Poker is a human card game of chance and skill which originated sometime during the early 19th century in the United States. The game has many variations, but all forms of poker involve betting as an intrinsic part of play. The main aim of the game is for players to wager on the strength of their set of cards (called "hands") in relation to cards held by their opponents and any shared or "community" cards on the table. An alert player can increase their chances of winning by examining opponents' expressions and actions to judge the value of their cards.
"Texas-hold 'em poker" or "hold'em" is a popular variation of the game where community cards are used by all players to make the best hand. Each player is dealt two private cards, and then five community cards are dealt face up in three stages. Players seek the best five card poker hand from the combination of the community cards and their own two starting cards.
Some UNSC servicemen and women are fond of poker or seek to pass the time by playing similar gambling card games. A Marine stationed aboard UNSC Spirit of Fire named Sal started a tradition of playing poker every night in the mess hall. This tradition was so important to the crew that even after Sal was killed in combat, they continued to leave a seat open for him.
Edward Buck often played poker with the members of his team, Alpha-Nine. During their Spartan-IV training, the team would bust out a deck of cards and play poker on top of Michael Crespo's footlocker. Buck would also play with Hideo Wakahisa but he considered him to be a lousy card player. On one occasion, Buck also noted that he never would have wanted to play poker against someone as intimidating as Sgt. Avery Johnson.
Fireteam Majestic had a tradition of getting together for poker night. Sometime following the death of Fireteam leader Paul DeMarco on Ealen IV, Gabriel Thorne found rest of team Majectic playing hold 'em poker and saw they had wagered over DeMarco's keepsake, the looted energy sword recovered from Gek 'Lhar during the Requiem Campaign. Tedra Grant had won DeMarco's sword in a game against Spartan Jones of Fireteam Bailey, only to later lose it to Carlo Hoya. Thorne expressed that the weapon was a tribute to DeMarco for having saved his life and requested to have a shot at playing for the sword. Hoya yielded to his request when the rest of Majestic agreed that they all deserved an equal chance, and he asked Roland to start a new game. Thorne stopped Roland and replaced their virtual holotank cards with his own deck of physical playing cards that he inherited from his grandparents. As Hoya dealt the deck and revealed the community cards, Roland alerted the team to an emergency distress call. Before the Spartans left their interrupted game, Thorne unveiled his winning hand, a pair of kings, and claimed the sword of his fallen friend.
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