All about the history of poker
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All about the history of poker

From its mysterious origins to its democratisation, its sulphurous reputation and its boom on the Internet, poker has been a popular card game throughout the ages. Over the last 10 years, it has gone from being a simple game of money to a real competition worthy of a mental sport. In this article, Lucky7Bonus looks back at the fabulous history of poker.

The origins of poker

The genesis of poker in the world remains rather mysterious. Several focuses stand out when trying to uncover the origin of this game, without any certainty being proven. Although poker remains closely linked to the history of the United States, traces of the game can be found on the Asian and European continents as early as the 10th century.

  • In China in the 10th century, the Emperor Mu-Tsung and his wife played a game mixing cards and dominoes.

  • In 16th-century India, the Ganjifa is a popular card game that bears many similarities to poker, especially the combinations and colourful figures.

  • In England, the Bragg offers a vocabulary close to poker, combinations but also betting phases, bluffing etc.

  • In 17th and 18th century Persia, Ace Nas is a 25-card game with a first round of betting and based on bluffing. Persian sailors are said to have exported this game to the United States.

  • The first references to the word poker appear in American literature between 1830 and 1870, notably in a work by Jonathan H. Green in 1843 describing poker games aboard steamboats on the Mississippi River.

  • In 18th century in France, the Poque is distinguished by the creation of four colours and symbols, spades, diamonds, hearts and clubs, which have since been borrowed by many card games. In the Poque, it is also about combinations of cards, bets and bluffing.

  • In 18th century in Germany, the Poschspiel (literally the bragger's game) incorporates a board and different phases of play with bets and bluffing according to the combinations.

If the word "poker" seems to derive etymologically from the French word "Poque", it could also be related to the English word "poke" meaning to stir up or steal. The game then developed in the United States, probably arrived via New Orleans by European migrants in the 19th century. As a vector of sociability that stirred up all sections of the population, a means of getting rich or simply a pastime, poker gradually changed with the conquest of the American West. Its development went hand in hand with the proliferation of saloons, the ancestors of modern casinos with a sulphurous reputation, between debauchery and cheating. It was during the Civil War around 1865 that the rules of poker evolved with the introduction of draws, private cards and the 5-card combination.

The societal phenomenon

So it was in the United States at the end of the 19th century that poker was democratised to the point where it became a family game without necessarily any notion of money. Although at the beginning of the 20th century the game was prohibited, it became legal again in 1931 in Nevada with the emergence of the city of Las Vegas, a paradise for gamblers. However, the close relationship between the mafia, organized crime and Las Vegas casinos gave poker a very negative image for several decades.

It was in 1970 that the first world poker championships, the World Series of Poker, were born, at the initiative of Benny Binion, then owner of the emblematic Horseshoe casino in Las Vegas. This event became more professional over the years until it became a real competition recognised on an international scale. Amateurs and confirmed players come together to confront each other in a game that no longer leaves anything to chance but can be compared to sport in its strategic and mathematical aspects. The enthusiasm of the public is immediate, poker is rooted in American popular culture. Until it appeared on television in the 1970s. The broadcasting of the World Poker Tour in the 2000s completed the democratisation of poker throughout the world.

The online poker boom

The year 2003 marked a turning point in the history of poker: it was the year in which an amateur named Chris Moneymaker, a fan of small tournaments played on the Internet, won his first ever live tournament, the prestigious $10,000 WSOP Main Event. Qualified for just $86, Moneymaker became world champion and won a $2.5 million first prize, opening up the field of possibilities for millions of amateur players around the world.

Internet poker then explodes: the tool allows anyone to play the game, at any time and for any amount. Simple to understand, with a strong emphasis on strategy and psychology and much less on chance, the Texas Hold'em variant is now the most played. The big online poker groups offer themselves the services of personalities known to the general public (sportsmen, singers, actors etc.) such as the artist Patrick Bruel in France, commentator for the WPT and figurehead of Winamax for many years. This is helping to gradually change mentalities about this game with its sulphurous image and thus to rehabilitate poker as a hobby, a cerebral sport in its own right. It was only in 2010 that online poker was legalised in France: operators were rushing into this new market, before quickly becoming disillusioned.

Poker nowadays

Because market regulation leads to a compartmentalisation between players from the same country and significant fiscal constraints for operators, who close their doors as they go along. The decline will continue until the hope of shared liquidity on a European scale. Today, France, Spain and Portugal share their tables, but traffic is still not up to scratch and regulatory constraints remain significant. In the United States, the Black Friday of 2011 has led the largest operators to cease operations before new state-by-state legislation.

The media coverage of poker over the last ten years has precipitated the starification of certain players, notably North Americans (the Canadian Daniel Negreanu, the American Phil Hellmuth), high-stakes players who have become legends (Viktor Isildur Blom, Tom Dwan, Gus Hansen...). Major tournaments have developed throughout the world (WSOP, WPT, EPT...) bringing together amateurs and professionals alike. If the health crisis of COVID-19 throughout the world has put a stop to live poker, online poker has been strengthened and new vocations have been born with a new mini boom. Will it last?

About the authorClaude Gillet
336 articles
✅ Reviewed by Head of Content
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Since 2019, Claude has been editor-in-chief. His role is the most comprehensive, as he is responsible for publishing, editing and proofreading. All articles published on the site have been checked by him.

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