Top 6 Most Amazing Poker Facts and Stories
Poker is one of the most captivating card games which you can play online. Even though poker is an old game, it is certainly not stuffy. On the contrary, since the rise of Texas Hold’em poker in the 1980s, which coincided with the live broadcasting of the World Series of Poker on TV to great popularity in the States and in Europe, poker is being played by virtually anyone on Earth. And what is not to like about poker!
The card game has every aspect in it which defines a truly great game: luck, tactic, skill, intuition, bluff, observation skills. All these are needed if you want to become a professional poker star. It is therefore no surprise that there are literally dozens of fantastic poker stories and facts. At Gambling City we collected some of the most bizarre poker stories and interesting poker facts for you, which we combined in the list below.
1. Texas Hold'em Poker is illegal in the state of Texas
The most popular variant of poker is without doubt Texas Hold’em. The popularity of this specific form of poker is partially due to the success of the World Series of Poker (WSOP). When the WSOP was first broadcast live on TV in the 1980s, it immediately attracted a loyal following.
The game of Texas Hold’em has deep ties with the Southern US state of Texas. The poker variant was first invented in the Texan town of Robstown. The Texan legislature even acknowledged Robstown as the official birth place of Texas Hold’em poker. Quite fittingly, first winner of the WSOP Main Event in the year 1972 was a man from Amarillo, Texas named Thomas Austin Preston Jr. He played under the nickname of ‘Amarillo Slim’ and won 10,000 dollar. Another famous Texan who managed to win the tournament was Houston’s Johnny Chan. Chan managed to win an amount of 625,000 dollar for his win in 1987, which shows how much the tournament has grown in size since the first edition 15 years earlier.
Weirdly enough, Texas Hold’em poker is actually banned under Texan state laws and cannot be offered within the state. We have to add that it is ‘technically’ banned – as smart businessmen did manage to find some loopholes. Sam Von Kennel worked for the state licensing bureau. Von Kennel was always a big poker fan. After his career working for the state government, he decided to open a poker room. As he was well versed in local governance he perfectly knew the loopholes of the gambling laws. Even though it is forbidden for a casino in Texas to earn money from poker games, Von Kennel managed to find a way out to still make a profit.
Von Kennel basically allowed customers in his poker room to play for free, but did charge an entrance fee for them to enter his establishment. He successfully argued that what the customers were doing inside one of his private rooms (like playing a Texas Hold’em tournament!) was irrelevant for the state as this was purely a private matter in a private establishment. When the people of Texas saw that Von Kennel got away with this and that the state government and local enforcement authorities indeed couldn’t do anything to stop him, other businessmen followed suit with their own private poker rooms.
2. Richard Nixon launched his political career with the money he had earned playing poker
Former US President Richard Nixon is not someone who requires an introduction. Nixon, the Republican President during the time of the Vietnam War, infamously resigned from office after he was impeached over his role in the Watergate scandal. For our young readers who do not know what the Watergate scandal was: it basically was a major political scandal in which some people in Nixon’s re-election committee broke into the Democratic National Committee offices in the Watergate complex in Washington DC looking for material which could discredit Nixon’s political opponents.
Even though anyone in the United States and abroad is familiar with this scandal, not many people know about Nixon’s private life and how he managed to enter politics in the first place. Whatever Nixon’s characteristic and political shortcomings were which would eventually led to his downfall, you for sure cannot say that Nixon was an ordinary and boring politician as he already had a colourful life before he even became President.
Richard Nixon was an excellent gambler and has a real talent for playing poker, which might actually not come as a big surprise as bluffing is a skill which is quite useful in both poker and politics! During World War II Nixon was a lieutenant in the US Army who was stationed on the island of Guadalcanal, one of the Solomon Islands. He also saw action in lots of other famous theatres of the Pacific War. During his time in the army, Nixon played lots of poker games with his pals and managed to win big sums of money. His fellow combatants frequently praised Nixon over his poker skills. James Udall, one of Nixon’s old buddies, once said that Nixon had once “bluffed out a superior officer with a pair of twos and managed to win 1,500 dollar”. Another combat pal named Lester Wroble said that he “never saw Nixon lose”.
It is said that during the time he was enlisted in the army, Nixon won an estimated 8,000 dollar from his fellow soldiers while playing poker. Even though this might not seem as a shockingly big amount, you have to keep in mind that we are talking about the 1940s when price levels were very different. If you count for inflation, that 8,000 dollar would nowadays be worth around 110,000 dollar! Nixon initially planned to use the money to buy a house with his wife Patricia. However, in the end he came up with an entirely different idea how to spend the money. He decided to use it for an election campaign for Congress, running for a seat representing the 12th district of California.
Nixon eventually won the election campaign, beating Democrat Jerry Voorhis. Nixon ended up as a Congressman, which would mark the start of a long political career, first becoming Governor of California and eventually President of the United States, only to see it all crash down in the wake of the Watergate scandal. The reason why Nixon came this far? His poker skills and money!
