Poker is the world’s most popular card game – and its’ one with a rich history that began well before the early 19th century, when poker as we know it today came into being. For more than ten centuries, people from various cultures enjoyed playing games of chance with simple dice, dominos, and cards similar to the playing cards in use worldwide today. Ready to learn more about the history of poker? There’s more to it than meets the eye.
Historians agree that the Chinese game of domino cards contributed mightily to poker’s development. This game was invented sometime prior to 969 CE, when Emperor Mu-Tsung and his wife celebrated New Year’s Eve with a festive, rousing game of chance that blended elements of poker and mahjong.Various betting games continued to increase in popularity as time passed. 12th and 13th century Egyptians enjoying games played with cards, and 16th century Persians inventing Ganjifa, also known as Treasure Cards, for use in a variety of games. Ganjifa decks were much larger than standard poker decks; they contained 96 elaborately decorated cards made of wafer-thin slices of wood or ivory. Like poker, the historic Persain game of As Nas was extremely popular.About the same time, a Spanish game called “Primero” became popular; it involved three cards being dealt to each of the players who would bluff or increase bets while holding poor cards. As in poker, bluffing played an integral part in this historic card game. Germans soon began playing a game called “Pochen,” and the French started to play a game called “Poque;” these sprang from Primero, which is often referred to as the mother of modern poker.When French colonials came to Canada, they brought their beloved game with them; it was the national card game of France, and it soon became popular throughout the new world, eventually traveling from New Orleans, up the Mississippi River and throughout what would eventually become the United States, where modern poker was developed.
The Birth of Modern Poker
It was a great day in history when poker as we know and appreciate it came into existence. Often referred to as “The Cheating Game” by writers such as Jonathan H. Green, who mentioned its popularity on the riverboats that plied the Mississippi, poker rapidly replaced 3-Card Monte, which was then among the most popular cardsharp games. Despite its moniker, poker was perceived as more honest than its rival, as 3-Card Monte was frequently rigged. Players liked poker for its challenges, too; it proved an excellent way to pass time, particularly when other forms of entertainment were scarce.Soldiers, cowboys, and gentlemen of every stripe enjoyed poker throughout the 19th century; both Union and Confederate troops enjoyed the game during the Civil War, and it was so popular across the West that just about every town boasted saloons with poker tables. From its birth a short two centuries ago to today, when we enjoy playing poker with friends online and in person, the game has never looked back. Unlike other games that have faded into the annals of history, poker continues to gain popularity with in-person and online players worldwide.
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