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History

The history of poker is a matter of debate. One of the earliest known games to incorporate betting, hand rankings, and bluffing was the 15th century German game Pochspiel. Poker closely resembles the Persian game of As Nas, though there is no specific description of nas prior to 1890.[2] In the 1937 edition of Foster's Complete Hoyle, R. F. Foster wrote: "the game of poker, as first played in the United States, five cards to each player from a twenty-card pack, is undoubtedly the Persian game of as nas."[3][4] By 1990s some gaming historians including David Parlett started to challenge the notion that poker is a direct derivative of As Nas.[3] There is evidence that a game called poque, a French game similar to poker, was played around the region where poker is said to have originated. The name of the game likely descended from the Irish Poca (Pron. Pokah) ('Pocket') or even the French poque, which descended from the German pochen ('to brag as a bluff' lit. 'to knock'[5] ). Yet it is not clear whether the origins of poker itself lie with the games bearing those names. It is commonly regarded as sharing ancestry with the Renaissance game of primero and the French brelan. The English game brag (earlier bragg) clearly descended from brelan and incorporated bluffing (though the concept was known in other games by that time).[6] It is quite possible that all of these earlier games influenced the development of poker as it exists now.

Harry Truman's poker chips

A modern school of thought rejects these ancestries.[7] They focus on the card play in poker, which is trivial and could have been derived from any number of games, or made up on general cardplay principles.[8] The unique features of poker have to do with the betting, and do not appear in any known older game.[9] In this view poker originated much earlier, in the early or mid-1700's, and spread throughout the Mississippi River region by 1800. It was played in a variety of forms, with 52 cards, and included both straight poker and stud. 20 card poker was a variant for two players (it is a common English practice to reduce the deck in card games when there are fewer players).[10] The development of poker is linked to the historical movement that also saw the invention of commercial gambling.[1][11]

English actor Joseph Crowell reported that the game was played in New Orleans in 1829, with a deck of 20 cards and four players betting on which player's hand was the most valuable. Jonathan H. Green's book, An Exposure of the Arts and Miseries of Gambling (G. B. Zieber, Philadelphia, 1843), described the spread of the game from there to the rest of the country by Mississippi riverboats, on which gambling was a common pastime. As it spread north along the Mississippi River and to the West during the gold rush, it is thought to have become a part of the frontier pioneer ethos.

Soon after this spread, the full 52-card English deck was used and the flush was introduced. The draw was added prior to 1850 (when it was first mentioned in print in a handbook of games).[12] During the American Civil War, many additions were made including stud poker (the five-card variant), and the straight. Further American developments followed, such as the wild card (around 1875), lowball and split-pot poker (around 1900), and community card poker games (around 1925). The spread of the game to other countries, particularly in Asia, is often attributed to the U.S. military.

The game and language of poker have become important parts of American culture and English culture. Such phrases and clichés as ace in the hole, ace up one's sleeve, beats me, blue chip, call one's bluff, cash in, high roller, pass the buck, poker face, stack up, up the ante, when the chips are down, wild card, and others are used in everyday conversation, even by those unaware of their origins at the poker table.

Poker Room at the Trump Taj Mahal, Atlantic City, New Jersey

Beginning in 1970 a series of developments lead to poker becoming far more popular than it was previously:

   * Modern tournament play became popular in American casinos after the [[World Series 

of Poker]] began, in 1970.[13] Notable champions from these early WSOP tournaments include 2 Johnny Moss, Amarillo Slim, Bobby Baldwin, 1 Doyle Brunson, and Puggy Pearson.

   * Later in the 1970s, the first serious strategy books appeared, notably Super/System
by 1 Doyle Brunson (ISBN 1-58042-081-8) and The Book of Tells by Mike Caro (ISBN 0-89746-100-2), followed later by The Theory of Poker by David Sklansky (ISBN 1-880685-00-0).
   * In 1987, community card poker games were introduced in California, home of the largest poker
casinos in the world.[14] These games proved far more exciting to players than the draw poker 

variants that were played up until that time.

   * In the 1990s, poker and casino gambling spread across the United States, most notably
to Atlantic City, New Jersey.[15]
   * In 1998, the poker-themed film Rounders starring Matt Damon and Edward Norton was
released.[16]
   * In 1999, Late Night Poker debuted on British television, introducing poker for the first time
to many Europeans.[17]

Poker's popularity experienced an unprecedented spike at the beginning of the 21st century, largely because of the introduction of online poker and the invention of the hole-card camera, which turned the game into a spectator sport. Viewers could now follow the action and drama of the game, and broadcasts of poker tournaments such as the World Series of Poker and the World Poker Tour brought in huge audiences for cable and satellite TV distributors. Because of the increasing coverage of poker events, poker pros became celebrities, with poker fans all over the world entering into expensive tournaments for the chance to play with them. This increased camera exposure also brings a new dimension to the poker professional's game—the realization that their actions may be aired later on TV.

