(Almost) Unbelievable Poker Facts


(Almost) Unbelievable Poker Facts


Close-up of a player’s perspective showing a royal flush at a poker table, with casino chips in the background.

(Almost) Unbelievable Poker Facts


Whether you play poker online for real money or play poker in person, you’ll be aware that it is one of the most popular card games in the world. There have been songs written about it, movies based on it and careers made out of it! Online poker is played in private residences and in land-based casinos the world over and has flourished online too. 

So, if you want to take a gamble on Omaha poker or stick to something you know and love, like a Texas Hold’em poker game, there are a few interesting legends, strange superstitions and (almost) unbelievable facts that have come from so many years of play. Let’s have a look!

10 Unbelievable Poker Facts

Read on to explore some poker statistics and crazy facts about one of everyone’s favorite online casino games.

1. The Longest Poker Tournament Lasted Eight Years

From 1881 through 1889, the Bird Cage Theatre in Tombstone, Arizona, hosted a poker game that was said to have lasted eight years! Poker was played continuously 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and stakes were high, with a $1,000 buy-in. This is something of a fun fact, as reports of the game are unverified, but it supposedly lasted eight years, five months and three days! The eventual winner must have needed a holiday just to recover!

2. The First Real Money Online Poker Game Was Played in 1998

For many people, particularly the younger generations, it’s difficult to imagine (or remember) a time when everything wasn’t available to us at the click of a button. Before 1998, poker was played either at private residences or brick-and-mortar casinos, but on January 1, 1998, the first real money online poker game was played on the Planet Poker website. From then on, the opportunity to play poker online was made more widely available to the general public and virtual poker grew to become the multibillion-dollar industry it is today.

3. Former President Richard Nixon Funded His First Political Campaign With Poker Winnings

Richard Nixon left his job as a lawyer at age 29 to join the US Navy. There, he learned how to play poker and became a card shark. He returned from his service with thousands of dollars in winnings, which he used to fund his first run for political office in 1946! James Udall, a former Navy comrade, playfully recalled during a 1970 Life magazine interview how he “once saw him bluff a lieutenant commander out of $1,500 with a pair of deuces.”

4. The Kings in the Poker Deck Are Based on Actual Kings

The king playing cards of all four suits, featured on a black background.

French card-makers in the 16th century standardized the suits and designated four kings. 

  • King of spades: King David of Israel (from the Old Testament).
  • King of clubs: Alexander the Great, King of Macedonia, who lived from 356 BC to 323 BC.
  • King of hearts: King Charlemagne of France and the first Holy Roman Emperor.
  • King of diamonds: Roman Caesar Augustus. Though some sources say it was Julius Caesar.

5. The Odds of Getting a Royal Flush

According to Courtney Taylor, Ph.D., a mathematician at Anderson University, Indiana, the odds of getting a royal flush are 649,740 to 1. So you only need to play about 650,000 hands and you should get lucky!

6. Poker Was First Played in the US in New Orleans

While the earliest versions of poker came from Europe, the Middle East and China, the game as we know it in the US was first played in New Orleans by the French residents of the city. It was known as “poque,” but when English players started playing it (and began mispronouncing the name,) it quickly became known as “poker.”

7. Possible Combinations in Texas Hold’Em

As Texas Hold’em poker uses a total of seven cards (five of them community cards) to form a five-card hand, there are around 133 million possible combinations! Meanwhile, in a standard game of poker with a 52-card deck, there are more than 2.5 million possible combinations of five cards! Now you know how lucky those winning hands are.

8. The Anna Kournikova Starting Hand

In Texas Hold’em online and in-person, a starting hand – the two cards you’re initially dealt – comprising AK (that is, an ace and a king) is referred to as “The Anna Kournikova.” However, what you may not know is that this name refers to more than just the same initials. A little background could help explain this. Kournikova was in the tennis world’s top 20 for a long time but never actually managed to win any singles titles. She became an international star, but this was more for her beauty than her skills. The AK poker hand is somewhat similar. It’s one of the best starting hands, but many players are blinded by how attractive it seems and often overplay it. As such, “The Anna Kournikova” actually means “The hand that looks better than it plays.”

