Thursday, April 18, 2013

Poker Geography

A few weeks ago, Full Tilt Poker introduced a new variant called Irish poker. So, too, did PokerStars roll out Courchevel, another variant most poker players probably weren’t familiar with prior to its introduction.

Both games introduce variations to Omaha. With Irish poker, players are dealt four cards, then after seeing the flop and completing that betting round they discard two before continuing. From there the game plays like hold’em.

With Courchevel, players are dealt five hole cards, then the first flop card is dealt after which comes the initial round of betting. After that the next two flop cards come and another betting round follows, then comes the turn and river. Like in Omaha games, players have to use exactly two of their hole cards and three community cards to make a hand.

There are both high-only and high/low versions of Courchevel (fixed and pot-limit), while I believe Irish poker is only being spread as a high-only game (no-limit or pot-limit).

Hearing about these games got me thinking about poker variants named after particular geographical locations, with the coincidence of Full Tilt Poker’s Irish connections somehow making it an appropriate site for debuting Irish poker occurring to me as well.

From reading around a bit I know Courchevel was indeed named after the French ski resort where it was first thought to have been introduced. I’m not so sure about Irish poker and where it originated. (Indeed, maybe on second thought it isn’t a coincidence that FTP rolled it out.)

While historians have variously disputed Texas hold’em’s origins, it most certainly first gained its greatest popularity in the Lone Star State before spreading across the country. The Texas state legislature even officially acknowledged the small city of Robstown to have been the birthplace of hold’em.

Omaha, meanwhile, appears to be a misnomer of sorts, with the game likely not originating in Nebraska. Rather most accounts place Omaha’s origins in Las Vegas in the early 1980s, with the name simply being introduced as a way to distinguish between “Texas hold’em” and “Omaha hold’em.”

As Bob Ciaffone explains in Omaha Poker, a variation of Texas hold’em was introduced and first played at the Golden Nugget in 1982 that required players to use both hole cards to make a hand. He doesn’t spell it out, but it sounds like someone had the idea to pick Omaha as a place close to Texas, just like the game was close to the version of hold’em everyone knew in which you could also just use one or neither hole card.

Anyhow, eventually the idea of dealing four cards was brought in as well (using two of them), with the Omaha part of the name sticking and the “hold’em” part going away.

So some of these poker variants named after places are indicative of where they were actually introduced and/or played, while others are not. I don’t have time today to try to produce an exhaustive list of such games, but after brooding a bit and searching just a little online, I can start one:

  • Caribbean stud
  • California lowball
  • California high/low split
  • Chinese poker
  • Courchevel
  • High Chicago, Low Chicago
  • Cincinnati
  • High San Francisco, Low San Francisco
  • Irish poker
  • Kansas City lowball
  • London lowball
  • Manila Seven-Up
  • Mexican stud
  • Mississippi stud
  • Omaha
  • Oxford stud
  • Polish poker
  • Russian poker
  • Russian Roulette (stud game)
  • Texas hold’em
  • There’s got to be a ton more -- dozens, probably -- including a couple of obvious ones I’m probably overlooking. (By the way, I am talking about just poker games... there obviously a multitude of non-poker card games named after places, too.)

    Incidentally, while snooping around I stumbled on an example of a town named after a poker game. There’s a place in the eastern part of Arizona called Show Low, the name of which was said to have been inspired following a lengthy poker game.

    Apparently a couple of men playing in the game were each vying to claim the settlement back in the late 19th century. They decided to gamble for it, basically just drawing a card from a deck with the one drawing the lowest card winning.

    “If you can show low, you win,” one said, then the other drew the 2c, replying “Show low it is.” From there came the town's name, and in fact the main street is called Deuce of Clubs.

    Now I’m curious about other towns whose names were derived from poker.

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    Blogger Short-Stacked Shamus said...

    Adding a couple more to the list here -- Tahoe and Shanghai -- courtesy MacAnthony via Twitter.

    4/19/2013 11:27 AM  

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