The History of Poker

poker history

The modern day bachelor’s card game of choice has boomed over the last twenty years with the impact of on-line gaming acting as the catalyst for nineties poker fever with the texas hold em form of the game becoming a main stay at dinner parties, iving rooms and bedrooms around the world. However the history of the game is not as straight forward as people might think with the various forms of the game we play today coming to the fore through evolution rather than revolution.

In the beginning there were “Domino Cards”

In essence it is agreed across the world that the game has developed over  approximately eleven centuries of evolution  using a ranked card system and a form of card combinations which have become known as “domino combinations” – And of course, the age old art of bluffing.

The majority of historians and researchers have settled on the belief that the game originally evolved from China in an extremely basic and watered down form to the number of versions we play today. Exact dates are difficult to pin down with experts settling on the period of pre 969 AD when Emperor Mu -Tsung played “domino cards” with his wife at a New Years Eve party.

These “Domino” cards have been excavated with architects confirming that they existed in China before 1000 AD. The cards were apparently the equivalent of modern day dominos except that the cards would be thin strips of paper with combinations of dots, patterns and symbols. It is assumed that eventually the markings evolved to be etched on ivory and wood. The paper cards were also known affectionately as “Money Cards” because of the use of coins on the markings which historians believe also legitimated an early link between the game of poker and gambling.

The movement from East to West?

Whether or not the game formally originated in the east is a question of historical debate and architectural practice. However whether the game began to infiltrate the west from the east, or whether the west were playing a similar form of “Domino” and “Combination” card games is a matter of sholastic opinion. What can be confirmed is a form of a ranked card game being played in Egypt in the 12th and 13th centuries, played socially among the mainstream population.

Debate among historians is heightened with the origins of another ranked card game in Peru in the sixteenth century, known as “Gangifa” or “Treasure” cards. The cards were said to be used in a betting game in the form of a deck of 96 elaborate cards or etched ivory. A group of historians believe that people played the game with rounds of betting used within a hierarchical card structure.

The birth of widespread use

The inauguration of poker within central European culture hails from  a sixteenth century form of a ranked card game called “Primero” – a card game which is the closest example to modern day poker resulting in historians referring to the game as “Poker’s mother.” The art of bluffing and strategy of high and low card ousting were central to the game originating in 1526. It is accepted that by the eighteenth and seventeenth century both France and Germany had developed games from the Spanish form of “Primero” with the French playing “Pogue” and the Germans playing “Pochen.”

The French Legion spreads the word of Poker

It was the French game of “Poque” that quickly became a national past time and the national card game of France. In the late eighteenth century French colonials took the game to Canada with a group of French Canadians intoducing the game to the city of New Orleans where the word spread around America via the Mississipi river, with the game becoming known amongst the new world as “the cheating game.”

The basic form of the game was born with Poker tables becoming widespread throughout American and Europe with different forms and sub-forms of the game developing since the eighteenth century. This original “cheating game`’ is the original basic form of the game we know and love today.

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