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The History of Poker

Poker is a group of card games, involving betting and individual play that winners are determined by the combination of cards and their ranks. These combinations are usually concealed until the end of the game when there is at least one winner. Number of cards dealt, or “community cards” or cards shared or number of cards hidden, vary with poker games. The betting procedures are variant parameters, like betting limits, can be set and splitting the pot between high and low hand.


It is believed that poker has its origins in New Orleans. This has been advocated by English actor Joseph Cowell in his memoirs. He believes the game was first played in Louisiana with a deck of 20 cards and four players. They would bet on which players hand has had the cards which were of most value. An Exposure of the Arts and Miseries of Gambling by Jonathan Green indicated Mississippi riverboats being responsible for the spread of poker. It spread north, since the game was a past-time during the journey. The gold rush is however credited for the spread westwards.

Evolution in the game of poker

With its spread, the flush and 52-card deck was introduced before 1852. After a mention in the handbook of games, draw was introduced. Several changes were said to have been made during the American civil war. This saw the addition of stud poker (particularly five-card stud), and the straight, during this period. America is credited to having made most changes to the game. The wild card was introduced in 1875 in lowball and split-pot poker in 1900. In 1925 community card poker games were introduced.

The World Series of Poker (WSOP) begun the tournament format in 1970. This would become a popular hit in American and worldwide casinos.

Historical and strategy literature on poker

Books on strategy and poker in general would appear during this decade. Of particular is former WSOP champion Doyle Brunson’s “Super system”. Mike Caro wrote “Caro’s Book of Poker”. Other notable works on poker are “The Theory of Poker” by David Sklansky.

Poker and culture

Poker has been depicted as a recreational activity (not a far diversion from its origins) by popular culture.

It is however important to mention a few characters that contributed to the popularity of the game.

At its inception, very few tournaments if any were recorded. The WSOP tournaments offered a tournament plus the relevant historical platform.

Amarillo Slim, Doyle Brunson, Johnny Moss and Puggy Pearson are some of the notable champions in the early WSOP tournaments.

Online poker

The second half of 21st century saw the information age. While it cannot be single handily credited in the popularity of poker, it is of important value to note the exponential path of poker synonymous with this era.

It would later on become a spectator sport with the introduction of hole-card cameras. This doubled as a source of viewership of the drama-filled intrigues of the game, and allowed playing at the comfort of at home.

Poker’s governing body

The International Federation of Poker is headquartered at Lausanne Switzerland and started in 2009. This serves as the governing body.