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Senior staff poker game
USS Enterprise-D senior staff play.
Data's poker game, 2369
Data playing on the holodeck.
Junior officers playing poker
USS Enterprise-D junior officers play.
Delta Flyer Poker
A few Voyager senior staff members play a game aboard the Delta Flyer
"There's more to it than just the cards."

Poker was a traditional Earth card game of chance and skill.

The game or match had many variations but all forms of poker were games of incomplete information in which the players wagered on the strength of their playing cards relative to those of the other players, at least some of whose cards are hidden from the other players at the poker table. Bets were made with casino chips.

An alert player could increase their chances of winning by observing opponents and judging by their expressions and actions the value of the cards they held. Conversely, part of the game was for players to disguise that value, called "bluffing" and/or provide as little information for their opponents as possible, such as a strictly emotionless facial expressions, called a "poker face."

Frederick La Rouque was an experienced gambler in the 1890s. (TNG: "Time's Arrow")

Jonathan Archer played at least one hand of poker at Jupiter Station sometime prior to 2151. (ENT: "Rogue Planet")

While infected with a silicon-based virus, Hoshi Sato confessed to Charles Tucker that she had been discharged for breaking her CO's arm over a dispute about organizing a weekend-poker game for new recruits. (ENT: "Observer Effect")

Commander Spock was unfamiliar with poker in 2266, and Leonard McCoy offered to teach it to him. (TOS: "The Corbomite Maneuver")

The senior staff of the USS Enterprise-D held a weekly poker game every Tuesday evening. Typically five-card stud was played. Most of them were frequent participants with the exception of Captain Picard. He had a standing invitation for several years, but never accepted it until after his encounter with the anti-time anomaly in the Devron system. (TNG: "Cause and Effect", "All Good Things...")

When he was first introduced to the game in 2365, Data believed that the game could be played with a simple mathematical strategy, but he did not yet understand the practice of bluffing, which greatly complicated matters. (TNG: "The Measure Of A Man") Over time, Data grew to consider poker to be an interesting forum for the study of Human nature. He designed a holodeck program in which he played poker with three of Earth's greatest scientists: Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, and Stephen Hawking. (TNG: "Descent") By 2367, Commander William T. Riker, a notoriously good player, acknowledged that Data's skill was comparable to his own. (TNG: "Legacy") In addition, his inability to have emotions naturally gave him the ultimate Poker face which enhanced his already considerable skill at the game. That skill proved invaluable when he was flung back in time to the 1890s San Francisco and raised needed funds by joining a poker game and apparently cleaning his opponents out of their money (which included two known card sharks) and even some clothing. (TNG: "Time's Arrow")

Data compared Picard's refusal to retreat to the tactic of bluffing, describing, "In the game of poker, there is a moment when a player must decide if an opponent is being deceptive or actually holds a winning hand. This decision is based not only on the odds, but also on an appraisal of the man. Is he bluffing or does he have the cards?" (TNG: "Data's Day")

Doctor Mendoza recognized right away that Commander Riker was a poker player. (TNG: "The Price")

In 2368, Deanna Troi experienced memories about a poker evening with William Riker. Due to the telepathic memory invasion performed by the Ullian Jev she had no good feelings about this event. In her experienced memories, several poker chips fell on the ground and Riker/Jev then raped her. (TNG: "Violations")

During one game in 2368, Troi suggested that they play a "Federation Day" variant of the game, where twos, sixes, and aces were wild cards (corresponding to the Federation's founding year of 2161). Worf commented that the large number of wild cards was a "Woman's Game" because it "supports a weak hand". (TNG: "The Outcast")

Poker chips, 2370

Poker chips

Although the games on the Enterprise-D were usually played for common clay chips, one game between Riker, Worf, Geordi La Forge, and Beverly Crusher was wagered on an unconventional stake: if Beverly won, all of the men would shave their beards, and if any of the men won, Beverly would dye her hair brown. The game was unfortunately not finished. (TNG: "The Quality of Life")

Geordi was a regular poker player, and his VISOR gave him the ability to read through the cards held by his opponents; he claimed that he never looked until the hand was over. (TNG: "Ethics")

On the Enterprise-D, some of the junior officers held a weekly poker night as well. Among the regular players were Sam Lavelle, Taurik, Sito Jaxa, Alyssa Ogawa, and Ben, a waiter in Ten Forward. (TNG: "Lower Decks")

Jake Sisko taught his friend Nog, a Ferengi, how to play poker in 2369. (DS9: "Progress")

When Worf was assigned to Deep Space 9, Miles O'Brien jokingly described darts as "like poker, but with pointy tips". (DS9: "The Way of the Warrior")

Admiral William Ross also played the game. After Colonel Kira Nerys was successful in removing Romulan plasma torpedo launchers from Derna, he told her to remind him "never to play poker with you". (DS9: "Shadows and Symbols")

Apparently, during long away missions, several members of the USS Voyager's crew also played Poker, even at one point teaching the game to Neelix, who was seemingly less than proficient at the game. At one point, Chakotay, Tom Paris, Harry Kim and Neelix played for a morning off instead of chips. Unfortunately, before Tom could reveal his winning hand, a Borg cube appeared and interrupted the game. (VOY: "Collective")



Background information

Poker, which was first introduced in the episode "The Measure Of A Man", was, in fact, writer Melinda M. Snodgrass' second choice for a leisure activity in the episode's teaser. Her original treatment had Data attempting to learn to swim, but was informed by producer Maurice Hurley that the cost of locating a swimming pool and (presumably) full-body make-up for Brent Spiner was prohibitively expensive. ("The Measure Of A Man" audio commentary, TNG Season 2 Blu-ray special features)

Ronald D. Moore commented that it was a running joke among the writers that Worf could never win at poker. (AOL chat, 1997) However, this joke started after season 2, since the Klingon totally dominated the game seen in "The Emissary".

Marina Sirtis has noted that her character, Deanna Troi, should not have been allowed to play poker, due to her empathic abilities. (citation needededit)

From the Star Trek Encyclopedia (4th ed., vol. 2, p. 172), "The weekly Enterprise-D poker game [...] became something of a metaphor for Star Trek's human adventure. It therefore seems appropriate that our final television glimpse of our Next Generation friends was around the poker table in Riker's quarters, where Picard fittingly noted that "the sky's the limit"."

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