes place in the TV show.
  • My Boys features poker at PJ's house in most episodes.

Tabletop Games

  • In Deadlands, hucksters work their magic by drawing poker hands (in-character, they actually gamble with demons and cheat). The CCG Doomtown also has a strong poker motif, see above.


  • Poker night at Oscar's house is a setting for many of the best gags in The Odd Couple.

Video Games


  1. Unless someone else plays That's Two Pair!, in which case it isn't.