It feels like poker has been around forever, doesn’t it? There isn’t another game in the world with so much mystique, drama and personality surrounding it. People who have mastered the game are global superstars. And even uttering the name makes people think about so many different things. So let’s find out where it all began with a whirlwind tour of the history of poker.
Legend has it that the history of poker began in the early to mid 1700s. Historians theorise that it was already popular in the Mississippi River region by 1800. This coincides with the popularisation of gambling in general in the USA, which perhaps accounts for its popularity.
It’s thought that the name poker is derived from the Irish word for pocket. That’s póca, in case you don’t know your Gaeilge. But of course, it could also descend from the French game Poque it’s said to be based on.
One final language also tries to lay claim to the name history of poker and that’s German. In German, the word pochen means to brag as a bluff or to knock.
The exact origins of the history of poker are a little fuzzy. It’s thought that poker developed from a Persian game called As-Nas or else a French game called Poque.
Some also believe it shares roots in a Renaissance game called Primero and an old French game called Brelan. The English game of Brag (based on Brelan) incorporates bluffing, so perhaps that also played a part.
By the mid 1800s, poker was already big in the Mississippi River region. However, the area that is most famous for early poker action has got to be the Wild West. The game was played on Mississippi riverboats, where many people learned about it. Then with the mass migration during the gold rush, people who had travelled on those river boats went west to find their fortune and brought poker with them.
Draw dates back to before 1850. We know this because there are printed handbooks that explain the format. The American Civil War saw many new variants come to the table. Among them was the five-card stud, which is still very popular to this day.
The wild card was brought in to some poker games around 1875, while low ball and pot limit poker made an appearance around the turn of the 20th century.
In the 1970s, large scale poker tournaments began to crop up. This era of poker was heralded in with the creation of the World Series of Poker in 1970. This was surely a seminal moment in the modern history of poker. We have Doyle Brunson, Johnny Moss and more legends to thank for that.
After the world began to take notice of tournament poker, the greater population began to take the game more seriously. So in the late 1970s, poker experts began to share their theories and tips in the first proper strategy books. Super/System by Doyle Brunson and The Theory of Poker by David Sklansky still stand up today.
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