9. Dead Man’s Hand

If you have two aces and two 8s, many players will refer to this as a dead man’s hand. Ever wondered why? Well, the saying came about in 1876, when “Wild” Bill Hickok, a famous poker player in the Old West, was shot by John McCall. He was killed during a round of poker and had two aces and two 8s in his hand when he was shot. It’s been known by the name ever since.

10. Poker Used To Be Played With 20 Cards

Have you ever experienced that sinking feeling of opening a pack of cards to play and realizing that you’re missing a few? Well, if it makes you feel any better, the early games of poker were played with just 20 cards, with four players in each game. This meant that just five cards were dealt to each player. The games were faster and simpler but had fewer combination options. In fact, games were played with 20 cards until 1830, when the other 32 were finally introduced.

Fact or Fiction?

Time to have a little poker fun! Some things are just too wild to be true, but who knows what may be lurking beneath that poker face! Test your poker trivia knowledge below by deciding if the statement is true or false and then check your answers in the section that follows. We may be talking about poker, but now is not the time to bluff! 

  1. Some players wear dirty clothes while playing poker to bring them luck. Fact or fiction?
  2. Poker is considered an official sport. Fact or fiction?
  3. Famous poker player Johnny Chan – winner of 10 World Series of Poker bracelets – carried a kiwi fruit around during games. Fact or fiction?
  4. Andrei Karpov bet his wife in a poker game. Fact or fiction?
  5. You can only play Texas Hold’em in Texas. Fact or fiction?
  6. A strong hand makes a player lean either backward or forward. Fact or fiction?
  7. The Yakuza got their name from the worst hand dealt in traditional Japanese poker. Fact or fiction?

Fact or Fiction Answers

Red ‘fact or fiction’ stamp over a white background.
  1. Fact! There’s a superstition among poker players that wearing dirty clothes, or rather, the same clothes you wore during a winning streak, rids you of bad luck. That explains why you might have seen a pro wearing the same shirt a few days in a row during the World Series of Poker!
  2. Fact! Poker was deemed a mind sport by the International Mind Sports Association in 2010. So poker players can officially call themselves athletes!
  3. Fiction! But it’s not far from fact. Back when smoking inside casinos was still allowed, Johnny Chan found all the dense fog during games unpleasant, so he carried an orange (not a kiwi) around with him to take in the citrus scent and mask the smell of tobacco.
  4. Fact! Russian player, Andrei Karpov, did, in fact, use his wife as a stake during a losing poker game. After losing, his outraged wife divorced him and left him for the winner – they eventually got married!
  5. Fiction! Poker rooms are, in fact, illegal in Texas and the only places you can play in Texas are at casinos in the local Indian Reserves and online. Of course, the Hold’em variant named after the state is also widely played in casinos around the world, both land-based and online.
  6. Fact! Psychological studies have shown that players invariably give away what type of hand they have and usually lean either forward or backward when playing a strong hand. So keep an eye on your “tells” when you uncover your next beauty!
  7. Fact! The Yakuza got their name from the combination of Ya (8), Ku (9) and Za (3) which is the worst possible hand to be dealt in the traditional Japanese card game.

Facts About Other Casino Games

At Borgata Online, we have a whole host of casino games on offer. While poker is many people’s favorite online casino game, that doesn’t mean that we neglect the rest of them. We are always looking for some interesting facts and trivia about the casino games that we know and love. If you’d like to know a bit more about bingo and craps, have a look at blog posts like Facts You Might Not Know About Craps and Interesting Facts About Bingo.

Play Poker at Borgata Online

Join one of the best online poker sites, Borgata Online, to enjoy your favorite poker games online! When you register with us, you get to enjoy the best online poker and live dealer poker and even enter online poker tournaments if you so desire. You’ll also get to play a wide array of classic table games, such as craps and roulette, as well as online slots, live dealer games and more!