History of Poker


The origin of poker is hazy at best. There are several different theories as to where poker began and it is likely that it formed from a number of different games.

Possible Origins

The most popular belief is that the Chinese invented the original game of poker around 900 A.D. It was possibly derived from Chinese dominoes.

Others believe that poker originated from a Persian game called “as nas”. This is a five-player game, which uses a special deck of 25 cards with 5 suits. This game is only recorded back to the 17th century.

Poker may also be the ancestor of a French game named “poque”. Many believe that the word poker is derived from the word poque. Poque is a card game that involves bluffing and betting. It has been stated to be the first known use of a deck consisting of spades, diamonds, hearts, and clubs. The French who settled New Orleans around 1480 played poque.

There are still other theories that trace poker back to the German game “pochspiel” or the Indian card game of “ganjifa”. Fragments of playing cards have been dated back to 12th or 13th century Egypt.

The American history of the game is a bit easier to track. The first written reference to poker occurred in 1834. Jonathan H. Green wrote about a game played on Mississippi riverboats, which he referred to as the “cheating game”. When he found that this game had not been previously recorded, he chose to call it “poker”. The game was played with 20 cards – Aces, Kings, Queens, Jacks, and Tens. The game was played by two to four people, each dealt five cards.

Poker made its way from New Orleans up the Mississippi and Ohio rivers by steamboat. The game then made its way West via wagon and train. During the Wild West period, a poker table could be found in saloons in almost every town across the country. Stud poker, draw poker, and the straight became popular during the Civil War.

In 1910, the state of Nevada made it a felony to run a betting game. However; the California Attorney General declared that draw poker was based on skill and therefore immune to antigambling laws. Stud poker remained illegal, as it was a game of pure chance. Because of this, draw poker continued to develop and grow.

Despite the shady beginnings of poker, it has stood the test of time to become one of the most popular card games today. Now there are countless versions and variations of poker. Poker is popular in casino gambling, online gambling, social neighborhood games, and even on television. Basically, no matter where poker came from, it’s certainly here to stay.

History of Online Poker

The early days of online poker have been far more modest than the current generation of players tends to think. Back in the nineties, the few available websites were more like a bunch of niche places for poker enthusiasts to gather, than the heart of the entire poker industry they are today. In fact, the entire online poker world’s revenues were as low as $83.7 million in 2001. This situation changed in 2003, when Chris Moneymaker won the World Series of Poker Main Event, despite being a predominantly online poker amateur who was completely unknown on the live tournament circuit.

Moneymaker became a super star as thousands upon thousands of people flocked to poker websites trying to replicate his success. The revenues soared to $2.4 billion in 2005 and the online poker industry experienced a long period of steady growth with traffic increasing from year to year. A disaster struck in 2011, however, when the US Department of Justice handed out indictments to the owners of all the major online poker sites operating in the US. April 15, 2011 came to be known as Black Friday, and the online poker world would never be the same.

All poker networks noted a major decrease in traffic, which was quickly reflected in plummeting tournament prizes. A number of analysts were saying that the industry would never recover, but fortunately the reality wasn’t that grim. The Rational Group – a company that architected PokerStars’ success – purchased Full Tilt and fully reimbursed the players as a result of a deal signed with the United States Department of Justice. It took over a year, but nowadays the global online poker industry is back on track. Nevertheless, the results of the crisis can be still felt in some European countries and all over the United States, as some regions developed stringently regulated, fenced local poker markets after splitting from the global player pool.

The Future of Online Poker in the USA

By the end of 2013, 3 US states had legalized and regulated online poker within their borders: Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey. Currently, there are several more states studying the potential benefits of joining such legalization efforts. Nevada and Delaware have already signed a compact to combine player pools — a trend that’s expected to continue with New Jersey and other states to come.

This state by state approach appears to be way that the US will deal with reintroducing the game to its citizens. A federal law to regulate the game nationally has never passed both through both houses of Congress and doesn’t look likely. However, analysts predict the US online poker market to return to a being multi-billion dollar industry by 2017.