3. A casino owner once made a bizarre blackjack bet with poker star Stu Ungar – and lost
One of the world’s all time greatest poker players is Stu Ungar. Ungar, an American citizen, won the main tournament of the World Series of Poker (WSOP) three times (in 1980, 1981 and 1997). He is also a gifted blackjack and gin rummy player. Ungar even said that he was perhaps even better at playing gin rummy than poker. He was also known for his eccentric personality and his volatile private life in which he had to deal with his addiction to drugs and frequent financial problems. Ungar got the nickname ‘Comeback Kid’ after he managed to deal with his problems and return to the world stages of poker, even winning the WSOP in 1997.
WSOP Main Event
That year Ungar was sponsored by Bill Baxter, a fellow poker player and good friend of Ungar, who paid for his 10,000 dollar fee to participate in the WSOP Main Event. Even though Ungar was almost falling asleep at the table on the first day of the tournament, he managed to drag himself through thanks to the support of his friends and a picture of his daughter Stefanie which he carried with him. Eventually, Ungar got on fire and won the tournament, marking the greatest ever comeback in poker history.
Fantastic poker hand
There are lots of other fantastic tales featuring Ungar. In 1992 he won a big tournament by beating Mansour Matloubi, the champion of 1990 In the winning hand, Matloubi tried to bluff Ungar out of the match by going all-in on a river of 3-3-7-king-queen. Ungar, who had a 10 and a 9, thought carefully for a few moments and then said to Matloubi: “You have a 4-5 or 5-6, so I will call you”. He showed his cards and managed to beat Matloubi, who turned out to have a 4-5. It is one of the most famous poker moments in history.
Poker and blackjack
It was not only poker which played a huge role in Ungar’s life. The American gambler also was an enormous fan of blackjack. In 1977, long before Ungar even rose to poker fame, he made a legendary blackjack bet. Casino owner Bob Stupak proposed a bet to Ungar, saying that there was no way that he could memorise all cards of a blackjack shoe with six decks of cards. Ungar accepted the bet for 100,000 dollar after which a dealer shuffled all the decks, playing blackjack until only one card remained in the shoe. At that moment Stupak asked Ungar which card it was. Yet Ungar had a secret talent for card counting and could memorise in his head which cards were already played and which not. He managed to guess the card correctly and win the bet. In the years that would follow, casinos in Las Vegas would ban Ungar from blackjack tables as they knew he would always beat the house.
Unfortunately, Ungar’s life ended tragically in Las Vegas. On 22nd November 1998, his body was found in a cheap motel room. An autopsy showed that he had been using drugs, although he did not die from a drug overdose. The coroners found that his heart simply gave up after being weakened by years of drugs abuse. Ungar’s interesting, rich life has been the topic of a biopic called ‘High Roller: The Stu Ungar Story’, which is a film well-worth watching if you like gambling.
4. If you should learn one casino game if your goal is earning a long-term profit, then it has to be poker
As you might already know it is not an easy feat to win money at an online casino. Even the most talented of players sometimes leave the casino floor empty handed. This is due the fact that in principle all casino games have a certain house edge, which means that on the long term you are on average likely to lose more money than you will win and that on any given day in a casino there are more losers than winners.
Beat the odds
Despite the fact that sometimes you really have to beat the odds to earn a nice amount of money, there are always players who do manage this. This counts for slots, roulette and certainly for baccarat and blackjack – which are generally considered the casino games with the lowest house edge. You still can beat the house and earn huge chunks of money – all you need is some luck and a good day. Compare it perhaps to taking part in a lottery. You know that your chances are low to win the main multi-million grand prize. But you can still hope that you are lucky enough to win it one day! As long as you play responsibly, make a budget how much you can afford to lose while gambling, and never cross the line – then it does not do any harm trying!
The best game to play
Of course, you rather would win every time when you gamble in an online or land-based casino. A question which is often asked by people is which game is the best to invest some time into to fully master. Our answer is quite simple: poker. There are certainly plenty of gamblers who managed to master poker and become professional players, making a full living out of the game. Sure, video poker is great fun and does train your poker skills, even though the house does have an edge when it comes to video poker in a casino. The big money can however be earned in tournaments or in simple games of Texas Hold’em against human opposition.
Win money on a long term with poker
The reason why you can win money on a long term if you play one of those forms of poker is simple: it is not purely a game of luck and chance. Compared to almost all other casino games, you also need a set of other skills such as tactic, skill, nerves, the ability to read the game, experience and a staunch poker face. Sure, as a beginning player you are likely to lose more than you will win if you play against human opposition. We do advise you to be cautious before betting big against other human players as chances are high that you will be outmatched by them. But once you spend some time reading about different tactics and game styles, watching some professional players play (for example, watch a few take-outs of the World Series of Poker on YouTube) you will quickly grasp a lot more of this game. Most important however is practising! You need to clock hundreds and hundreds of hour if you want to become even nearly as good as the current top players.
