While Poker is currently the hottest game around, played by all types of people in all walks of life, this wasn’t always the case. There is no clear consensus on the exact origins of the game of Poker, however the evidence suggests that conceptually, it is indeed a very old game, likely derived from a multitude of chance games, and eventually evolving into the modern game we have today.
One of the more popular beliefs about Poker is that it was born around the year 900 in ancient China. Legend has it that Poker evolved from a Chinese domino game, with some historians claiming Chinese emperors used to play the game. With little physical evidence to support this claim, this historic account may never be verified.
Another common theory is that Poker as we know it today evolved from the 17th century Persian game known as “As Nas”- this is a game with more resemblance to modern Poker, as it employs a unique deck of 25 cards and consisting of 5 distinct suits.
There are also the German and French games of “Pochspiel” and “Poque” respectively, and these games both involve the elements of wagering and bluffing which seems to make them more direct ancestors; the names themselves also suggest that perhaps Poker was a descendant of these less complex games.
While the exact roots of the game appear unclear, the more recent past is easier to accurately recount. Although many Americans claim the game as their innovation, cards, and card games have been quite popular in Europe since the 14th century, and in fact the game of “Poque” was introduced to the United States by French settlers in New Orleans. Despite this, modern Poker is believed to have evolved in the United States in the early 1800s, born on the big rivers of Mississippi. By the middle 1800s, the modern 52-card deck was in play, and the Gold Rush and Civil War caused a dramatic increase in the game’s popularity, as young men everywhere took up the game. The game expanded westward, however at this stage it remained primarily the full time craft of cheats and swindlers, as early versions of the game were based mainly on “luck” and were easily manipulated by the unscrupulous. In the early 1900s, the modern game of skill had developed, and Poker started to gain legitimacy and credibility, albeit very slowly. Recreational Poker was still to come, as the game was mainly played by gamblers in bars and saloons. From these humble beginnings, Poker would undergo a world of change in the 100 years that followed.