Poker is currently one of the most popular casino games, especially with the rise of single player poker, such as the slot machines that are found in casinos and more recently the introduction of video poker. However the history of poker itself is open to much debate. The German card game ’Pochen’ or ‘Pochspiel‘, which means ’to knock’ is often thought to be the very earliest origins for the name of the game, which in turn influenced the name of the early French card game ’Poque’. Others believe that the Hindu word ‘Pukka’ is the real root of the name ‘poker’. The French ancestor of the modern poker game is thought to stem from the Persian card game ‘Nas’, which was probably taught and passed on to French sailors in New Orleans by Persian sailors. For the first time, the game of poker was reported to have been played in 1829, with a deck on 20 cards and each of the four players would bet on which of the player’s card hands are the most valuable.
It was the expansion of the transport and communications systems across the American continent, especially via the Mississippi riverboats that saw the spread of the game throughout the country. This took place principally during the ’wild west’ period of American history during the mid to late nineteenth century. The thrill of this relatively simple card game had great appeal for the people out on the western frontier. It was soon after this spread of the game that the fifty-two card deck was introduced to the game. During the American Civil War from 1861-5 many other additions to the game were made. It is also generally concluded that the spread of the modern poker game on a worldwide scale should be attributed to the American military, who passed on the rules of the game to foreign military ranks.
The spread of poker also meant that it entered almost every aspect of society of culture. Phrases such as ‘call the bluff’, ‘poker face’, ‘up the ante’ and ‘when the chips are down’ have entered our vocabulary and are used even by those who remain completely unaware that their origins lie with the casino game of ‘poker’. In 1970 the modern poker series began, which brought poker ‘professionals’ into the limelight. This tournament was originally held for the first time by the legendary Las Vegas casino owner Benny Binion, when he decided to bring together the world’s very best poker players in a prestigious competition. The poker variant ‘Texas Hold ‘Em Poker’ is what is played at this worldwide poker tournament. As poker became more of a commercial game, experts began to publish their understanding and knowledge of the game, in books such as ‘The Theory of Poker’ by David Skalansky and ‘The Book of Tells’ by Mike Caro. Currently poker has branched out to earn a repuataion as a sporting and spectator event, in which audiences gather to watch professional poker players at work, as well as taking advantage of the online poker casinos, which enable them to play this card game on the internet all day and all year round.
The origins of modern day poker are therefore a real combination of many different card games from different countries, time periods and cultures, but these have all come together to result in one of today’s most popular gambling and casino card games.