While the widespread use of the 52 card deck and face down dealing had gone a long ways to legitimize the game of Poker, it still had a mountain to climb before attaining mainstream acceptance. Many hurdles had to be cleared before this would become a reality, including multiple legal challenges; In 1910, the state of Nevada made it a felony to run a betting game. California followed, however the Attorney General ruled that Draw poker games were in fact based on skill, as opposed to the pure chance game they considered Stud to be. As such, Draw games naturally exploded, as they could continue without legal interference. Ironically, in 1931, Nevada would become the only state in the Union to legalize all Casino gaming. Nevada would remain in this unique position until Atlantic City followed suit in 1978, a move generally accepted as a means to save it’s floundering tourism industry.
Throughout the mid 1900s, the Poker world would see consistent, if not spectacular, growth. Although the law would prevent outright gambling, many players gathered with friends for low stakes private games, and this gave rise to the widespread popularity of recreational poker. While blue-collar American men made up the large portion of poker players, recreational games gradually gained popularity with all types of people all over the world. As the casino industry boomed (with the help of organized crime) in the 60s and 70s, the state of gaming and poker remained in a transitory stage, caught in a fight for legitimacy.
This struggle still continues today to some degree; however in 1970 Poker took a giant step forward with the inception of the World Series of Poker- an event that promised to crown a legitimate Champion. The winner of this event takes home an ever-escalating cash prize, along with the traditional gold bracelet, and the all important bragging rights. The WSOP has seen explosive growth in the last 10 years, and it’s popularity has been such that it has spawned other major tournaments all over the world, including the World and European Poker Tours. The World Poker Tour, specifically, has brought Poker to mainstream TV, capitalizing on market conditions, such as the current NHL lockout, and promotional innovations, such as the WPT camera which allows TV viewers to see each player’s hole cards during play. Currently televised Poker enjoys an unprecedented market share, and the widespread growth initiated in the mid-90s hasn’t slowed down, spawning a multi-billion dollar industry. With the introduction of online poker in 1998, the popularity of this great game is headed for all time highs.