“Poker” apparently derives from German pochen, meaning to beat or beat up or pulverize. Aggression is at the heart of the game, which has a rich history of violence. Every duffer knows that two pairs, aces and eights, is called “The Dead Man’s Hand” because those were the cards Wild Bill Hickok was holding when shot from behind by an assassin named Crooked Nose Jack McCall.
The violence follows naturally enough from the pioneer nature of the game. The “cowboys full” of McManus’s title means a specific poker hand of three kings plus another card paired, but it also indicates how the game has flourished in Western settings.
Las Vegas is the site of the poker World Series and the fast, bluff-emphasizing, aggressive and TV-friendly variation for the central tournament is called Texas hold ’em, which on the Internet and television has nudged older forms, draw and stud, toward the margins.
Devotees of the friendly game have included Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses Grant, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman.
The friendly game, with a limit on bets (sometimes doubled for the last round), usually allows the dealer to choose the game, with an emphasis on the old, traditional stud and draw variants rather than the hyper-charged hold ’em, which in tournament play is no-limit, meaning a player can go “all in”: betting all of one’s chips at once.
Noted from this NYT article on the book -The Story of Poker By James McManu