There seem to be differences of opinion on the origin of Poker. Moreover, there seems to be no clear or direct early ancestor of the game. And it is more likely that Poker derived its present day form and name from elements of many different games. The consensus is that because of its basic principle, its birth is a very old one.
There are as many variations regarding the possible birthplace of Poker as there are of the game itself. The most popular belief is that the Chinese invented the game around 900 A.D., possibly derived from the Chinese dominoes.Others state that Poker originates from the Persian game "as nas". This is a 5-player Persian game, which requires a special deck of 25 cards with 5 suits. However, this is only recorded back to the 17th century.
Another theory calls on the French "poque". The French who settled New Orleans around 1480 played Poque, a card game involving bluffing and betting. This was stated to be the first use of a deck consisting of spades, diamonds, clubs, and hearts.
Fragments of cards have been tentatively dated to 12th or 13th century in Egypt. Some propose that modern cards originated from the Indian card game of Ganjifa. With so many claims, narrowing down on the exact birthplace of Poker is akin to pulling a royal straight flush.
The earliest reference to Poker
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. He soon realized that his was the first such reference to the game, and since it was not mentioned in the current American Hoyle, he chose to call the game 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 Name of the game
The origin of the word Poker is also well debated. Most of the dictionaries and game historians say that it 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 could have been derived from the Hindu word, pukka.
Yet another possible explanation for the word poker, is that it came from a version of an underworld slang word, "poke," a term used by pickpockets. Cardsharps who used the 20-card cheating game to relieve a sucker from his poke 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 not surmise the change.
There are those who also believe that "poke" probably came from "hocus-pocus", a term widely used by magicians. The game of Poker later evolved to include 32 cards, and eventually the modern day deck of 52, not counting the two Jokers. The Evolution of Poker The game of Poker has evolved through the years, through many backroom games to the present day casinos around the world. Its history is rich with famous places and characters. For example, during the Wild West period of United States history, a saloon with a Poker table could be found in just about every town from coast to coast.
Today, Poker is carefully regulated by gambling laws, and saloons have given way to casinos and card rooms, but Poker is played more than any other card game in the world. It has grown into a sporting event, with competitions and tournaments all around the world. Tournaments take place almost every week of the year somewhere in the world.
If you compare the prizes of major sporting events around the world, you will find that the monetary outcome of any given event in Poker would (pardon the pun) stack up. Poker today is one of the fastest growing, but hardly recognized sporting events. The World Poker Tour could change that. The WPT is a series of televised championship poker events throughout the world and the mission of the WPT is to turn tournament poker into a televised sport (like the PGA did for golf and NASCAR did for stock car racing.)
The pinnacle of the poker world is The World Series of Poker. This annual event attracts players from all over the world every year to compete for money and titles as the world's top Poker players. Every May, the only place poker players want to be is at the World Series of Poker at Binion's Horseshoe in Las Vegas, NV.
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