The history of poker is a matter of some debate and the origin of Poker is widely disputed. There are as many possible birthplaces as there are variations of the game.
Some believe the name of the game likely descended from the French poque, which descended from the German pochen, but it is not clear whether the games named by those terms were the real origins of poker. The French who settled New Orleans around 1480 played Poque, a game involving bluffing and betting. This was stated to be the first use of a deck consisting of spades, diamonds, clubs, and hearts.
The game losely resembles the Persian game of as nas, and may have been taught to French settlers in New Orleans by Persian sailors.As nas 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.
Poker is commonly regarded as sharing ancestry with the Renaissance game of primero and the French brelan. The English game brag (earlier bragg) clearly descended from brelan and incorporated bluffing (though the concept was known in other games by that time). It is quite possible that all of these earlier games influenced the development of poker as it exists now.
The most popular belief is that it was invented by the Chinese around 900 A.D., possibly derived from the Chinese dominoes. On New Year's Eve, 969, the Emperor Mu-tsung is reported to have played "domino cards" with his wife.
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. We can see that narrowing down the exact origin becomes as difficult as pulling a royal straight flush.
As early as the sixteenth century, Germans played a bluffing game which they called "Pochen." It later developed into a French version, called "Poque," which was eventually brought over to New Orleans and played on the riverboats that plied the Mississippi.
The history of poker in the United States has a bit more consistency. Poker traveled from New Orleans by steamboat up the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. The game then spread via wagon and train. In the 1830s, the game was refined further and became officially known as Poker.
English actor Joseph Crowell described the game as played in New Orleans in 1829: played with a deck of 20 cards, four players bet on which player's hand of cards was the most valuable. Jonathan H. Green's book An Exposure of the Arts and Miseries of Gambling described spread of the game from there to the rest of the country by Mississippi riverboats, on which gambling was a common pastime.
Soon after this spread, the full 52-card English deck was used, and the flush was introduced. During the American Civil War, many additions were made, including draw poker, stud poker (the five-card variant), and the straight. Further American developments followed, such as the wild card (around 1875), lowball and split-pot poker (around 1900), and community card poker games (around 1925). Spread of the game to other countries, particularly in Asia, is often attributed to the U.S. military.
In 1910, Nevada made it a felony to run a betting game. The Attorney General of California declared that draw poker was based upon skill and therefore the antigambling laws could not stop it. But stud poker was illegal, as it was based solely on chance. With this decision, draw poker games developed and grew. This caused Nevada to reverse itself in 1931 and legalize casino gambling.
The game and jargon of poker have become important parts of American culture and English culture. Such phrases as ace in the hole, beats me, blue chip, call the bluff, cash in, pass the buck, poker or po- face, stack up, up the ante, when the chips are down, wild card, and others are used in everyday conversation even by those unaware of their origins at the poker table.
Modern tournament play became popular in American casinos after the World Series of Poker began in 1970. It was also during that decade that the first serious strategy books appeared, notably The Theory of Poker by David Sklansky, Super System by Doyle Brunson and The Book of Tells by Mike Caro.
Broadcast of poker tournaments for cable and satellite TV distribution has added additional popularity to the game.
There is plenty of luck in Poker, but the game requires incredibly great skill as well, and each player is the master of his own fate. The luck-to-skill ratio is hard to quantify, but with games such as these, a novice can win in a short session; however, over the course of playing for many hours, the better player will invariably prevail. Herbert O. Yardley, who wrote the classic book The Education of a Poker Player in 1957, said that he never lost at more than three consecutive sessions. Indeed, if a player constantly loses in more sessions than he wins, then such a player is not just unlucky; he is simply being outplayed. With the exception of Bridge, Poker demands more skill than any other card game. Some people would debate even this statement and say that Poker stands at the very apex of card games requiring skill.
Today, Poker is truly an international game, enjoyed in virtually every country where card games are played. There are hundreds of versions of Poker, and the game is played not only in private homes, but also in countless Poker rooms at famous casinos.
One thing can not be questioned or disputed regarding the history of poker and that is this is a game which has stood the test of time and becomes richer and fuller with each generation.