Poker history is a bit unclear. Although the name “Poker” probably originates from the word “poque” (French), which originates from the word “pochen” (German, meaning, “to knock”), the game itself probably has very little to do with the French and the German games that were associated with those names. Since the old Persian game called As Nas has quite a few similarities with today’s poker, some sources claim that Persian sailors introduced the game to the French settlers while staying in New Orleans.
The origin of poker
Joseph Crowell, English 19th century actor, described the card game he has witnessed in 1829 during his visit to New Orleans. The deck comprised 20 cards, with four players wagering on which one of them had the strongest five cards. In his book called “An Exposure of the Arts and Miseries of Gambling” (1843), Jonathan H. Green describes how the game spread by Mississippi riverboats, from New Orleans over the entire country. However, that game wasn’t identical to modern day poker. The origins of poker would be much more easy to interpret if we give up on the idea that poker develop from one specific game – it is much more likely that it was influenced by many different games over time, before it became the poker as we know it today. Thus, the game called Primero, which was played in the Renaissance Europe, had many elements similar to modern day poker. French game called Brelan, as well as the British Brag (formerly known as Bragg) that originated from Brelan, included several concepts that can be found in today’s poker. This includes even the act of bluffing, although bluffing was most likely characteristic of many other games throughout history.
Early versions of poker
In its earliest versions, poker was played without drawing cards. Five cards were dealt face down to each player; there was only one betting round. Later on, professional gamblers changed the rules so they could make the game more profitable. In the second half of the 19th century, card drawing was added to the game, while bluffing and wild cards became quite common. The game modifications, especially the introduction of drawing cards added one more betting round, thus making two big changes: first, the game became more complex and introduced more skill into it; and second, one more betting round meant one more chance for the cheaters to make their profit. The next big change was the introduction of the full-sized, 52-card deck (English deck). Also, the game included the flush. Game changed a lot during Civil War; draw poker and five-card stud were introduced in that period. The straight was added to the game in this period as well. From 1875 to 1925, some additional changes were introduced (mostly in North America as well), including wild card, lowball, split-pot, as well as community card games. During the World War II and the following decades, the game spread to Asia, mostly thanking to the soldiers from the United States.
Poker tournaments started gain their real popularity during the 1970s, as the World Series of Poker started in the U.S. casinos. During this period, the first comprehensive books on poker strategy were publish, such as Doyle Brunson’s “Super System”, David Sklansky’s “The Theory of Poker”, Mike Caro’s “The Book of Tells”, and so on.
The rise of poker on the TV
Recent years brought incredible rise of the popularity of poker. Two factors played the key role in this revolution – the television and the internet. Watching tournaments on TV was interesting from its very introduction, but the popularity of poker tournament broadcasts skyrocketed mostly thanking to one innovation – hole card cameras. That added a lot of drama and intensity to the tournament broadcasts and helped poker become what it is today. Internet played its role too, since finding time and players for a game of poker never was as easy as it is today. Poker is not only the big part of many people’s lives today, but it also changed our lives outside the poker rooms. Thus, expressions like “ace up my sleeve”, “called bluff”, “beats me”, “high roller”, “poker face”, “wild card”, and many others, entered our everyday jargon, and are often spoken by people who have never actually played one single hand of poker.