At this point, it’s fairly safe to assume that most people on Earth are familiar with Poker. It’s a card game that’s been played for hundreds of years now; in a way, you might say that it’s experiencing something of a revival in recent years (amongst people of all ages and nations). However, despite its continuing (and growing) popularity, most people have absolutely no idea about the history of Poker – how it got started or how it has developed down throughout the ages.
Currently, conventional wisdom has it that poker is a derivative of an ancient Persian card game (from the 1500’s or 1600’s) called “As Nas”. In that particular game, there were 5 suits built from a deck of 25 cards. Strangely enough, As Nas featured a standard mode of play that’s very similar to that of the 5-card stud.
Anyway, as the story goes, at some point, Europeans began to pick up on this great game, renaming it “poque” or “pochen”. Over time, this evolved into what we now refer to as Poker, of course. Where did that moniker come from? Naturally, historians think it originated from what the Irish took to calling the game, “Poca”.
Additionally, there are certain sound-alikes found throughout Europe; in Germany for instance we have “pochen”, which loosely translates to mean “to brag or bluff”. Clearly this indicates some kind of relationship with the very nature of the game we call Poker, as the ability to bluff your hand is what largely determines the strategy of the game itself. However, we still don’t know if this is the true origin of poker or not; for instance, the French have a similar game called “brelan” that uses a system of escalating bets while also incorporating the idea of bluffing into the equation. Similarly, there was another card game that was popular during the Renaissance called “Primero” which is also strikingly similar to Poker and perhaps represents a direct lineage.
Moreover, there was also an English game (Brag) which seems to have either been a direct descendent of Primero or brelan. There are examples of this type of play from the 1800’s which involved a deck of 20 cards, 4 players and bets which are made based upon which player is supposed to have the best hand. Subsequently, we see the 52 card deck emerge and the draw and flush were added as well. The era of the US civil war saw things like the straight and stud poker emerge. Afterwards, the familiar community card poker, lowball, wildcard and split-pot forms of the game emerged.
This of course brings us to the 20th century, the era where Poker truly developed into what it is today. Tournaments became popular as did the idea of introducing the game into casinos. All of this led us to the point we are at today, where Poker can be played online anonymously or as part of worldwide tournaments which feature extremely high stakes. Hope you enjoyed this little glimpse into the history of the game, now get out there and get back to playing, good luck!