Poker: A Quick History

Poker is an old card game that developed and evolved over time.  The origins of Poker are traced back 1,000 years and across a wide range of civilizations to both the Sung Dynasty of 10th century China, and to Persia (Iran) from a game called “As Nas” dating back to the 16th century. There are many variations of Poker games that throughout its history have varied considerably.  That said, however, the two basic elements of a) psychological strategy and b) card ranking have always been the prevalent fundamentals to serve as key identifiers of this card game, regardless of the other less essential table rules that may vary.

In the 17th century, in France, the popular game of Poque is the version of the game that is most closely linked to Poker’s contemporary form.  Poque made its way across the Atlantic with a group of French settlers who eventually founded the city of New Orleans. From there, during the 18th and 19th centuries, Poker spread to the riverboats and saloons along Mississippi River and finally westward earning it the historical associations with America’s “Wild West”.


From Poque, the American versions soon became the game we know as Stud Poker.  Then, other variations developed and became popular, including: 5 Card Stud and 7 Card Stud, Texas Hold’em, Omaha and Omaha Hi-Low. Texas Hold’em however has gained a strong foothold as a tournament Poker game of choice.  During the 1970’s it experienced a rise to cult status when it appeared as the featured game in the World Series of Poker. Today it is by far the most popular of all where it is regularly played in leading online poker rooms and in land-based casinos around the world.

Tournaments: The World Series of Poker & Beyond

The history of poker would be incomplete without mentioning the rise of the World Series of Poker. The WSOP is the game’s most notable annual competitive tournament, attracting professional players from around the world.  The first person to win the title of Poker World Champion in 1970 was Johnny Moss when the game was held at Binion’s Horseshoe in Las Vegas NV. Then in 2003, another Vegas operation, Harrah’s Casino, bought the exclusive rights to host the tournament which is now held annually at the Rio Hotel and Casino. Poker tournament fever continued its explosive growth and the World Series of Poker expanded to venues across the United States and across the world when the first-ever World Series of Poker Europe was held in late 2007. The World Series of Poker tournament circuit has reached epic proportions and is continuing to make poker history with over $100,000,000 in prize money and fifty-five gold-bracelet events.  Online Poker providers, however, like rising star are quickly developing ‘real feel’ electronic, online tournament poker sites where national and international player participation will be more readily available to everyone around the clock.  As Online Poker fever takes hold, so will a new breed of competitive events.

Facts & Names of Modern Poker Legends

The poker community has become so mainstream, that people’s interests in everything about the game is now rooted in popular entertainment with a particular fascination for its early American “pioneers”.  There are a few standout, historical heroes that come to mind whenever the conversation turns serious about the game.  The main ones are:

Doyle Brunson, the “Texas Dolly” was the first-ever million dollar poker tournament winner.

Facts & Stats:

  • 9 WSOP bracelets.
  • Authored Doyle Brunson’s Super System, authoritative tutorial book about Poker

Stu Ungar, “The Kid” is known as one of the game’s child prodigies.

Facts & Stats:

  • A champion player by the age of fourteen.
  • Considered to be a “natural talent” of this game.
  • 5 WSOP bracelets and
  • Earned an estimated $30,000,000 over the course of his career which was mostly lost to an abusive drug problem and which led to his premature death at the age of 45.

Johnny Moss, “the Grand Old Man”. His ‘moniker’ came from his youth when he was hired to monitor games at a local saloon in his hometown of Odessas, Texas, where he was a fair-play fanatic. One story recounts how he threatened to shoot (and eventually wounded) a man he caught spying on his cards during a game.

Facts & Stats:

  • Moss won eight bracelets in the 25 consecutive WSOP events that he participated in, between the years 1970 to 1995.

Thomas Austin Preston, Jr. , “Amarillo Slim” was controversial both at and away from the poker tables.

Facts & Stats:

  • Had a moderately successful career in show-business;
  • 4 WSOP bracelets and
  • Is listed in the Poker Hall of Fame.

Benny Binion, “The Cowboy”:

  • Founder of the World Series of Poker, playing a key role in bringing poker to the masses.
  • Propells Las Vegas into a world-class gambling resort as one of the most influential figures in the city’s history.

The history of poker will undoubtedly continue, and other rising stars will one day become recognized as poker legends. It’s entirely conceivable that a decade from now a few amazing JoinOurGamesPoker online tournament players will be adding their names to this esteemed list.