Poker is one of the most popular games in the world. But how did this card game become such a hit with players across the globe? Let’s take a look at its origins and how it evolved into the game we all know and love today.

The First Hand

A great level of debate surrounds where the game of poker originated.

Some historians believe it can be traced back to Chinese civilization back in the 10th century in the form of a domino card game. Others argue that it first came into existence as a modification of the Persian card game called As-Nas.

There is less confusion surrounding when the game was first recorded in the Americas. More modern theories take the stance that this was when poker shifted into the game that is so widely played now.

It rose to prominence in the late 18th century before becoming popular along the Mississippi River by the 1800s before expanding out to the West during the gold rush.

Getting Flushed

It was during this period in the southern US states where poker started to gain an identity like the one we play today. English-speaking settlers in those areas translated the game name from poque to poker. Contemporary rules and aspects of the game were also adopted, including each player being given five cards and a 52-card deck being used.

The ensuing years saw further changes introduced to the game. The flush was added soon after the 52-card deck came into play and by 1850 the draw was also created. During the American Civil War (1861-65) a number of other versions of the game materialized, like five-card variation of stud poker.

Over the next 50 years, poker would begin to thrive. The wild card was created in 1875. Lowball and split-pot poker found their way into the game in the early 1900s. Then community card poker games were introduced in about 1925.

The First Great Poker Invasion

The 20th century passed with poker continuing to be a mainstay on the gambling scene. It wasn’t until the 1970s that the game really took off.

Modern tournament play started to appeal to wider audiences. The World Series of Poker was established in 1970 with the legendary Johnny Moss being crowned the first ever Main Event champion.

Strategy books were soon released on the market such as Super System: A Course in Power Poker by Doyle Brunson and The Theory of Poker by David Sklansky. This helped to expose the game to a larger audience. This also saw it become commonplace in popular culture with television shows, movies, and even music using poker as inspiration for content and material.

Things reached a crescendo in the 1980s. In 1987, the US state of California took the landmark step of legalizing flop games of Omaha and Hold’em. This emphatically increased the number of poker games taking place in the state.

Just one year later, in 1988, the US Congress gave the green light for the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). This allowed casino games to operate legally on Indian lands.

As the 1990s approached, poker was more popular and available than ever before. Las Vegas and Atlantic City attracted millions of tourists every year who treated a visit to the casinos in those cities to play poker as a pilgrimage.

The first online poker room, Planet Poker, was founded in 1998, and in 1999 the iconic British TV show Late Night Poker hit the airwaves.

The Online Poker Boom of 2003

The 21st century came and within a matter of years the entire landscape of poker would change. US poker player Chris Moneymaker sealed an historic victory in that year’s WSOP Main Event. It was a watershed moment for the game because Moneymaker was the first winner of the tournament that had qualified from an online satellite.

This momentous moment saw online poker experience a surge in popularity.

Poker tournaments such as the WSOP, World Poker Tour, European Poker Tour, and Latin American Poker Tour drew huge crowds with hordes of players attempting to book their seat at the competitions through online qualifiers. Big-name television networks couldn’t get enough of covering these live events.

Poker has suffered its dark days since those halcyon times of 2003. The introduction of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006 saw participation numbers at online and live events stutter but players still flocked to the tables.

On April 15, 2011, the US Department of Justice indicted three of the biggest online poker sites on grounds of money-laundering and fraud. It took some time before the industry recovered.

Today, online and land-based poker revenues are still hitting healthy figures. The game remains the most renowned classic casino table game and the future is once again looking bright for the game that boasts such a rich history.