Where did poker come from?

Ancient roots

Well, the game’s origins are quite old, but the historians don’t all agree on them. Some believe poker’s ancient roots go back to a domino-card game played by a 10th-century Chinese emperor Mu-Tsung, who supposedly celebrated New Year’s Eve by playing the game with his wife.

Others think that it’s roots are not quite as old and  that it is a descendant of a 16-th century Percian card game called “As Nas”, which featured 25-card deck, betting rounds and hierarchical hand rankings.

Playing cards first reached Europe around year 1360. Islamic Mamluk Empire of Egypt brought them through the trading port of Venice. They were the precursors of our modern 52-card decks with 4 suits and 13 ranks, which were designed around year 1500 in Europe. As the decks spread around Europe, many card games were invented, a lot of which were purely gambling games that were an alternative to playing dice.

Many historians believe that poker’s immediate ancestor was a 16th-century French card game “Poque”, which was probably invented in a 15th-century Germany with a name “Pochen”, which means to strike, to knock, and also to bet.

Poque was played with 32 or 36 cards by up to six players. Another likely cousine of poker was a 16th-century Spanish game “Primero” which featured 4-card hands, and in which bluffing was a vital part of the game . Primero is often referred to as the mother of modern day poker.

The birth of Poker

From Europe the French colonists brought Poque to their territory in North America centred on New Orleans and in 19th century the Americans called it Poker and while at first it was only played with a 20-card deck(A-K-Q-J-T) by up to four players, it soon took off as the 52-card game with betting rounds and hierarchical hand rankings as we know it today.

The use of full 52-card deck allowed more players to play the game and from New Orleans poker spread up the Mississippi River and across the whole country. It became really popular amongst soldiers in both the North and South, who played it during the Civil War.

Poker spreads worldwide

In the summer of 1872 General Schenck, U.S. ambassador to Great Britain introduced the game of poker to his English friends and that is how it is thought to spread in England. During the World War I, mainly thanks to soldiers who played poker all the time, the game really took off Europe.

Since then different poker games have been circulating among poker players, and at different times they dominated the poker scene.

  • First it was the 5 Card Draw, which dominated the scene for almost a century, starting around the time of Civil War
  • Then 7 Card Stud took over the throne around the time of World War II
  • And now the Cadillac of Poker, which took over in 1970s with the World Series of Poker events and is undisputably the most popular and most frequently played poker game in the world, Texas Hold’em

Texas Hold’em

Unfortunately we do not know who invented this beautiful card game, but Texas Legislature officially recognizes Robstown, Texas as the game’s birthplace, dating it to the early 1900s.

It is believed that Holdem was introduced to Las Vegas, the capital of gambling, in 1967 by a group of Texan gamblers and card players, including Crandell Addington, Doyle Brunson, and Amarillo Slim.

The game slowly begin to take off and in 1972 it became the Main Event of World Series of Poker and has been ever since. Only eight entrants played the Main Event in 1972, but the numbers grew to over one hundred in 1982, and over two hundred in 1991.

The biggest ME of WSOP so far atracted 8,773 entrants in 2006 and was won by Jamie Gold, who pocketed $12 million for it.