Poker History - Where Did It All Begin

History of Poker

No matter where in the world you're located, it is likely that you have heard of or even played a game of Poker. Poker has changed so there are hundred of different styles we play today around the world. But where did it come from, how did this game that that is part of our world's gaming culture come about? What we know it that it's been a part of our culture for approx. 200 years. But where did it start and how did it get to be what we know and play today.

There are many different theories as to where Poker got started. One theory is that Poker started sometime in 900 AD in China, but there were no cards back in Ancient China. It is written in 969 AD that Emperor Mu Tsung introduced "Domino Cards" to his wife. China isn't the only possible starting place.

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In Egypt explorers have found fragments of cards dating back to the 12th and 13 centuries. Although the exact nature of the original Egyptian game hasn't been discovered, the fragments can be linked to cards that were used for the eastern derivation "Ganjifa" ("Treasure Cards") in the early 16th century.

The Ganjifa card deck has 96 elaborately painted cards; this game may have helped inspire the Persian game of "As Nas" a five player, 25 card game from the 17th century. Nas is one of the earliest games that most resembles the playing style of poker of today. The game of Nas also included individual rounds of betting and hand ranking.

As the game evolved, it spread into Eastern Europe where many of games consisted of 20 cards. It was the "Tarot" with the suited minor Arcana cards that inspired the now popular 52 card deck. Spain and Italy were the first inspired to play using variations of the Tarot deck, which much like playing cards used today also included 4 unique "suits"; Swords, Batons, Cups and Coins.

As card playing spread throughout Europe, other countries got into the game each using a different style of "suits", Switzerland used a combination of Shields, Flowers, bells and Acorns, While Germany was using Hearts and leaves and adopting the Bells and Acorns from the Swiss.

It wasn't until the 15th century, when the French were playing a game called "Poque" a card game that included both bluffing and betting. Poque was the first game that used a deck of cards more like the one we use today, with Hearts, Diamonds, Spades and Clubs. During the 15th century, Poque was the card game of choice in France, one of the most avid card playing countries during the time period.

The French are credited with inspiring the Colonial New World to be in the game. When the French arrived in Canada in the 17th century, they brought their loved game of "Poque" with them. But its popularity really began to spread in the 18th century when a group of French Canadian settlers traveled to the New Word and Settled in what is now New Orleans.

It wasn't until the Civil War when Poque began to swiftly spread and change into more modern versions of the game some of which were called "Stud and "Draw". It can be surmised that proper Poker (as such) was founded during these difficult times in turn of the century America. It wasn't until 1834 when it got its distinct name of Poker thanks to a gambler that went by the name of Green.

Jonathan H Green (1813-?) learned the art of gambling in a Cincinnati Jail where he had been incarcerated. His release from jail brought on his newfound gambling career. Green began traveling up and down the Mississippi River, the busiest gambling region in that period. During his travels he came into contact with the fast evolving game of Poque and wrote of a certain style of the game, which was presumed to have been developed by other riverboat cardsharps.

In his autobiographical chronicles Green refers to this newer version of Poque as "The Cheating Game". This was a 20 card game using a euchre style deck of 10-Ace for 2 to 4 players who were dealt a 5 card hand to wager on. "The Cheating Game" started to replace the popular cardsharp game of 3 card Monte among the gambling circuit. Game players eagerly flocked to the new game as it was perceived to be more challenging. Providing then card enthusiasts with an honest gamble opposed to the notoriously dishonest 3 card game Monte.

Green took an interest in the new game and made the discovery that there was no mention of the game in the definitive American Hoyle Book of Games series, nor were there any other documentation at that time. So Jonathan Green took the task upon himself to formally name and document the "Cheating Game" in his book 'An Exposure of the Arts and Miseries of Gambling'.

It is unknown however when exactly the cheating game became known as poker rather than a variation of Poque. However Poker has never lost its popularity and players can now find literally hundreds of variations, both online and at your local casino or poker room.

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