History of Poker : The Origins

Finding a single accurate record on the history of poker is not so easy. In fact, every different resource you read will have some level of variation on how the game evolved. I think this goes a long way to painting the picture that supports the notion that there are elements of fact that are still up for debate. Here you'll find the most common version of the origins of the game.

The history of the game, and more appropriately the name of the game appears to have descended from the French poque, which in turn descended from the German pochen (= 'to knock'), but it is not entirely clear whether the games named by those terms were the real origins of poker. The origins link the game of poker we know today to the Persian game of nas, and was taught to French settlers in New Orleans by Persian sailors. It was also commonly regarded as sharing ancestry with the renaissance game of Primero and the French Brelan. The English game Brag descended from Brelan and incorporated bluffing (though the concept was not uncommon in other games by that time).

The Progress through time

There is a record of English actor Joseph Crowell describing the game of poker as played in New Orleans in 1829, played with a deck of 20 cards in which four players bet on which players' cards were the most valuable. Not massively unfamiliar. Evolution to Poker

Jonathan H. Green's book "An Exposure of the Arts and Miseries of Gambling" (G. B. Zieber, Philadelphia, 1843) described the spread of the game from there to the rest of the country by Mississippi riverboats, on which gambling was a common pastime.

Soon after, this spread and history tells us that the full 52-card English deck was used which saw the introduction of the flush to the game. The history books date back to the American Civil War where many additions were made to the game, including draw poker, stud poker (the five-card variant), and the introduction of the straight.

Further American developments followed, such as the wild card, split-pot poker and in 1925, the first community card poker games were introduced. The spread of the game to other countries, particularly in Asian, was largely attributed to the U.S. military who favored the game.

Poker History and every day life

It is not always obvious quite how much poker derives from things that are commonplace in every day life. The game and its jargon have become important parts of American and English culture. Such phrases as 'ace in the hole', 'beats me', 'blue chip', 'call the bluff', 'cash in', 'pass the buck', 'poker face', 'stack up', 'up the ante', 'when the chips are down' and 'wild card' are used in everyday conversation even by those unaware of the links to the game of poker.

Poker History & Tournament Play

Modern poker tournaments became popular in American casinos and on the back of it online poker which has been increasing in popularity ever since the World Series of Poker began back in 1970. Most of the reputable poker sites online today offer qualifiers to the World Series of Poker, which has become a monster brand.

It was also during that decade that the first serious poker strategy books and poker development tools appeared, notably The Theory of Poker by David Sklansky, Super System by Doyle Brunson and The Book of Tells by Mike Caro. Broadcasts of tournaments for cable and satellite TV distribution added to the popularity of the game with the World Poker Tour and World Series of Poker now televised (amongst others) every year.

Whilst there will always be players who favor casinos and don't mind the challenge of taking on the house, poker looks like it's here to stay.

Famous Poker Quotes

I thought we would finish off with some of my favorite poker quotes:

"Poker is a microcosm of all we admire and disdain about capitalism and democracy. It can be rough-hewn or polished, warm or cold, charitable and caring or hard and impersonal. It is fickle and elusive, but ultimately it is fair, and right, and just" - Lou Krieger

"Whether he likes it or not, a man's character is stripped bare at the poker table; if the other players read him better than he does, he has only himself to blame. Unless he is both able and prepared to see himself as others do, flaws and all, he will be a loser in cards, as in life" - Anthony Holden

"If you can't spot the sucker within the first half hour at the table, then you are the sucker" - Matt Damon (Rounders)


Important Beginners Guides..

Read this no nonsense guide on how to play poker - covering the basics and game play. Perfect for those starting out.

A no nonsense guide on how to play the game. Ideal for beginners looking to take the first steps on learning the game.

Check out this set of rules. It's as close to universal as you will get! Most card rooms use a variation of these.

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Before you start playing real money games, be sure to read up on these tips by the professionals.

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