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History of Poker
Poker’s journey and development into
the world’s king of card games has left
many people pondering the question, “Where
did it all begin?” Tracking the history
of poker has proven to be a daunting task.
There are several different theories on how
and where poker began. The most widely accepted
theory is that poker was not born or created,
but rather that it evolved.
One popular theory in the evolution
of poker dates back to 900 B.C china
when Mu-Tsung is believed to have played
a form of “domino cards”
with his wife. Others will argue the
game is of Persian origins, stemming
from a game called “as nas”
which required a 5 suited deck of playing
Not fond of Persia? How about the belief
that poker developed from the French game
“Poque”. This game only dates
back to the late 1400’s, but it
is said to be the origins of the diamonds,
clubs, spades and hearts used in today’s
modern card games.
There is also mention that poker may stem
from the German game pochspiel, or the Indian
game ganjifa, which had produced card fragments
dating back to the 12 th or 13 th century.
As you can see, tracing the family tree of
poker has proven to be harder than pulling
a royal flush.
The American history of poker tends to be
a little more consistent. The game started
on Mississippi river boats and was a compliment
to 3 Card Monty. Refereed to as the “cheating
game”, this early version of poker was
played with a 20-card deck that only contained
aces, kings, queens, jacks and tens. This
game is played with 2 to 4 people. Each player
was dealt 5 cards and the best hand won. Early
poker could have been developed by card sharks.
The name poker is an extension of the word
poke, a slang word used by pick pockets.
From the riverboats, the game migrated via
wagon and train routes. As it traveled, new
games such as stud, draw and the straight
poker became popular. Europeans added the
joker sometime around 1875 and wild cards
The next major chapter in the evolution of
poker came in 1910 when the state of Nevada
made it illegal to run a betting game. The
attorney general of California declared poker
a game of skill. Anti-gambling laws couldn’t
stop the masses from playing this widely popular
new game. The one exception was stud poker.
Stud poker was still illegal because it was
viewed as a game of total chance. The growing
popularity of poker and the California decision
prompted Nevada to reverse its decision in
1931. Casino gambling was legalized and the
rest is history.
Poker, just like America, can be referred
to as a great melting pot. The truth is no
one really knows exactly where poker originated.
Like most great things, the whole is much
bigger then the sum of its parts. As long
as there are decks of cards, there is no doubt
poker will continue to grow and change. That’s
the beauty of “dealer’s choice”.
Any player with a deck and an imagination
could create the next chapter in the history
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