Learn from the pros
Watch how the professionals play, remember the standard odds and advices how to best play a certain hand, try to calculate your chances as each game proceeds, try to read your opponent. Learn how to play aggressively instead of being very cautious which is so common for beginners. This can all lead to your development as a poker player and potentially some nice amounts of money to be won. It will not come easy and does require some time and perseverance, but it can be worth it.
5. Video poker slots have better odds compared to other slot machines
It is of course great fun to play poker in a tournament or in stand-alone games against human opposition, but it is equally great to play it online or in a land-based casino in the form of video poker. Video poker is different than playing a Texas Hold’em tournament. As a talented player, you do have a good chance to turn out a profit even in the long term when playing against human opposition. In video poker, you however take on the casino – and the house always has an in-built advantage just like every other casino game. There are however still some factors why playing video poker can give you better results than playing other casino games.
Video poker slots
Even though video poker is not a match against human opposition, you do need some skill and knowledge to bring it to a good end as you do need to select the best poker hand. You can also figure out the payment rate of each video poker slot. Most often this is published to the right side of the screen if you have a machine in front of you in a land-based casino or on the game information page if you play online. Here the payout rates will be visible, for example those for a flush of full house, which most poker players use as a benchmark to determine whether they are dealing with a good or bad video poker slot.
Differences between video poker slots
A so-called 6-9 machine, which pays out 6 coins or units for a flush and 9 for a full house for each coin or unit which you insert/play with, are the best poker slots you can find in a casino. So-called 5-6 slots and 5-8 machines are also quite good and popular among gamblers, although they will never be as good as a 6-9 machine if you purely look at the standard odds. If you can select between multiple video poker slots, always make sure that you go for the best device possible!
6. Gamblers willing to take risks have a higher chance to get a Royal Flush
A Royal Flush is the best possible hand you can have in the game of poker. It consists out of the following cards: ace, king, queen, jack and a 10 – all of the same suit, for example an ace, king, queen, jack and 10 of diamonds. Of course this is a rare occurrence, whether you play at a poker table against your mates or try to beat the house on a video poker slot.
Odds of getting a Royal Flush
It is estimated that the odds of a Royal Flush at video poker is around 40,000 to 1. Casinos did however find out that gamblers who do not mind taking some risks have a greater chance to get a Royal Flush compared to risk-averse gamblers. Extensive casino research and many analyses and simulations of thousands of poker games concluded that risk takers have odds of 32,000 to 1 to get a Royal Flush, an improvement of almost 25 percent.
Taking risks in poker
Why do risk takers have a higher chance of getting a Royal Flush? This is because these high stakes gamblers do read a game differently than risk-averse gamblers and have an entirely different vision and mission what the best way is to gamble and how to forge the best tactic. These players are often out trying to earn a high jackpot and are not interested in earning smaller winnings. They argue that even when you lose for days in a row it can be offset with one big win. At video poker, this means that they might even sacrifice an all but assured small monetary win for the small chance of getting a bigger payout.
A hand with a pair of jacks
A great example of this is a hand with a pair of jacks, a 3 and a so-called royal (a king and queen of the same suit). In our example we have a hand in which one of the jacks has the same suit as the king and queen. Some players might decide to break open the pair of jacks and to ask two more cards in a high-risk, high-reward attempt to get a Royal Flush.
Risk-averse poker players
Another hand which more risk-averse players often overlook when playing video poker is the straight. If you have a potential straight with an open ending (officially called an open-end straight) it means that you will have four consecutive cards apart from an ace. For example, a 5-6-7-8 in video poker is an open-end straight. Getting a lower card (a 4) or a higher card (a 9) means that you can complete your straight. If you have an inside straight, only one potential card can complete your straight. An example is having 4-5-7-8, in which only a 6 can complete your straight.
High stakes, high rewards
Many gamblers simply do not take the risk trying to get such a straight and go for more risk-averse option. Sure, chances are low to actually complete the straight, but if you do manage it, the rewards will also be greater. Always try to look at video poker as a long-term play and not just individual games being played one after another.
Play poker at an online casino!
Many online casinos offer a variety of poker games on their websites. You can decide if you want to play in a tournament against other gamblers or just play single hands only until you had enough for the day. Of course, there is the possibility as well to play on video poker slots.
Advantages of playing poker at an online casino
The main advantage of playing at an online casino is that you can get a great registration bonus if you sign up for a new online casino account. What is not to like to start off with a nice bankroll of casino-sponsored money? At Gambling City, we have written dozens of reviews of the most reputable online casinos. In these independent review we discuss both the advantages as well as the disadvantages of each casino, so you can make up your own mind which casino is the best fit for you. Make sure you do not miss out on the action and sign up now!