About the History of Poker
The Roots: There is no clear or
direct early ancestor of the game. It is likely that poker
derived itself from elements of many different games. The
consensus is that poker's birth is a very old one.
1550 - Italy & France: Poker may be directly
traced back to the old Italian game of Primero and the
French game of Gilet (Betting and valued hands were three
of a kind, pairs, three of the same suit and flush), which became Brelan
during the reign of Charles IX (1550-74). Brelan evolved into Bouillotte,
which flourished during the French Revolution.
1700 - 1800 : France, Germany, England &
India: By the 18th century the
betting and bluffing aspects of the Game had been introduced in
such five-card Games as Brag (England), Pochen (Germany), and
Most of the dictionaries
and game historians say that the word Poker comes from an
eighteenth-century French game, poque. However, there
are other references to pochspiel, which is a German game.
In pochspiel, there is an element of bluffing, where players would
indicate whether they wanted to pass or open by rapping on the
table and saying, "Ich Poche!" Some say it may even
have derived from the Hindu word, pukka.
1790 - North America: Sailors from
Persia taught the French settlers in New Orleans the gambling card
game Ās, which was derived from the ancient Persian game of Ās
Nas. The Frenchmen would bet by saying, for example, "I poque
for a dollar," and would call by saying, "I poque
against you for two dollars." Those were the betting
expressions used in their game of Poque, a three-card game first
played by commoners in France and then by Frenchmen in America as
early as 1790. Poque was similar to Bouillotte, a card game
popular with the aristocrats in France just prior to the French
Revolution of 1789.
the words "Ās" and "Poque," the game became
known as "Poqas." Then, influenced by the southern
accent and the name of the German bluff game of Pochen, the
pronunciation of "Poqas" became "Pokah". Under
Yankee influence, the pronunciation finally became
explanation for the word poker, is that it came from a version of
an underworld slang word, "poke," a term used by
pickpockets. Card sharps who used the 20-card cheating game to
relieve a sucker from his poke (money) may have used that word
among themselves, adding an r to make it "poker." The
thought was that if the sharps used the word "poker" in
front of their victims, those wise to the underworld slang would
notice the change. There are those who also believe that
"poke" probably came from "hocus-pocus", a
term widely used by magicians.
1829 - New Orleans: One of the earliest
references was found in the diary of an English actor, Joseph
Crowell: In 1829 there was a game - attributed to Henry Clay -
being played on a steamboat bound for New Orleans in which each
player received five cards and made bets - then whoever held the
highest combination of cards won all bets. It was probably the
earliest form of poker or its immediate predecessor, the Persian
game of Ās Nas. Ās Nas requires a special deck of 25 cards with
5 suits (5 cards per suit total).
Poker moved from New
Orleans by steamboat up the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. From the
river towns, the game spread east by the new railroad and west by
1834 - The "Cheating Game":
Green makes one of the earliest written references to poker in
1834. In his writing, Green mentions rules to what he called the
"cheating game," which was then being played on
Mississippi riverboats. It wasn't until this time that he realized
this was the first such publication and that American Hoyle, at
this time did not mention the game, and he called it Poker.
The game he
described was played with 20 cards, using only the aces, kings,
queens, jacks and tens. Two to four people could play, and each
was dealt five cards. By the time Green wrote about it, poker had
become the number one cheating game on the Mississippi boats,
receiving even more action than Three-Card Monte. Most people
taken by Three-Card Monte thought the 20-card poker seemed more a
legitimate game, and they came back, time and time again. It would
certainly appear, then, that poker was developed by the cardsharps.
deck was replaced by the standard 52, and the flush introduced.
During the Civil War, modifications such as open cards (stud
poker), the draw, and the straight became popular.
- The Queen on Poker: Poker
taken back to Europe when Robert C. Schenck, U.S. minister to
Great Britain, introduced it to members of the court of Queen
Victoria at a royal party in Sommerset. A
set of rules written by Schenck was the first book on the Game.
1875 - Jackpot Poker: When the joker was
introduced as a wild card in 1875, the European influence of poker
ended. Further development of the game was essentially American.
(Jackpot Poker is draw poker requiring both an "ante"
and "jacks-or-better" to open). The phrase "passing
the buck" derives from the practice of using a
buckhorn-handled knife to designate the dealer.
1903 - Split-Pot / Low Ball: Split-pot/low ball
(version of poker) introduced in 1903.
1909 - Bill against Fools: Two Missouri assemblymen
(Coran and Lyles) introduced a bill to the state legislature in
1909 to control and license poker players in order to prevent
"millions of dollars lost annually by incompetent and foolish
persons who do not know the value of a poker hand."
1911 - Boom of Draw Games: In 1911, California's
attorney general (Harold Sigel Webb) ruled that closed poker (draw
poker) was a game of skill and beyond antigambling laws. But open
poker (stud poker) was a game of chance and therefore illegal.
That stimulated the development of new draw games and the use of
wild cards. The variety of poker games grew steadily, particularly
during the First and Second World Wars.
1938 - Britain's Prohibition: In
Britain, gaming laws
which originated in the 16th Century are still in operation today
and in 1938, the Lord Chief Justice declared poker to be a game of
chance, and it was not legalized in clubs until the 1960's.
1950 - 1960 : Variations: In the 1960s, poker
variations further developed with innovations such as twists
(extra draws) and qualifiers (minimum hands to win).
1968 - Concepts of Poker: In 1968, Wallace's
Advanced Concepts of Poker was first published. By 1972, the
publication had become the largest-selling poker book in the
world. The Advanced Concepts of Poker fully identified for the
first time the potentially ruthless, manipulative, but highly
profitable nature of poker. In addition, the characteristics of
consistent winners, and chronic losers were identified. Also
identified for the first time were three different kinds of odds,
the effects of the betting pace versus the betting stakes, the
advantages of aggressive betting, and the advantages gained by the
good player when complex and fast-paced games were played. And
most important, the Advanced Concepts of Poker clearly identified
the differences between the financially profitable good poker and
financially destructive gambling as well as the differences
between winners and losers.
1970 - World Series of Poker: World series of Poker
first played at Binions Horseshoe in Las Vegas in 1970. The winner
was declared poker world champion.