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Poker History - Where Did It All Begin?

Updated on July 18, 2016

There is some debate as to how poker was invented. Rumors vary from French to English to German and even Chinese and Persian origins. However the game originated, there is some consensus that some of these earlier games, if not a part from each, has influenced what we know today as poker.

For example, the English game of Bragg was known for its popular concept “the bluff”. In the early 1800’s there was a game that was made popular in New Orleans that used a deck of cards that contained only 20 cards. The premise of this game was to bet on who had the most valuable hand. The exposure that this game received through Mississippi riverboats helped poker spread like wild fire. Gambling was a big past time on the riverboats, and people quickly embraced poker as a favorite.

Through the years many additions have been added to poker and helped form it into the game we know and love today. In the mid 1800’s the full 52 card deck was introduced which gave way for the popular flush. During the American Civil war new variations of poker were created by the soldiers while passing time. This time instead of changing the deck the soldiers added a few different rules and twists that made the game interesting in different ways, and has paved the way for most of the poker rules that we love and enjoy today. For the first time Five Card Stud and Draw poker were being played and the Straight was a ranking hand. Later in the late 1800’s poker players came to know and appreciate the value of the “wild card”.

Since the 1800’s poker has continued to grow in both popularity as well as variations. In recent years casinos have embraced poker as it is a favorite amongst gamblers. major poker tournaments, TV shows about poker, televised championship poker tournaments, and even high stakes online poker games with massive rails are all testaments to the ever growing popularity poker is experiencing today. Not to long ago you would find it difficult to find a poker table in a major casino, now you’d be lucky to find a casino that doesn’t offer poker.

In the 1970’s, Texas Hold’em came into the picture. The poker variant was introduced in the famous World Series of Poker, and it continues to be the most commonly played poker game today, the no-limit hold’em variant more specifically.

Many feel that the growth in popularity of poker can be directly connected to the arrival of internet poker. With the spread of affordable internet access suddenly it became possible to participate in a poker game whenever, and wherever the player wants, including on mobile phones. No longer do you have to find a casino, plan poker games around busy or worry about planning a weekend away. Finding a poker game is now just a click away, so you can play whenever it is convenient for you. You can simply log onto the internet, find an online casino and suddenly you have access to hundreds of games and many different variations of poker. Online poker has also given people the option to play free poker games without needing to deposit money.

The poker movie Rounders (1998) also had a profound impact on poker in America and around the world. As far as poker movies go, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better movie than Rounders, which cast Matt Damon as Michael McDermott, Edward Norton as Lester "Worm" Murphy and John Malkovich as Teddy KGB.

Five years after Rounders, Chris Moneymaker won the World Series of Poker main event in 2003, proving that amateurs can mix it with even the biggest names in the game. There is no denying the fact that television and the Internet has introduced the game to more players. You only have to look at the average age of the players who are making the World Series of Poker Main Event final tables, to see that younger players are beginning to pick up the game as well. It definitely seems as though the game of poker is here to stick around.

In the end, whether poker was created as a game by itself, or if it was formed out of variations of many other card games, poker is simple to learn yet difficult enough to master, and thus become a permanent fixture in casinos and if past trends continue it will continue to grow in popularity and in demand.

Knowing poker's history will help you to understand the origins of specific poker terminology like the Dead Man’s Hand. Besides it’s always interesting to learn how this great card game started.

If you’re looking to read more about the origins of poker, you should definitely check out the book Cowboys Full: The Story of Poker written by James McManus. It can be picked up on Amazon.

Cowboys Full: The Story of Poker
Cowboys Full: The Story of Poker

This book documents the story of poker from its roots in China. The game inspired McManus's 2003 bestseller, Positively Fifth Street.


Everyone now wants to know how to play poker online and win, and they are looking for guides to tell them how to play poker and win. Unfortunately most guides will simply give you a teaser and then urge you to buy a poker strategy book that will tell you the rest of the secrets, and when you fork out a lot of cash for the book and the postage costs you read it and find out that it does not actually tell you anything of use at all! Well, do not bother with guides that aren't worth the paper they're written on, as all the information you need can in fact be found in a few highly recommended poker books.


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