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Poker History

Poker History
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Poker basically is a card game. But poker isn't just a card game - it is many card games. The majority of poker games do share some common features, especially betting in rounds and the ranking of hands. Poker is commonly played in cardrooms (often within casinos) and in private home games. The games played in cardrooms seem to divide into stud games, draw games, and flop games. In home games, however, anything goes, including games that seem to have no reason to be called poker. The varieties played in home games probably number in the hundreds. Some common cardroom games include Texas Hold'em, Seven Card Stud, Omaha, Razz, Lowball, and Pineapple.

The birth of Poker has been convincingly dated to the first or second decade of the 19th century. It appeared in former French territory centred on New Orleans which was ceded to the infant United States by the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. Its cradle was the gambling saloon in general and, in particular, those famous or notorious floating saloons, the Mississippi steamers, which began to ply their trade from about 1811.

Twenty-card Poker is well attested. In 1847 Jonathan Green mentions a game of 20-card Poker played on a Mississippi steamboat bound for New Orleans in February 1833. This provides evidence that the 20-card game was being challenged by the 52-card game in the mid-1830s. The gradual adoption of a 52-card pack was made partly to accommodate more players, perhaps partly to give more scope to the recently introduced flush (the straight was as yet unknown), but chiefly to ensure there were enough cards for the draw - another relative novelty, and one that was to turn Poker from a gamble to a game of skill. This provides evidence that the 20-card game was being challenged by the 52-card game in the mid-1830s. The gradual adoption of a 52-card pack was made partly to accommodate more players, perhaps partly to give more scope to the recently introduced flush (the straight was as yet unknown), but chiefly to ensure there were enough cards for the draw - another relative novelty, and one that was to turn Poker from a gamble to a game of skill.

The introduction of Poker into English society is often credited, if only on his own claim, to General Schenck, the American ambassador to Britain.

From the middle of the 19th century Poker experienced rapid changes and innovations as it became more widespread through the upheavals of the Civil War. Stud, or ‘stud-horse’ Poker, a cowboy invention said to have been introduced around Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, first appears in The American Hoyle of 1864. Draw, Stud, and Jack Pots, all appear in the 1875 edition of The American Hoyle, together with Whiskey Poker, a form of Commerce based on Poker combinations, and Mistigris, which was Poker with a 53rd card ‘wild’, namely ‘the blank card accompanying every pack’. Following Draw and Stud, a third major structural division of the Poker game, represented today by Texas Hold ’em, is that of varieties involving one or more communal cards.

High-Low Poker, in which the pot is divided equally between the highest and the lowest hands, is attested as early as 1903. It first appears in the 1926 edition and achieved its greatest popularity during the ‘thirties and ‘forties, subsequently giving rise to Lowball, in which only the lowest hand wins.

The rise of modern tournament play dates from the World Series of Poker started in 1970.

 

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