History of Poker

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The history of poker is thought to have evolved from various games. It resembles the Persian game “as nas”, and may have been taught to French settlers in New Orleans by Persian soldiers. Another belief is that the Chinese invented the game around 900 A.D., possibly coming from the Chinese dominoes.

The name of the game likely came from the French game named “poque”, which descended from the German game named “pochen” or “to knock”. Both poque and pochen developed from the 16th century Spanish game called “Primero” which involved three cards being dealt to each player. The act of betting high stakes while holding poor cards (bluffing) was an integral part of the game. Primero is often referred to as “poker’s mother” since it is the first confirmed version of a game directly related to modern day poker.

There are also some that believe that “poke” probably came from the term “hocus-pocus”, which was widely used by magicians. The game of poker soon evolved to include a deck of 32 cards and eventually the modern day version of a deck of 52 cards.

In 1834, Jonathan Green made one of the earliest references to poker when he wrote down the rules to a game he called the “cheating game”. Green went further to name the game “poker” and wrote a book about the game, ‘An Exposure of the Arts and Miseries of Gambling’ which spread to the rest of the country by Mississippi riverboats and into the West during the gold rush.

The game described by Jonathan Green was played with 20 cards consisting of only the aces, kings, queens, jacks, and tens. Two to four people could play and each person was dealt five cards. This game became popular because most people thought the 20 card poker game seemed more legitimate and honest.

Soon after the game spread, the 52 card deck was introduced, along with the flush. Many additions were made during the Civil War, including draw poker, stud poker, and the straight.

During the Wild West period in the US, poker became part of the frontier and a poker game could be found in every saloon, in every town. In 1875, the joker was introduced as a wild card and with that the European influence of poker ended. By 1900, lowball and split-pot poker was introduced and community card poker games came around in 1925.

Present day tournament play became popular in American casinos and cardrooms after the World Series of Poker began in 1970. It was also during the 1970′s that in-depth strategy books appeared such as “Super/System” by Doyle Brunson. Poker is now carefully regulated by gambling laws, but it is still played more than any other card game in the world. It has grown into a huge event, with competitions and tournaments worldwide. Poker’s popularity continues to grow at a record pace because of TV broadcasts of World Series of Poker and the World Poker Tour events with top players coming from all around the world.