Why Is Poker Called Poker

Learn the true origins of the name "Poker", and how it is rooted in the game of Poch (or "Poque" in French).

why is poker called poker
Why Is Poker Called Poker

How did a popular card game between several individuals get its name "poker"?  Poker has gone through several name changes across different countries. Over the years, the card game has gone through different changes along with new rules upon entering US shores. In this article, we go through the origin of poker to know how it got its name and how it evolved over the years.

Origin of The Poker Name

When looking back into poker history, the game of Poch is considered as the likely inspiration to poker. Poch or Poque in France, which uses a 32 or 52 card deck and a Poch board. Each Poch board consists of cups labeled as ace, king, queen, jack, ten, marriage, sequence, Poch, and Pinke. A designated banker puts a chip in each cup except for the Pinke one.

There are three phases during Poch.


Players win chips during this turn if they are holding a trump suited ten, jack, queen, king, and ace, which lets them take the chip from the cups named after the cards they are holding. Anyone holding both the king and queen wins the money from the marriage cup. You will want to have three cards with the same suit sequence of cards or a three-card straight flush to win the chips from the sequence cups.


This turn has nearly the same sequence as regular poker where players bet on who has the strongest hand or set. Set are made from two, three, or four cards with the same rank. Players who are betting this turn place their chips to the Pinke cup, which acts as the pot.

As you would expect from this turn, players attempt to bluff and convey a weaker or strong hand to manipulate their opponent. One interesting note here is the word "Pochen", which means bluff or brag in German.


Poch turns into a different game in this urn where players try to discard as few cards as possible. This turn begins with a player discarding their lowest valued card from his longest suit. Players keep discarding the cards until the ace is discarded or the next highest card is within the talon. Anyone who played the last card can use any of the cards in his hand. Chips are provided to players based on how many cards they had left when this turn ended.

poker, poch, and poque
The origins of Poker are rooted in the game of Poch ("Poque" in French).

How Poker Entered America

New Orleans is the first place in the US where American poker is played since the city was a French colony before the 1700s. Saloons across the city as well as the Louisiana territory would host this game. During this time, poker was played with a 20-card deck and was influenced by the German card game brag. As mentioned earlier, poker is German for brag.

By being a major port within the Mississippi River or the largest waterway entrance to the US, poker games found their way across different countries. This allows the poker game to reach Mexico, the Caribbean islands, and other territories around the Atlantic Ocean. Traders also introduced poker to ports and towns near the Mississippi River. Poker reached various parts of the country after the American Civil War in 1865 where rebel and federal soldiers introduced the game back in their regional home.

During the 1800s poker background, the game made its way across the US along with new rules and mechanics such as the expansion of the card deck from 20 to 52 cards. Around this period, a new hand ranking is formed such as the flush hand where all five cards share the same suit. Another hand rank introduced is the straight, a set of cards that creates a sequence.

Evolution of Poker During the 20th Century

Stud poker was the most common game throughout the 1800s, especially around the west coast. By the end of the 1840s, new Poker variants came out that allow players to use 7 cards to form a hand instead of 5. This expansion led to the popular Texas Poker Hold'em variant at the start of the 20th century.

Before the 70s, the five-card draw is the most played poker variant because it had only two betting rounds and few players are interested in four betting rounds. Everything changed in the 70s when the World Series of Poker (WSOP) held the finals with Texas Hold'em rules. Since then, the poker variant became a staple in card rooms and poker tournaments around the world.

Omaha came out in the 80s when people were reinventing old poker variants. This game borrows the element of Texas Hold'em of playing with five community cards while players have four hole cards. What makes this game unique is where players can only play two of the four hole cards.

Poker has gone through major changes across centuries since its origin as a French card game. As the game was played throughout the 1800s within the US, its rules evolved such as the expansion of its card deck and cards in play. This led to the current version of Texas Hold'em, five-card draw, Omaha, and other variants you know.

This article was published on May 24, 2021, and last updated on July 14, 2022.