Earliest Playing Cards and Poker Games
The exact beginning of poker history is debatable, although records of card games date all the way back to ancient times. In 13th century China, some of the earliest attested playing cards were made. These were introduced to the West through the trading port of Venice by Egypt’s Islamic Mamluk Empire. And even Mamluk cards have similarities to cards from earlier periods in India and Persia.
Poker History in Europe
There were numerous variations on the cards that were used in Europe until a principal suit system was established, somewhere around 1500. In 16th and 17th century Europe, a game resembling modern poker was played. This and European card games called primero and brelan are commonly believed to be the ancestors of poker. It’s possible that the name of the game descended from the German “pochen”, meaning “to brag as a bluff.” Variations on this word can be traced down the line to the French “poque” and the Irish “poca”, meaning to pocket or to bag.
Poker History in the United States
French traders are credited for bringing the game of poque to North America in the 1700s. The English game of Brag, which also uses cards and entails some bluffing, was introduced in late colonial times among immigrants that worked in the plantations of the South. It is believed that the two games came together as an American adaptation. The gambling riverboats on the Mississippi River contributed largely to the spread of this game, as did the later gold rush – which helped spread its popularity to the West. In 1829 Joseph Crowell, an English actor, reported that poker was played in New Orleans by four players using a deck of 20 cards. The players betted on who held the most valuable hand.
The use of a bigger deck of cards was probably introduced to accommodate more players in the game and to add more excitement.
Around the middle of the 1800s, the official rules of poker were drawn up and the use of a deck of 52 cards became standard.
The 1900s saw the continued spread of poker across many American states and an increase in its popularity in Europe.
Modern Poker History
From 1970 onwards, the game became even more popular in casinos, with the introduction of the World Series of Poker and other televised poker tournaments. Serious strategy books were published for the game, such as Super/System by Doyle Brunson, The Book of Tells by Mike Caro, and The Theory of Poker by David Sklansky. These helped average readers develop their skills, and brought the rules of poker to a much wider audience.
Poker and poker gambling continued to grow in the 1990s, with huge numbers of casinos worldwide offering several variations of the game. A modern development that has altered poker history is the rise in the popularity of online poker, which continues to make the game available to more and more people around the globe.