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PostPosted:18.08.2009, 05:10    The History of Poker and Card Games Reply with quoteBack to top

The History of Poker and Card Games

Out of the dark, smoke filled saloons of the untamed wild west a few names that are synonymous with timeless game of Poker are those of Wyatt Earp, Doc Holiday, and “Wild” Bill Hickock. It is legend that Bill Hickock was shot in the head while holding a pair of aces and a pair of eights - forever labeling this hand - ‘the dead mans hand”. Poker has been a staple back-drop in countless Hollywood films such as “Tombstone”, and “The Gambler”, as it represents the gambling spirit of the pioneers who settled the west in search of a new life.

“Poque”, a French variation and France’s national game, gained popularity in the 17th century and, subsequently, was brought to French Canada in the 18th century. Soon, the French were settling in what is modern day New Orleans and Louisiana. Poque began to spread up the mouth of the Mississippi through steam boats and into the interior of America. This, and the German equivalent to poker, “Pochen” evolved from the 16th century game of Spanish “Primero”.

This was truly the heart and soul of high-stakes poker. Bluffing, while holding poor cards in an attempt to deceive or“cheat” players out of their money was a vital part of the game. Primero dates back to 1526 and is known as the Mother of Poker.

During the American Civil war, and in between their hard fought bloody battles, soldiers temporarily forgot their ill-fated futures by engaging in poker as a form of diversion and entertainment but also betting parcels of food, whiskey, money, and other well-sought after goods. For those who survived, Poker emerged Americas newest favorite game.

The last decade of the 19th century Americans headed west in search of riches as well did the game of poker. Since then the tall tales of river boat gambling and bloody shootouts have created the mistique of the game and have contributed to America’s unique history and that of the game of poker, itself.

Up until the early to mid 1800's the game was played with a 20-card deck, evenly dealt between four players. There was no draw and bets were made on a narrow range of combinations. The gradual adoption of the 52-card deck was to accommodate more players and giving rise to the flush, straight flush, and royal flush as additional combinations. This increased the excitement and introduced a second betting interval and enabled poor hands to be improved on. This eventually gave way to games like 5 and 7-card draw, hold em’, and poker with wild cards, to name a few.

All evidence proves that there is no possible way to detail its exact origins since the orginators of the game had no idea the game would become popular, hence no records were kept. The Book of Hoyle makes mention of the game as early as 1850 and has made annual mentions of its never-ending transitions to the game we all know and love today.

No matter, the game of poker is one of those capsules in time that has helped to define America as we know it. It remains thee most popular game in American history, and with the introduction of video poker machines in casinos and high-stakes poker in Vegas, the game has experienced an explosion like no other and offers heart-pounding, big bluff action with unparalleled excitement for all who dare to brave it.

Written by Holly (rae)


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