Sunday, June 15, 2008

What's that new poker game all the kids are playing?

I never knew that Texas hold'em was originally called "Hold Me, Darlin'."

Its origin seems to be a bit hazy, but somehow this new poker variant eventually got twisted around to become hold'em, according to a recent CardPlayer article my Jim McManus.

Hold'em wasn't played until early in the 20th (century) and didn't overtake draw and seven-stud as the most popular game until about 1990. By then, its original name, Hold Me Darling, had long since been abbreviated to Hold Me, and then, via the twanging vicissitudes of cowboy enunciation, to hold'em.

No one knows for sure where and when the first hand of hold'em was dealt. One plausible guess is that a dozen or so Texas ranch hands wanted to play a little stud, but found they had only one deck. The most creative cowboy must've got to thinking: If five cards were shared by all players, as many as 23 of them could be dealt two-card hands. Though every poker variant has roots in the French game of poque, he probably did not drawl, "Voila!"
I also found it fascinating that the powers that be have decided the name of the game is "no-limit hold'em" -- that's with a hyphen and without a space before the apostrophe, according to Short-Stacked Shamus at Hard-Boiled Poker.

The meeting concluded with a “style guide” discussion led by Haley. Some people find such discussions of usage and mechanics at best boring and at worst useless. Not this crowd. These are writers, people who care about words and how they are employed. Have to admit I had a little “I’m-in-the-right-place” moment there as we debated whether hyphens have a place in words like “preflop” (no) or “no-limit” (yes). Haley convinced me, actually, that “hold’em” is in fact a contraction (I have always typed it as two separate words).
Who knew?

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