The origin of the game of poker is widely disputed, but it is more likely that poker derived its present day form from elements of many different games. The most popular belief is that it was invented by the Chinese around 900 A.D., possibly derived from the Chinese dominoes. On New Year’s Eve, 969, the Emperor Mu-tsung is reported to have played “domino cards” with his wife.
Others state that poker originates from the Persian game “as nas”. This is a 5-player Persian game, which requires a special deck of 25 cards with 5 suits. However, this is only recorded back to the 17th century. Another theory calls on the French “poque”. The French who settled New Orleans around 1480 played Poque, a card game involving bluffing and betting. 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 come the Hindu word, pukka.
Yet another possible explanation for the word poker, is that it came from a version of an underworld slang word, “poke,” a term used by pickpockets. Cardsharps who used the 20-card cheating game to relieve a sucker from his poke 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 not surmise the change.
There are those who also believe that “poke” probably came from “hocus-pocus”, a term widely used by magicians. The game of poker later evolved to include 32 cards, and eventually the modern day deck of 52, not counting the two Jokers.
Cardplaying spread over the world, arriving in Italy and Spain from Egypt via trade routes by the late 14th century. Many early decks had just 20 cards. The Tarot deck was created based on existing playing card decks, adding 22 trumps to a regular deck. The suits of the Tarot are the same that early Italian and Spanish decks used: Swords, Batons/Clubs, Cups, and Coins. These were called Latin suits. Early English decks were Latin-suited, but they gradually adopted the familiar Spades, Clubs, Hearts, and Diamonds, suits that France began using on their cards about 1480 and we use today.
The history of poker in the United States has a bit more consistency. Poker traveled from New Orleans by steamboat up the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. The game then spread via wagon and train. Modifications such as stud poker, the draw, and the straight became popular, during the Civil War. European influence of poker ended when the joker was introduced as a wild card in 1875.
By the 1830s, a 52-card deck was in general use, and poker rules were slowly becoming standardized as rule books were written. The Old West took to the game quickly. It became the saloon favorite over faro, as sharp players discovered how quickly wealth could be won from it. The personalities of Western legends, guns, saloons and poker all seemed to go together.
Poker, clearly, fit the aggressiveness of the West: a player had to keep his wits about him and exploit opportunity as it arrived. The game — and the frontier — was not for anyone without confidence. And it survived its clashes with the law.
In 1910, Nevada made it a felony to run a betting game. The Attorney General of California declared that draw poker was based upon skill and therefore the antigambling laws could not stop it. But stud poker, he said, was based on mere chance. Therefore it was illegal. Naturally draw poker games flourished, and more emerged. In 1931, Nevada reversed itself and became the only place in the U.S. to legalize casino gambling, until 1978, when Atlantic City joined in.
Today, poker is carefully regulated by gambling laws, and saloons have given way to casinos and card rooms, but poker is played more than any other card game in the world. It has grown into a sporting event, with competitions and tournaments all around the world. Tournaments take place almost every week of the year somewhere in the world.
Today poker is played at online casinos inc in more variations than probably any other game. Its phrases are part of our common speech. We named a facial expression after it. It has its own World Series, when the best players compete in tournaments over14 days. While other games may have higher payback percentages, the irresistibility of poker — the game so closely tied to the personality and demeanor of the player – rules.