Alex Johnstone

All the keyboards: Poker 2

Keyboard series

Poker 2


This was my very first mechanical keyboard. I received it for my birthday in 2013 (so it’s not quite been 10 years of mechanical keyboards) after doing research on what to get. I was drawn to the small size and recommendations from the community. The picture above is it at work with some DSA caps and a braided USB cable. I think the lemon was because someone brought in some lemons from their garden.

It had Cherry MX brown switches and with the DSA caps had a very low profile. It would turn out that I much prefer low profile keyboards, and this board would end up being one of my favourite through all the keyboards I bought or built. I’d often joke to people that my first was already endgame but I just didn’t know it.

Brown switches are a nice balance between linear (red/blacks) and clicky (blue/green) switches, they also have a moderate actuation force, not too stiff and not too weak. I guess the baby bear’s choice of switches.

Without F keys, numpad, arrow keys, the board is classed as a 60% one. Most of the time this is fine, general typing and many games. However, it can be annoying where games need a lot of shortcut keys and normally you’d make use of F keys or Pg Up and Home etc. Notable difficulties were with GTA V (when flying planes I’d rather use two sets of arrow keys to control) and Space Engineers where the rotation keys were the Pg Up etc. block. The keyboard does have a lot of keys…duh.. so you could remap things. Another time it wasn’t ideal was when using it at work and typing in lots of numbers in a spreadsheet or something. A numpad is preferred in that situation, although work actually gave out numpads so i managed.

The small size was good for ergonomics. You could keep your mouse hand close to the keyboard and not have your arms outwards. I quickly got used to the function layer for arrows or certain combinations, like Ctrl+Alt+Del. Ones that I didn’t use much were harder to remember, such as Home and Insert etc.

Another slightly annoyance about this keyboard was the US layout. Being British and wanting to type in my previous £ symbol could be difficult. If I kept the computer on GB then \ and # and ~ would be a little mysterious as to where they were and if I could type them. If I switched it to US layout then all the keys would work as labelled but then no more GBP symbol. As we moved to the US in 2014 for several years, it actually worked out well to be used as a work keyboard. If I needed the £, I just searched for it and then copy and pasted it. Turns out I don’t write it that often.

The Poker 2 comes with a set function layer and also a custom function layer which you can program to be any key that the keyboard has. I think I made a new layout, maybe Dvorak or Colemak but I never used it.

Through my endless hours on /r/mechanicalkeyboards, geekhack and desk authority I found out about QMK. The idea of being able to define every key and every layer was exciting. I felt like the limited programmability of the Poker 2 was it’s weakness and now I had to find a board that used QMK so I could be in complete control, and build the most efficient board ever. I later found that all this extra functionality and customisation wasn’t really a gap that I needed to fill, whilst it seems amazing, any changes to a default keyboard layout means learning new things. This could be okay if it was the only keyboard I used but move between home and work or laptops meant it would never be. Plus if anyone else wanted to use the computer it would be impossible.

This pink case would actually be the demise of the Poker 2. I found the case on Aliexpress for peanuts and thought it would go well with the pink space bar. Unfortunately in the process of installing it, I didn’t pay attention to the USB connector and ended up bending it. It still worked but it was now loose and would occasionally disconnect. I tried soldering it back on and even glueing it but it never seemed to be reliable. After many years of use, and as part of my decluttering I ended up selling it along with everything else.

I hope the buyer got as much joy from it as I did.