There isn’t a card game out there that’s captivated players more than poker. Even history’s greats like the former U.S. President Richard Nixon couldn’t resist its appeal. He is rumored to have funded his first Congress run in 1946 with $1,500 he had won at a poker table.
Poker has come a long way, from Wild West saloons to online poker rooms powered by cryptocurrencies raking in millions per tournament. In this article, we break down the history and evolution of poker, a card game said to have over 100 million pro and amateur players playing it regularly.
The Birth of Poker
The journey of poker is dotted with theories and stories of origins stemming back thousands of years. Two ancient games frequently pop up in those conversations — Persia’s As-Nas and France’s Poque. As-Nas dates back to the 17th century and was based on 20-card decks and clear betting schemes, which makes it a worthy contender for the title of poker progenitor. In Europe, a similar game bore great semblance in gameplay and name, Poque, making it the likely forebearer of modern poker.
It was in 19th-century New Orleans that poker started to go global. French settlers brought in Poque, and in the next couple of decades, the Anglicized influence changed Poque to Poker along with the changes in gameplay features, such as five cards for each player and a 52-card deck that was introduced in 1834.
From then on, the game spread like wildfire throughout the Mississippi River all the way to the saloons of the age, especially the Wild West saloons at the frontier in the 1870s and 1880s.
The Wild West Era
Poker was more than just a game for the frontier folk in the Wild West. It was a battle of wits and a proper showdown that quickly led to the one involving Colt 45s. Legendary figures like Wild Bill Hickok and Doc Holliday boast poker exploits that were as famed as their adventures in the frontier. Just take the iconic ‘Dead Man’s Hand’ — a pair of black aces and eights that is forever entwined with Wild Bill Hickok’s lore. He is said to have held that exact hand when assassinated during a game in 1876.
The mechanics of poker also evolved during this time with the introduction of wild cards around 1875, which added a new layer of strategy and unpredictability to the game. While Faro was the crowd favorite in many a Wild West saloon, poker’s popularity was burgeoning, setting a solid foundation for the game’s enduring legacy.
Poker in the 20th Century
The 20th century hailed the golden age of poker that was bound to ensue. All the right signs were there, including the first poker start players. Take Johnny Moss, for example, a seasoned gambler whose prowess at the table became the stuff of legend. His marathon duel against Nick “The Greek” Dandolos in a 1949 high-stakes poker face-off curated by Benny Binion set the stage for many tales that followed.
The World Series of Poker (WSOP) in 1970, played at Binion’s Horseshoe Casino, marked a new era of competitive poker. In fact, it was Moss who clinched the first WSOP title. The competition ushered the advent of Texas Hold’em, with more straightforward rules but with a greater focus on the importance of strategy.
Thus, the Horseshoe Casino became a nexus for all poker aficionados, where every shuffle and call became intrinsic to the development of the modern visage of the game we relish today.
The World Series of Poker
The World Series of Poker is a tournament born out of Benny Binion’s vision to create a tournament that would crown the poker’s top champion. WSOP was first televised by CBS Sports in 1973, sparking the nationwide popularity that is still strong today.
When strolling down the memory lane of WSOP, you’ll find an abundance of exciting poker facts and momentous events. Chris Moneymaker’s victory in 2003 was a story of how an amateur could ascend to poker stardom, drastically reshaping the poker landscape. The effects of his win are still felt today.
The WSOP’s chronicle is filled with moments reminding us that lady luck may smile at you any second. Take Jack Strauss’ miraculous comeback with just one chip on the table, which epitomizes the need to fight until the end. Moreover, the famous poker adage, “a chip and a chair,” came out of his incredible run in the 1982 WSOP.
The rivalries between Johnny Chan, Doyle Brunson, and Phil Hellmuth gave a unique flare to the tournament that continues to enthrall users and players alike with each bluff and deal.
Poker Goes Global
Considering that poker’s roots are found in several games from different parts of the world, it’s safe to say that the game has always been global. However, it’s with the growth of professional tournaments outside the U.S. that the game has seen a massive rise in popularity. For example, the establishment of the WSOP Europe Main Event provided a platform for international players to showcase their prowess.
