Poker is one of the world’s oldest and most popular card games. It’s been around for centuries, and its popularity continues to grow, with over 100 million online poker players today! But how did poker become such a hit? And where did it come from? In this article, we’ll explore the history of poker and how it has evolved over the years. We’ll also look at some of the iconic moments in poker history that have made this game so fascinating. So if you’re curious about poker’s past, keep reading!

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10th – 16th century: The early ancestors of poker

The exact origins of poker have been hotly debated, with no clear consensus. Some claim poker originated from the 10th-century Chinese domino-card game that would later become mahjong. Others say poker originated from the 16th-century Persian card game As Nas. This betting card game was similar to poker, with a hierarchy of hands and combinations like pairs and full houses. It was played with 20 cards and did not have community cards or combinations like flushes and straights.

16th – 17th century: Poker in Europe

Poker originated in Europe before coming to America in the form of three betting card games. Primero, a 16th-century Spanish card game, directly inspired the other two: Poque and pochen. Primero used 40 cards, players received two cards each round, and it introduced flushes while lacking straights and full houses. While you could bluff, it was surprisingly against the rules to pretend your hand is weaker than it is.

Pochen was a German card game that emerged during the 1700s but had roots in 1441. It had many variations with different rulesets, similar to present-day poker. It also changed deck sizes based on the number of players competing. 3-4 players used a 36-card French deck, and 5-6 used the standard 52-card deck we know today. Players were able to fold and bet, providing the foundation for poker’s betting system. Poque was simply the french equivalent of pochen, and it would be this form of poker that eventually made its way to America.

The 1800s: America’s introduction to poker

Because of French colonists and the 1803 Louisiana purchase, poque reached America in the 1800s. Americans changed the name to poker and gave five cards per player. Poker became popular on riverboats carrying goods through the Mississippi river, which spread to the many towns around the river. By 1834, poker was using the 52-card deck we all know today. Flushes and straights were eventually added as hand combinations, bringing poker closer to its modern-day state. During the Civil War, from 1861 – 1865, poker spread throughout the Midwest and Northeast thanks to soldiers bringing the game home.

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19th – early 20th century: Poker in the wild west

As poker became famous throughout America, it, unfortunately, earned an infamous reputation. Throughout the lawless era that was the wild west, poker was frequently played by hustlers and gamblers. Finding a simple, clean poker game was nearly impossible, as everyone was armed. Players would not hesitate to attack each other if they felt cheated. This association of poker with violence and criminals lasted over a century.

1970: The most famous poker tournament

The World Series of Poker (WSOP) is the world’s most prestigious and long-running poker tournament series. Created in 1970 by Benny Binion after he attended the 1969 Texas Gambling Reunion, the tournament sought out the best poker players at the time and pitted them against each other. While initially only in the format of cash games, it eventually transitioned into a freezeout tournament format. It also adopted the now-iconic bracelet as the reward, an instantly-recognizable symbol of poker greatness. Nowadays, it has over 101 events, millions of dollars in prize money, and is broadcast worldwide to a massive audience. The WSOP single-handedly started the competitive poker scene, making it one of the most crucial poker developments in recent history.

2003 – 2006: The great poker boom

From 2003 – 2006, the poker boom took place. That was the meteoric rise of poker’s popularity, and it happened for three main reasons. The first was the invention of hole card cameras. These devices revolutionized competitive poker, becoming an actual spectator sport. Before, the audience had no idea what cards each player held until the showdown. With the cameras, the audience could see each player’s cards in every round, providing valuable insight into the players’ thought processes and making every game tenser since the audience knows what will happen but not the players. They also helped the audience insert themselves into the game, thinking about what they would do if they were one of the players.

The second reason was the creation of online poker. Created in 1999, it took off and quickly became the premier way to play poker. The convenience it offered, being able to play anytime and anywhere, was unrivaled. While online poker was made in 1999, the third reason for the poker boom was also what sparked its rise in popularity. That third reason is none other than Chris Moneymaker’s 2003 WSOP win. Two things made this win both so extraordinary and inspiring.

The first was that Moneymaker technically entered the WSOP with a $39 buy-in. He won an online satellite tournament with a $39 entry fee, which gave him a spot at a $600 tournament. Winning that one, too, he made his way directly to the WSOP main event, which he won. The second reason was that he was a complete amateur in competitive poker. Working as an accountant, the WSOP was his first live tournament, yet he won through solid strategy and one of the biggest bluffs of all time. His win inspired a new generation of online poker players, as he proved that all it takes is talent and hard work to win.

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Where to play online poker

Poker has come a long way since its early days on the riverboats of America. Today, it is a global phenomenon, with players from all corners of the world competing in online poker rooms for big money. If you want to get in on the action, sign up today at GGPoker, the world’s largest poker room. We can’t wait to see you at the table!