Poker has been molded and shaped over many centuries into the current game that we know today. Who would have realised that poker would be played across nations on TV, in online poker tournaments or that high profile players would be watched competing by thousands over the globe?
Poker is the most popular card game of the 21st century. With the advent of Texas Hold’em featured as the title game in the World Series of Poker in the 1970’s the game spread over the dining room tables of the world like wild fire. This version of Poker is now the most frequently played and one of the most, if not the most popular game.
Some people believe that the first etchings of early poker were scratched out amongst the nobility of ancient China when the Emperor at the time played a game known as “domino cards” with his wife on Chinese New Years joker. This would have been some time around 969 AD.
In the 12th and 13th centuries Egyptians are recorded as using an ancient form of playing cards and in the 14th century Persians invented a detailed set of 96 cards that were fashioned from delicate slices of ivory or expensive wood. It was here that the game of “As Nas” was invented, involving betting and hierarchical hand rankings using 25 of the 96 cards.
However it was in the 17th and 18th centuries in France and Germany where the game most similar to the poker we know today was played. This version of the game was known as “Poque” in France and “Pochen” in Germany and a derivative of a 16th century Spanish game known as “Primero”. This new game involved dealing three cards to each individual player and bluffing when holding poor cards in order to fool opponents.
It was the French who eventually brought poker to America when French colonialists started to arrive in Canada. At this time poque was the national card game of France, by the 18th century after the founding of New Orleans the game spread up the whole country via the Mississippi river where it became known on the Riverboats as “The Cheating Game.”
It is thought that the cheating game became so popular because the other fashionable cardsharp game of the time, 3-card monte, was notoriously rigged and untrustworthy. Poker was a more challenging and honest gamble and so it quickly became the favourite.
Both women and men played poker on the river boats yet when the game spread to the Wild West of America it was predominantly seen as a man’s game. Every saloon housed a poker table and during the civil war both sides of soldiers enjoyed playing the game.
In 1875 the card known as the Joker was finally introduced as a wild card resulting in the Americanised game we know and love today.