In Asia, it was the Asian Poker Tour (APT), for instance, which unveiled plans for regional and international expansion that provided the platform for the growth of the game in the region.
A significant leap towards institutionalizing poker on a global scale was the establishment of the International Federation of Poker (IFP) on April 29, 2009, in Lausanne, Switzerland. This body, later rebranded as the International Federation of Match Poker (IFMP), was founded to govern the sport, promoting poker as a mind sport of strategic skill and giving it a sense of guidance and organization that other mainstream sports have.
The Online Poker Revolution
With the emergence of the first online card rooms around 1997, poker got access to a virtually unlimited number of players. The inaugural real money online poker hand was dealt on Planet Poker on January 1, 1998, a site endorsed by Mike “The Mad Genius of Poker” Caro, a celebrated poker professional.
One after the other, online poker sites hit the ground running. With the broader implementation of the internet and websites, geographical barriers that confided the game to brick-and-mortar casinos and card rooms were no longer in power.
The Poker Boom
The “Poker Boom” is a remarkable era in the game of poker that began in the mid-2000s with the advent of online poker and televised broadcasts of poker tournaments. However, it was the Chris Moneymaker’s astounding victory in the 2003 World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event that hailed that surge in popularity.
Chris Moneymaker entered WSOP through an online satellite tournament, proving that even amateurs can enter the Main Event and win. His victory became known as the “Moneymaker Effect,” and coupled with the exposure from television broadcasts showing players’ hole cards, propelled poker into a mainstream frenzy.
Challenges and Legal Issues
Possibly an even greater advance of poker was hampered by legal issues, most notably the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006. As part of the SAFE Port Act, UIGEA effectively prohibited online gambling sites from accepting payments in connection with bets placed via the internet.
Many poker sites went bust in the immediate aftermath of UIGEA, but some, like PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and Absolute Poker, were charged with violating the rules on April 15, 2011, in the event called the “Black Friday,” that resulted in the operators having their domains and assets seized.
Modern Online Poker and Crypto Integration
The integration of blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin led the way for a new breed of online poker — crypto poker. Poker platforms operating on cryptocurrencies are now able to facilitate fast and secure transactions with virtually no fees.
What’s more, the anonymous nature of cryptos means looser Know Your Customer (KYC) requirements, which inadvertently means better safety and security for the players and their personal data.
Popular platforms like Stake.com and Rocketpot Casino offer provably fair cash Texas Hold ’em, Omaha Hi, Omaha Hi-Lo, and 7-Card Stud games, as well as poker tournaments with flexible buy-in structures.
The Advantages of Crypto Poker
Crypto poker sites come with a series of advantages over their traditional counterparts. First of all, the decentralized nature of cryptocurrencies ensures the risk of fraud is significantly reduced and that the integrity of transactions is always maintained. There’s no way crypto poker sites will withhold your winnings on some false pretense.
Secondly, you won’t likely have to go through lengthy KYC verification checks before being able to play and cash out the winnings. The transaction speed, especially when withdrawals are concerned, is greatly improved. You can expect the cashouts to be completed in between 24-72 hours, and that is with the included payment verification by the platform.
Fairness and transparency of BC. Game, Stake.com, and Rocketpot casinos are guaranteed through decentralized random number generators and many other features that make crypto poker so alluring.
Poker’s Enduring Popularity
One must credit poker’s appeal to a rare blend of skill, psychology, and unpredictability that keeps us on our toes with every deal. From the casino floors of Las Vegas to online poker rooms, the essence of the game has remained intact, so it can still reach out and speak to all types of players out there.
Moreover, with online poker, millions can experience that allure across the globe, especially when playing on crypto platforms that offer a streamlined experience with quicker transactions, lesser fees, and an added layer of anonymity, which has become even more critical in today’s world.
Poker has come a long way from the saloons of the Wild West to online poker rooms of the digital realm. The success and longevity of the game are credited to its very essence, which hasn’t changed one bit. If anything, it’s only been improved with new game formats and technologies, such as cryptocurrencies that offer enhanced security, swift transactions, and anonymity.
The next stage in the fusion of traditional gameplay with modern-day digital conveniences is the use of virtual reality technologies that forever blur the lines of reality, allowing you to engage with other users and roam the casino floor looking for poker tables.