A Brief History of Poker

The modern version of poker owes its origins to a number of much older European card games. The Persian game of As Nas, for example, was once widely credited as being the inspiration for poker, although historians would later include other games in this category. The name “poker” likely owes its existence to the German Pochen, the French Poque, and the Irish Poca, while the games Primero and Brelan—popular in the 14th through 17th centuries—had a clear effect on the development of gameplay.

The exact origin of poker isn’t known, but gambling historians do agree that poker appeared in the United States during the 1700’s and grew to be one of the more popular games in the states bordering the Mississippi River. Thanks to the boats that ran up and down the Mississippi, the game of poker was carried to the rest of the nation. Passengers on these trips had little to do, so gambling became a popular pastime.

The mid to late 1800s saw a number of additions to the game, such as stud poker, the flush, and the straight. Much of this came about during the American Civil War, when encamped soldiers would pass the time by drinking and gambling. During this phase, the 52-card deck also became the standard.

The game of poker wouldn’t see significant developments again until the 1970s. This was the decade when tournament play began in earnest, with the World Series of Poker making its debut in 1970. The first serious books on the subject also appeared on shelves, with the leading examples being works by Mike Caro and Doyle Brunson.

By the latter half of the 1990s, poker was becoming a fixture on the Internet and television. The first real money online game took place in 1998 courtesy of Planet Poker. This, however, was only the beginning, as the massive popularity of the Internet allowed more and more people to play in the privacy of their own home.

The growth in technology was also a major contributor to poker’s continual success, as hole-card cameras could now allow for a more compelling viewing experience. This led to tournaments such as the World Poker Tour and the World Series of Poker coming to television, and interest in the game slowly began to increase.

Poker exploded thanks to the 2003 and 2004 World Series of Poker wins by Chris Moneymaker and Greg Raymer. Both players had won their way into the main event thanks to playing online satellite tournaments, and neither had been a professional player. Not only did this create a pair of compelling underdog stories that made for great television, but it also fostered the notion that anyone had a chance at winning the massive grand prize payout. This led to a tremendous uptick in players at the WSOP, as well as TV shows, online poker rooms, and appearance in other media. In short, poker hasn’t been the same since.