CasinoCityTimes.com

Gurus
News
Newsletter
Author Home Author Archives Author Books Send to a Friend Search Articles Subscribe
Stay informed with the
NEW Casino City Times newsletter!
Newsletter Signup
Stay informed with the
NEW Casino City Times newsletter!
Recent Articles

Gaming Guru

author's picture
 

A Short Lesson on Poker's History

20 January 2006

Ever wonder where poker got started? Well, no one knows for sure, but most of the stories I've read refer to both a 16th-century Persian card game called As Nas and the European card game of Primero, which was quite popular in Elizabethan England. As Nas was played with 30 cards and bluffing was an important element of the game. Primero involved betting on valued hands, including pairs, three of a kind, and three of the same suit referred to as a "flux." Our word "flush" is the modern-day term for a suited poker hand.

So, did As Nas and Primero combine into one game, or did one of them become more popular than the other? Nothing I've read so far gives me a clue, but by the 18th century, the betting and bluffing aspects of poker were present in several five-card games, including the English game of Brag and the French game called poque.

There was also a German game called "pochspiel." In German, the word "pochen" means "to bluff" so, naturally, in pochspiel, there was an element of bluffing, and players would indicate whether they wanted to pass or open by rapping on the table and saying, "Ich Poche."

But there are those who believe that the word "poke" probably came from "hocus-pocus," a term widely used by magicians.

At any rate, when French colonists arrived to settle the Louisiana territory in the 1700s, they brought poque with them, and the name of the game was eventually modified to the American term "poker." The game took hold around New Orleans, and in the early 1800s, it began to spread north along the Mississippi River.

In 1834, writer Jonathan H. Green made the first written reference to the game. He mentioned rules to what he called the "cheating game," which was then being played on Mississippi riverboats, and called the game poker. During the 1800s, 2,000 riverboat gamblers played poker, but by accounts of that time, no more than four players were honest all the time.

From "hocus-pocus" to the "cheating game." Not too auspicious a beginning.

The game Green described was played with 20 cards, using only the aces, face cards and tens. By the mid-1800s, poker had been adapted to a 52-card deck and was described in other books about card games. Poker spread westward as the West was settled and then spread north when Union soldiers returned home after exposure to the game during the Civil War.

During the Wild West period of U.S. history, a saloon with a poker table could be found in just about every town from coast to coast.

By the turn of the century, poker was a part of American life. The games played were draw poker, where all of the cards are dealt face down, and stud poker, where some of the cards are dealt face up.

Today, poker is carefully regulated by gambling laws, and saloons have turned into casinos and cardrooms. Poker is the most popular card game throughout the world.

In the early 1900s, a new form of poker began to appear: Texas Hold'em. It was widely played all through the South, especially in my native state of Texas. Although stud had been played in Las Vegas since gambling was legalized in the 1930s, Hold'em was not introduced to Nevada until the early 1970s.

In 1970, the World Series of Poker adopted Texas Hold'em as the game to determine the world champion. Since then, draw poker has faded in popularity and now the two dominant forms of poker in America are seven-card stud and Texas Hold'em. Other popular poker games, such as Omaha Hold'em, Omaha eight-or-better, seven-card stud eight-or-better, razz and lowball draw, are actually variations of seven-card stud and Texas Hold'em.

Even though poker may have had its roots in Persia, England, Germany and France, in its present format it is thought of as uniquely American. But people all over the world either love playing the game or daydream about learning how to play.

And I don't blame them.

Until next week, aces and faces to ya.

Linda Mabry

Low Roller Linda Mabry lives and gambles on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. She writes a weekly, general gambling advice column for the Biloxi Sun Herald, and may be contacted through her e-mail address, lnmabry@cableone.net or her web site www.thelowroller.com
Linda Mabry
Low Roller Linda Mabry lives and gambles on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. She writes a weekly, general gambling advice column for the Biloxi Sun Herald, and may be contacted through her e-mail address, lnmabry@cableone.net or her web site www.thelowroller.com