The Origins and Evolution of Poker
The game poker and its principles go back over 10 centuries. From several games, the concepts of card rankings and bluffing were adopted to form this iconic family of card games. The singular origin of poker is unknown. It was influenced by a multitude of games rather than descending from a single one.
In China. pre-dating 969 A.D., the Emperor Mu-tsung was believed to have played a game similar to modern poker using “domino cards.” Following the Emperor, Egyptians in the 12th and 13th century were known to be card players. However, the most notable ancient card game, and arguably the primary ancestor of Poker, was the Persian game As-Nas. As-Nas is believed to have been created in the 16th century. The game used 25 cards, with hierarchal hand rankings, and employed betting rounds. These principles are so reminiscent of modern Poker, in 1937 R. F. Foster wrote in his book Foster’s Complete Hoyle, an encyclopedia of games, that American’s were undoubtedly playing the Persian game As-Nas. American poker at the time used 20 cards and therefore more closely resembled the ancient game.
The Spanish card game Primero, which inspired the German game called “Pochen” and the French “Poque,” introduced the integral concept of bluffing. Bluffing is a well-known tool used in modern Poker. This allows players with poor cards to deceive other players. Potentially one can trick other players into folding, while they take home the pot with bad cards. Primero is thought to date back to around 1526 and is the only confirmed direct ancestor of modern day Poker.
Poque found itself on the Mississippi river after the French imported it with them to Canada when they settled in Acadia. Forty years later, when the French and Indian war ensued, the British were concerned about the loyalty of Acadians (Cajuns). The British assumed they would band with the French. The British, in their fear, expelled the Acadians from their settlement and they fled to Louisiana. At the time, Louisana was a French settlement. Among other things, the Cajun’s brought cuisine, culture, and Poque down the Mississippi.
The earliest references to modern American poker is from Jonathan H. Green in 1834. He described a game called “The Cheating Game,” which was popular on Mississippi River boats. The players believed the game to be more challenging and honest than gambling games of the past. From this, Poker was born. Poker continued to increase in popularity, from the Wild West to the Civil War, it was a popular past time. Modern Poker of the United States has also evolved within its two-century life-span. Draw poker, stud poker, and Texas Hold ‘Em are the most popular variations played today. No limit Texas Hold ‘Em, introduced in the 70’s, is the most popular and exhilarating variant of poker.