Poker, as we know it today, surely has a huge fan-following. It is an intriguing game of skill and human psyche. Both amateurs and professionals are hooked on to this game that is loaded with thrills and rides high on money too!
Early inceptions in ancient civilizations
The game as we see it today has an interesting trail of rich history; having been polished from one form to another over centuries! Of course, it is in the interest of the game lovers and history seekers to trace the origins of poker. As goes with all things in the remote past, there are many claimants to the title! And then yet again, one can always argue that human civilizations across the world may have thought of multiple avatars of the game, each independent from the other!
In any case, the earliest known roots seem to point to the Chinese in 969 AD, when Emperor Mu-Tsung played a domino card game on New Year’s Eve with his wife! Across to Africa in the 12th and 13th century and the clever Egyptians had invented card games; and in Asia, the Persians hads created their own avatar. In the 16th century – a game called Ganjifa or Treasure Cards– played with exquisitely crafted 96 cards made from paper-thin slices of ivory or precious wood in a complete deck. ‘Exotic’ blended with ‘enticing’ certainly added to the glamour and lure of the game! Persians also played As-Nas which included 25 cards and betting.
Closer to modern times
Cut to Europe; contributors to the modern version of Poker…
The game of Porque was patronized by the French and a variant called Pochen became popular in Germany during the 17th and 18th centuries. Both seem to have evolved from the Spanish game of Primero, dating back to 1526, which dealt out three cards to each player and included bluffing, i.e., betting with higher stakes, even when the cards were not good enough, just to fool the opponents.
With French colonies being established in Canada, the cards found a home in the ‘new world’. Catching the fancy in New Orleans and spreading along the River Mississippi via the riverboats which hosted poker tables, the game gained widespread popularity.
Soldiers in the American Civil War and the rugged cowboys of the Wild West during the gold rush loved the challenges that poker presented – a befitting pastime and a platform to prove their mettle as well! All saloons and bars in the West were incomplete without a poker table, which became the hotbed of many an action-packed night!
A fan called Jonathan H. Green learnt the game in prison and mentioned it as The Cheating Game being played on riverboats in his writings, in 1834.He discovered how different versions of the game were being played and went on to become a professional card player! So fascinated was he, that in his book called “An Exposure to the Arts and Miseries of Gambling” he formally named the game Poker!
Variants and the scenarios today
During the American Civil War, there were the game’s cousins born such as stud poker (five cards), wild card, lowball, straight, community poker game, split-pot poker and the draw. Today there is the 5 card draw, 7 card stud and the most ‘Cadillac of Poker’ – Texas Hold’em! Casinos and home held games are proud hosts of this version of poker. Las Vegas was of course one of the most prominent nurturing grounds!
Today, the reach of this game is far and wide. The No Limit Texas Hold’em reached out to the American masses via television with the help of poker tournaments such as the World Series of Poker and World Poker Tour.
The digital boom of the 21st century has caused hi-tech online poker rooms and websites to bring this game to your living room and further add to the frenzy! With so much information and endless guides available online, anyone who desires to learn the nuances of poker has many ready references!
So if you too have been hoping to jump onto the bandwagon, the internet is your simplest bet to get started and rake in big moolah!
Wikipedia –History of Poker