As the world’s most popular card game, poker is ubiquitous nowadays. You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in the 21st century who hasn’t heard of or doesn’t know a thing or two about it. Even non-players are familiar with some of poker’s basic concepts. This is thanks, in part, to the game’s appearances in popular culture and the proliferation of online poker sites like GGPoker, the world’s largest poker room, today.
But have you ever wondered how the game came to be? If you play poker, it’s useful to know a bit about its history. Not only is it interesting to learn how poker has evolved over the years, but this knowledge can also give you a better understanding of the game itself. It also gives you something to chat about with your friends on your next poker night.
That said, here are eight interesting facts about poker and its history:
1) It’s believed to have roots in ancient Asia.
Some believe that poker’s origins can be traced back to a 10th-century domino card game played by the Chinese emperor of the time. Others believe it originated in Persia, based on a 16th-century card game called As Nas, which involved betting and card rank-based competition.
2) It’s named after a French card game.
A 16th-century French game called “poque” is considered the closest predecessor of modern poker. Poque and its German counterpart “pochen” were inspired by the 16th-century Spanish game primero, which saw players compete with three-card hands while bluffing to get ahead of their opponents.
French colonists introduced poque to their settlements in North America, such as New Orleans and neighboring areas. It evolved into poker as English-speaking settlers embraced and modified it to include features of the game we know today, like five-card hands.
Poker quickly became a favorite among riverboat staff, who passed it on to the people they met along the Mississippi River. Eventually, the game made its way to the rest of the country.
3) It was first played with 20 cards.
Poker’s early variants were played with 20 cards dealt among four players, which meant that only a limited number of card combinations were possible. These early versions of the game had no draws and left players to bet on a limited range of card combinations, including one pair, two pair, three of a kind, and four of a kind.
The 52-card deck was introduced in the mid-1830s to accommodate more players at the poker table and ensure enough cards for the flush and the straight—both new concepts at the time.
4) Soldiers played it during the Civil War.
According to historian Bell I. Wiley, poker was a favored pastime among soldiers from the Union and Confederacy during the Civil War. This period of American history is known to have spread the game more quickly across the country as thousands of young soldiers learned it on the field.
The Civil War era is also credited for the birth of stud poker, now regarded as a major poker type or classification. Stud poker is believed to have been invented by cowboys in Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. It first appeared in the 1864 edition of “The American Hoyle,” a handbook of games played in the US.
5) It was introduced to Europe through Queen Victoria.
The card game traces its roots back to Europe in 1871 when Queen Victoria overheard the US minister to Great Britain discussing it with her court and asked him for the rules. However, it wasn’t until a few decades later that the game became more widely accepted across Europe, mainly due to the influence of American soldiers stationed there in World War I.
6) Texas Holdem gained prominence through the World Series of Poker (WSOP).
Texas Holdem poker is one of the most popular poker types in the world today. The game is believed to have originated in Robstown, Texas, in the early 1900s before spreading to Dallas and eventually Las Vegas.
The game was relatively unknown until the WSOP made it the Main Event in 1972. Since then, it has become more famous and almost synonymous with poker in general.
7) The first televised poker match was in 1973.
The first poker tournament to be televised was the 1973 WSOP Main Event, which was won by Walter Clyde “Puggy” Pearson. The event was broadcast on CBS Sports and marked poker’s establishment as a legitimate sport.
8) The first real-money online poker game happened in 1998.
Online poker made its debut in the 90s. Before the rise of legitimate poker sites, enthusiasts could play poker on the Internet Relay Chat (IRC) system, where they could place bets and communicate with their opponents via the program’s messaging features.
Planet Poker was the first site to offer real-money poker games, which weren’t available on the IRC system. The first real-money hand was dealt on the site on January 1, 1998, and soon after, the site grew in popularity and gained many loyal members.
Sadly, Planet Poker no longer exists, but its legacy continues in the many online poker rooms that have taken its place.
Poker has come a long way since its humble beginnings, evolving into the popular card game we know and love today. Next time you prepare for a poker game, take a moment to appreciate this great game’s rich history and dynamic innovations. It might just be the boost you need to take your game to the next level.