The origins of a classic game are usually difficult to find, more often it has developed with the efforts of a local group of players who make up the game rules as they go. As a result, no record is maintained as to the origins and the game goes on developing due to the influence of various cultures and civilization as a whole. It has been the same with Poker no historian has a common view as to the origin of the game, rather it is considered to be a blend of several games from many cultures which developed as people intermingled throughout the world.
The early development of poker can be attributed to the Chinese in 900 AD, when the Emperor Mu Tsung played “domino cards” with his wife. The Egyptians created playing cards somewhere in the 12th or 13th centuries. During the 16th century, the game Ganjifa originated in Persia, It used 96 intricate cards of made of ivory or wood. The Persians also played a card game they called ‘As Nas’ during the same period, which used 25 cards. As Nas might have been the very first game to use ranked cards and consist of a number of betting rounds. Of all card games played in ancient world, As Nas probably is the most similar to the modern-day Poker.
The 17th and the 18th centuries saw the rise of the French game “Poque” and the German game “Pochen”. Both these games had their origins in the Spanish game of “Primero”. In Primero, each player got 3 cards and bluffing while holding poor cards to mislead the adversary was a very important part of the game. Due to this relation to the modern-day Poker, the 16th century Spanish card game of Primero is considered to be the origin of Poker by many historians. When French colonists settled in Canada, they carried their national card game Poque with them. As they moved towards America and established the state of New Orleans, the game travelled from Louisiana, up the Mississippi and then on to the whole of the United States.
One of the early references to the poker game is found in Jonathan H. Green’s writings of 1834. He mentioned the rules to what he called “The Cheating Game” being played on the Mississippi river boats. Gamblers found this game more challenging and a ‘honest’ gamble than the cardsharp game 3-card Mont. Soon the new game displaced the notoriously rigged 3-card Mont. Jonathan Green was the first to document the new game and formally refer to it as Poker.
The later part of the 18th century saw poker rise to such great levels of popularity that a poker table could be easily found at each and every tavern and saloon across the Wild West as prospectors went gold hunting. During the American Civil War, soldiers played the game and popularized it even further. There is some difference of opinion as to the origins of the term ‘Poker’. Some believe it to be derived from the French word ‘Poque’ while others say it comes from the German word ‘Pochen’. Yet others link it to the word ‘poke’ used to explain stealing by pickpockets. Another school of thought believes the word ‘hocus pocus’ to be the root of the term poker, perhaps to suggest that skillful card players use tricks to win their games, just like magicians.
In 1875, the Joker was introduced as a wild card in the game of poker. The game’s journey in America’s Wild West history during the late 1800’s also saw the evolution of the current 52-card deck. The concept of ‘flush’ and the ‘straight’ hand also began during this period. Variations like Stud Poker and Draw Poker were added during the American Civil War, as also low ball poker and the split-pot version. Texas Hold’em, the most popular version of Poker started in 1925, but it reached the heights of popularity only in 1970 during the World Series of Poker. It was at the WSOP in 1970 that Texas Hold’em was nicknamed “the Cadillac of Poker”.
Since its modest beginning on the Mississippi river boats, Poker has evolved into several variations and sub variations. Some of these variations have dominated the gambling scene for centuries. During the American Civil war, 5Card Draw ruled the charts and was popular for almost a century. Shortly before World War II, 7Card Stud took over the popularity charts and remained there for a good forty years with the support of the newly formed Las Vegas Casino industry. Today people play a range of poker variations like Omaha, Razz, Stud Poker and Draw Poker. But the most thrilling of them all is undoubtedly no limit Texas Hold’em, which is the most played card game around the world.
The latest trend is online Poker or Internet poker which affords the player the relative ease and convenience of playing the game on the home PC by logging on to the Internet. The online poker trend began in 1998 with the launch of the first online poker room, Planet Poker. Here, players could bet real money against live players. Soon other online poker rooms like Paradise Poker, Party Poker and PokerStars were launched, making this a huge industry raking in millions of dollars.
In 2004, the winner of an online tournament won a place at the World Series of Poker tournament and then went on to win the $2.5 million championship. This event heightened the popularity of online poker and brought it into media focus. Online poker has been brought into millions of homes across the globe by television. Today, there are poker events exclusively made for television audiences some of these include the World Series of Poker Championships or the National Heads Up Poker Championships which are filmed to be shown at prime time. Television coverage of tournaments by various networks has also increased the revenues of the online gaming industry.
Poker has gained unprecedented popularity in the present culture of Internet technology. The game is firmly rooted in the psyche of the online poker community which is only growing by the day. Although most of the poker variations have gained a foothold in the online world, Texas Hold’em remains the number one poker variant that is enjoyed by the masses.