Defining Poker is like defining life, in general.
The modern game of Poker originated in the United States, probably in the early years of the nineteenth century; the first known reference to its present name is in the 1830s.
Its origin, however, is ancient.
The first game known to have been played on the same principles was a Persian game, As of Nas.
The principle of building structures--- sequences, and cards of the same rank--- was even more ancient in China, whence the game which we know as Mah Jongg, and the modern Rummy games.
The development was gradual, through a long line of European and English games that included Pochen (bluff) in Germany--- whence, no doubt, the name of the game.
The American game crystallized as Straight Poker, the basic principles of which govern all Poker games, and branched off into two main families, Draw Poker and Stud Poker.
There are several reasons for the increasing popularity of poker:
Poker is considered as an outstanding social game. A full table consists of seven players, but it is a perfectly good game for five or six.
In every event, a deal is deemed separate. One can join a table, if there is a vacancy, at any time, and quit at any time.
Every player is playing for himself alone. If he plays badly, therefore, no one is offended; indeed, since the game must be played for stakes (however trivial) the poor player won't encounter the black looks, and unkind comments.
But while the mechanics of the game are simple, its technique takes a long time, and much practical experience, to acquire.
Hence the Poker addict derives continuing pleasure from the exploration of the game's subtleties and from experimentation with its constantly-changing situations.
To play Poker really well demands a combination of qualities which few of us can ever hope to amass.
Patience; the capacity to concentrate; the capacity to think quickly; imagination; psychological insight; the indefinable quality called flair; all these play their part.
One must keep one's temper, and one must not lose one's nerve, however adverse circumstances appear to be.
This also serves as a counsel of perfection, of course. In every club there will be players to whom $5--- or $50--- means a great deal less than it does to others.
They can afford to take greater risks, and, if the risks which they take are mathematically or psychologically defensible, they will have an advantage which must in time disrupt the game.
Ideally, every player should be just as unwilling to risk the loss of $5 as every other player. Such a situation isn't, in practice, likely to occur.
But all being well, should be possible to establish a situation which affords enjoyment and mental stimulus to all those participating.
The better players will always win in the long run; but they won't win so much that those with whom they play become too quickly discouraged to play with them.