History of Poker

The history of poker is shrouded in debate as no one really knows exactly where poker got its origins, though many seem to think they do. The fact is, it could have originated from France, Italy, Ireland, or England, as all have some type of roots in hand ranked card games.

Germany is a likely place to start regarding the history of poker. In the 1400's, a game called “Pochspiel” is the oldest recorded game to use similar hand rankings, betting and bluffing. However, poker more closely resembles a Persian game known as “As Nas”. But even this game has no originating claims, with the first known records of As Nas appearing in 1890.

R. R. Foster penned the book “Foster's Complete Hoyle” in 1937, stating “the game of poker, as first played in the United States, five cards to each player from a twenty-card pack, is undoubtedly the Persian game of as nas.” It wasn't until the 1990's that historians began to oppose this idea, debating that the history of poker actually originates in France from a similar game known as “poque”. The names are certainly akin enough.

The word “poque” comes from the German word “pochen”, which translates “to brag as a bluff”. The name poker could also have come from the Irish game Poca (pronounced “poke-uh”, meaning “pocket”). Again, the names are distinctly similar to “poker”. Unfortunately, there are too many possibilities, and even more kindred card games that could easily be associated with the true history of poker.

Looking back at the dispersement of card playing games that involved betting and hand ranks in general, we do know that this style became immensely popular in the 1700's, and by 1800, followed the course of the Mississippi River regions in North America.

Standard 52-card poker games included both 5 Card Draw and Stud. The English preferred to shorten the deck to 20 cards when playing with fewer people, so it was common to see 20-card poker in heads-up games.

Settlers heading out west towards California to find their riches in gold were the perfect victims for professional gamblers. They were ready and willing to take risks, and thus many became gamblers themselves. As they continued to move west, so did the mass popularity of poker and gambling in general.

This movement is directly linked with the history of gambling establishments along the west coast of the United States; a good majority of the state of Nevada in particular. What better way to relax from the beating glare of the sun and wash away the dust of the dessert expanse than to stop in, have a bath, a drink and a friendly game of wagering.

In the early 1800's, the Flush was introduced as a hand rank. By the 1850's the Straight was also added; right about the time Stud (5-card) became popular. America continued to add new rules and variations to poker over the years, including the option of a wild card around 1875, along with lowball and split-pot games just before the turn of the century. The American version of poker is believed to have been spread throughout the world thanks to to U.S. Military, who found poker to be an excellent pastime during long periods of naval travel and idle stationing.

Though poker has always held its own among card playing fans, the history of poker took a whole new turn when the World Series of Poker became a nationally televised event. But it wasn't until the 2002 WSOP, when ESPN introduced the “pocket cam”, that viewers really began to take notice. Suddenly, poker was gained an avid fan base of audience members, both in person and from the comfort of home, watching with anticipation to see if how well players could read their opponents, who would pull off an amazing bluff, and of course who would be going home with millions in their pocket when all was said and done.

It wasn't just the ability to watch how fantastic a poker game could really be from your living room couch, but the option to play for real money from your home or office chair. We're talking, of course, about the introduction of online poker. Internet-based poker sites have been around since the mid 1990's, but the televised WSOP Main Events certainly boosted traffic.

The Internet gambling industry, lead by online poker, has grown into the 2nd largest e-commerce market in the entire world, drawing in well over $12-billion in annual revenue. The only Internet-based business to yield higher profits is “adult entertainment”.