History of Poker

Title: History of Poker
Description: The history of poker meanders from the Mississippi to millions of homes.
Keyword: history of poker
Poker: From a ‘cheating game’ to an international sporting event

Barring the consensus that poker is a very old game, there is little unanimity on the origin of the game. The most popular belief is that it was invented by the Chinese around 900 A.D., possibly derived from the Chinese dominoes. Another view is that card games from Persia (‘As Nas’), India (‘Ganjifa’), France (‘Poque’), and Germany (‘Pochen’) are all forerunners of poker. It is also believed that the decks of cards with “face cards” were developed in France, and then later brought to America.

Way back in 1834, Jonathan H. Green claimed that he discovered the ‘cheating game’ which was being played on Mississippi river boats. He describes a 20-card game using only aces, kings, queens, jacks and tens. Two to four people could play the game and each was dealt five cards. From New Orleans, modern poker traveled upstream by steam boats on the Mississippi and Ohio rivers and rapidly spread to the interiors by wagons and trains during the California ‘Gold Rush’ during the 1850s. The Civil War witnessed a bang in the popularity of poker as thousands of soldiers in the North and South engaged them in the game.

Poker also underwent a transformation during the Civil War with the introduction of new features like the ‘Stud poker’, ‘the draw’ and ‘the straight’ and when by the time the war drew to a close, poker had become America’s favorite card game. It was played anywhere and everywhere where two or more people could lay hands on a deck of cards.

The year 1910 was a landmark year in the history of poker in America. Till then it was an offense to run a betting game in Nevada, but the Attorney General of California decreed that since draw poker was based upon skill, anti-gambling laws could not stop it. With this decision, draw poker games developed and grew, but being solely a chance game, stud poker was declared illegal. This led Nevada to reverse itself in 1931 and legalize casino gambling.

Thanks to the Internet and World Poker Tour, today poker is popular worldwide, but in America it’s a part of culture now. The game is famously featured in many hit Hollywood films and, like films, poker has become a blossoming American export, claiming over 100 million players across the globe. In 2003, poker witnessed another high when the WPT brought Texas Hold’em, ‘the sovereign of poker’, to the forefront of international excitement via television. Expert live television commentary by hosts Mike Sexton and Vince Van Patten as well as gorgeous WPT hostess Shana Hiatt have not only drawn men and women of all fashions and hues across the globe to this international poker event, but also raised the competitive bar of the game to a new height.

Thus, before concluding one thing can be said for certain. Though there are varied theories on the origin of poker, one thing comes shining through. This is a game which has stood the test of time and has been enriched with each generation. Each person who makes his own variation of the game adds another piece to the vast history of poker!