Major poker tournament fields have grown dramatically because of the growing popularity of online satellite-qualifier tournaments where the prize is an entry into a major tournament. The 2003 and 2004 World Series Of Poker champions, Chris Moneymaker and Greg Raymer, respectively, won their seats to the main event by winning online satellites.


Although little is known about the invention of Texas hold 'em, the Texas State Legislature officially recognizes Robstown, Texas as the game's birthplace, dating the game to the early 1900s.[6]

After its invention and spread throughout Texas, hold 'em was introduced to Las Vegas in 1967 by a group of Texan gamblers and card players, including Crandell Addington, 1 Doyle Brunson, and Amarillo Slim.[7] Addington said the first time he saw the game was in 1959. "They didn't call it Texas hold 'em at the time, they just called it hold 'em... I thought then that if it were to catch on, it would become the game. Draw poker, you only bet twice; hold 'em, you bet four times. That meant you could play strategically. This was more of a thinking man's game."[8]

For several years the Golden Nugget Casino in Downtown Las Vegas was the only casino in Las Vegas to offer the game. At that time, the Golden Nugget's poker room was "truly a 'sawdust joint,' with... oiled sawdust covering the floors."[9] Because of its location and decor, this poker room did not receive many rich drop-in clients, and as a result, professional players sought a more prominent location. In 1969, the Las Vegas professionals were invited to play Texas hold 'em at the entrance of the now-demolished Dunes Casino on the Las Vegas Strip. This prominent location, and the relative inexperience of poker players with Texas hold 'em, resulted in a very remunerative game for professional players.[9]

After a disappointing attempt to establish a "Gambling Fraternity Convention", Tom Moore added the first ever poker tournament to the Second Annual Gambling Fraternity Convention held in 1969. This tournament featured several games including Texas hold 'em. In 1970 Benny Binion and Jack Binion acquired the rights to this convention, renamed it the World Series of Poker, and moved it to their casino Binion's Horseshoe Casino in Las Vegas. After its first year, a journalist, Tom Thackrey, suggested that the main event of this tournament should be no-limit Texas hold 'em. The Binions agreed and ever since no-limit Texas hold 'em has been played as the main event.[9] Interest in the Main Event continued to grow steadily over the next two decades. After receiving only 8 entrants in 1972, the numbers grew to over 100 entrants in 1982, and over 200 in 1991.[10][11][12]

During this time, Doyle Brunson's revolutionary poker strategy guide, Super/System was first published.[13] Despite being self-published and priced at $100 in 1978, the book revolutionized the way poker was played. It was one of the first books to discuss Texas hold 'em, and is today cited as one of the most important books on this game.[14] A few years later, Al Alvarez published a book detailing an early World Series of Poker event.[15] The first book of its kind, it described the world of professional poker players and the World Series of Poker. It is credited with beginning the genre of poker literature and with bringing Texas hold 'em (and poker generally), for the first time, to a wider audience.[16]

Interest in hold 'em outside of Nevada began to grow in the 1980s as well. Although California had legal card rooms offering draw poker, Texas hold 'em was prohibited under a statute which made illegal the now unknown game "stud-horse". However in 1988, Texas hold 'em was declared legally distinct from "stud-horse" in Tibbetts v. Van De Kamp, 271 Cal. Rptr. 792 (1990). Almost immediately card rooms across the state offered Texas hold 'em.[17] (It is often presumed that this decision ruled that hold 'em was a skill game,[18] but the distinction between skill and chance has never entered into California jurisprudence regarding poker.[19]) After a trip to Las Vegas, bookmakers Terry Rogers and Liam Flood introduced the game to European card players in the early 1980s.[20]

The hold 'em explosion

In the first decade of the 21st century, Texas hold 'em experienced a surge in popularity worldwide.[3] Many observers attribute this growth to the synergy of five factors: the invention of online poker, the game's appearance in film and on television, the 2004-05 NHL lockout,[21] the appearance of television commercials advertising online cardrooms, and the 2003 World Series of Poker championship victory by online qualifier Chris Moneymaker.[22]

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