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The History of Poker

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Poker History
The Roots: There is no clear or direct early ancestor of the game. It is likely that poker derived itself from elements of many different games. The consensus is that poker's birth is a very old one.

1550 - Italy & France: Poker may be directly traced back to the old Italian game of Primero and the French game of Gilet (Betting and valued hands were three of a kind, pairs, three of the same suit and flush), which became Brelan during the reign of Charles IX (1550-74). Brelan evolved into Bouillotte, which flourished during the French Revolution.

1700 - 1800: France, Germany, England & India: By the 18th century the betting and bluffing aspects of the Game had been introduced in such five-card Games as Brag (England), Pochen (Germany), and Poque (France).
Most of the dictionaries and game historians say that the word Poker comes from an eighteenth-century French game, poque. However, there are other references to pochspiel, which is a German game. In pochspiel, there is an element of bluffing, where players would indicate whether they wanted to pass or open by rapping on the table and saying, "Ich Poche!" Some say it may even have derived from the Hindu word, pukka.

1790 - North America: Sailors from Persia taught the French settlers in New Orleans the gambling card game Âs, which was derived from the ancient Persian game of Âs Nas. The Frenchmen would bet by saying, for example, "I poque for a dollar," and would call by saying, "I poque against you for two dollars." Those were the betting expressions used in their game of Poque, a three-card game first played by commoners in France and then by Frenchmen in America as early as 1790. Poque was similar to Bouillotte, a card game popular with the aristocrats in France just prior to the French Revolution of 1789.
Combining the words "Âs" and "Poque," the game became known as "Poqas." Then, influenced by the southern accent and the name of the German bluff game of Pochen, the pronunciation of "Poqas" became "Pokah". Under Yankee influence, the pronunciation finally became "Poker".

Another explanation for the word poker, is that it came from a version of an underworld slang word, "poke," a term used by pickpockets. Card sharps who used the 20-card cheating game to relieve a sucker from his poke (money) may have used that word among themselves, adding an r to make it "poker." The thought was that if the sharps used the word "poker" in front of their victims, those wise to the underworld slang would notice the change. There are those who also believe that "poke" probably came from "hocus-pocus", a term widely used by magicians.

1829 - New Orleans: One of the earliest references was found in the diary of an English actor, Joseph Crowell: In 1829 there was a game - attributed to Henry Clay - being played on a steamboat bound for New Orleans in which each player received five cards and made bets - then whoever held the highest combination of cards won all bets. It was probably the earliest form of poker or its immediate predecessor, the Persian game of Âs Nas. Âs Nas requires a special deck of 25 cards with 5 suits (5 cards per suit total).
Poker moved from New Orleans by steamboat up the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. From the river towns, the game spread east by the new railroad and west by covered wagons.

1834 - The "Cheating Game": Jonathan H. Green makes one of the earliest written references to poker in 1834. In his writing, Green mentions rules to what he called the "cheating game," which was then being played on Mississippi riverboats. It wasn't until this time that he realized this was the first such publication and that American Hoyle, at this time did not mention the game, and he called it Poker.
The game he described was played with 20 cards, using only the aces, kings, queens, jacks and tens. Two to four people could play, and each was dealt five cards. By the time Green wrote about it, poker had become the number one cheating game on the Mississippi boats, receiving even more action than Three-Card Monte. Most people taken by Three-Card Monte thought the 20-card poker seemed more a legitimate game, and they came back, time and time again. It would certainly appear, then, that poker was developed by the cardsharps.
The 20-card deck was replaced by the standard 52, and the flush introduced. During the Civil War, modifications such as open cards (stud poker), the draw, and the straight became popular.

1872 - The Queen on Poker: Poker was taken back to Europe when Robert C. Schenck, U.S. minister to Great Britain, introduced it to members of the court of Queen Victoria at a royal party in Sommerset. A set of rules written by Schenck was the first book on the Game.

1875 - Jackpot Poker: When the joker was introduced as a wild card in 1875, the European influence of poker ended. Further development of the game was essentially American. (Jackpot Poker is draw poker requiring both an "ante" and "jacks-or-better" to open). The phrase "passing the buck" derives from the practice of using a buckhorn-handled knife to designate the dealer.

1903 - Split-Pot / Low Ball: Split-pot/low ball (version of poker) introduced in 1903.

1909 - Bill against Fools: Two Missouri assemblymen (Coran and Lyles) introduced a bill to the state legislature in 1909 to control and license poker players in order to prevent "millions of dollars lost annually by incompetent and foolish persons who do not know the value of a poker hand."

1911 - Boom of Draw Games: In 1911, California's attorney general (Harold Sigel Webb) ruled that closed poker (draw poker) was a game of skill and beyond anti gambling laws. But open poker (stud poker) was a game of chance and therefore illegal. That stimulated the development of new draw games and the use of wild cards. The variety of poker games grew steadily, particularly during the First and Second World Wars.

1938 - Britain's Prohibition: In Britain, gaming laws which originated in the 16th Century are still in operation today and in 1938, the Lord Chief Justice declared poker to be a game of chance, and it was not legalized in clubs until the 1960's.

1950 - 1960: Variations: In the 1960s, poker variations further developed with innovations such as twists (extra draws) and qualifiers (minimum hands to win).

1968 - Concepts of Poker: In 1968, Wallace's Advanced Concepts of Poker was first published. By 1972, the publication had become the largest-selling poker book in the world. The Advanced Concepts of Poker fully identified for the first time the potentially ruthless, manipulative, but highly profitable nature of poker. In addition, the characteristics of consistent winners, and chronic losers were identified. Also identified for the first time were three different kinds of odds, the effects of the betting pace versus the betting stakes, the advantages of aggressive betting, and the advantages gained by the good player when complex and fast-paced games were played. And most important, the Advanced Concepts of Poker clearly identified the differences between the financially profitable good poker and financially destructive gambling as well as the differences between winners and losers.

1970 - World Series of Poker: World series of Poker first played at Binions Horseshoe in Las Vegas in 1970. The winner was declared poker world champion.

1971- Quads is born and rolls onto the poker scene like a natural. Dominates the tournament poker circuit and earns more money in cash games than the per capita of the eastern seaboard... combined.
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