The origins of poker are unknown. Its roots, however, may be traced back to As Nas, a 16th-century Persian card game, and Primero, a famous European card game in Elizabethan England. Bluffing was a key aspect of the game since Nas was played with 20 cards. Betting and coveted hands such as pairs, three of a kind, and a “flux,” or three of the same suit, were part of Primero, or Primera as it was called in Spain. A suited poker hand is now referred to as a “flush” hand.
Many five-card games, notably the English game of Brag, the German game of Pochen (the name “pochen” means “to bluff”), and the French game of Poque, had acquired the betting and bluffing features of poker by the 18th century.
Poque was brought to the Louisiana Territory by French colonists in the 1700s, and the game’s name was eventually altered to “poker” in the United States. The game rose in popularity in New Orleans, and it started to move north in the early 1800s, when steamboats sailed the Mississippi River delivering commodities and people to interior ports.
By the mid-nineteenth century, poker had been updated to a 52-card deck and was documented in card game literature. Poker’s popularity expanded as the West was created, peaking during the Civil War when Union forces were exposed to the game as they marched southward. In reality, the name “stud” in seven-card stud may have come from the Union Army using extra horses to draw the boats down the Mississippi under General U.S. Grant.
Poker had grown well-established in America by the turn of the century, and it was played almost everywhere in the country, as well as in many other countries. The games were draw poker, a kind of closed poker in which all of the cards are dealt face down, and stud poker, in which just a portion of the cards are given face up.
In the early 1900s, a new kind of open poker arose. Texas hold ’em, which is short for Texas hold ’em poker, became popular in the South, notably in Texas. Although stud poker was introduced to Las Vegas when gambling became legal in the 1930s, hold ’em did not become popular in the state until the early 1970s.
The rapid surge in popularity of this game was fueled by two things. The first was the World Series of Poker, which started utilizing Texas hold’em to choose the world champion in 1970. The second impetus was the publication of David Sklansky’s book Hold ’em Poker by a well-known gambling authority and poker expert. This book was the first to quantify Texas hold’em, making the game more approachable to the average poker player. It was initially published in 1976.
With the exception of California, where it was the only variant of poker permitted until 1987, draw poker has all but vanished. Now that stud and hold’em are legal in California, high draw is nearly extinct, and ace-to-five lowball draw is only played on rare occasions.
In the United States, seven-card stud and Texas hold’em are the most popular poker varieties, although there are many more in legal cardrooms around the nation, in other countries, and on the Internet. In its present form, poker is regarded to be mostly American, but its popularity has spread internationally, and it is now one of the most popular card games in the world.
Since we’re on the topic of the Internet, it’s worth remembering that Planet Poker was the first online poker site to open in 1999. It only lasted a few years before being superseded by better-equipped Internet poker sites. Today, however, more poker is played online than in real cardrooms, and the game is played all over the world. For example, Canadian real money casinos report that nowadays the game is almost as popular as online slots.