A Brief History of Poker
If you want to play poker, first things first: know your game. Like anything else knowledge is power, knowledge of numbers, knowledge of odds, tells, hands, psychology & most important of all, knowledge of your opponents. I would like to share some knowledge of this beautiful game and have a little history lesson.
Where did Poker originate?
Card games based on psychological strategy & card rankings have been around for centuries; this is the basis of what poker is. There are different opinions on where exactly poker is derived but the most common thoughts are that it was developed from a Persian game called 'As Nas' and the closest form to the poker we know & love today is called 'Pogue', which comes from France.
It is known that Poker was introduced to America in New Orleans by a group of French settlers. Players honed their skills and developed a lust for the game on the riverboats of the Mississippi River.
I'm sure you've all seen Maverick, a fantastic Western comedy involving poker on the Mississippi Riverboats. If you have not seen this movie, you must go see it! It's about poker, with Mel Gibson. In a nutshell: Mel running about in his usual charming, cheeky, comical way, trying to con everyone into giving him money to play in a high stakes poker game, delivering a few dodgy one liners along the way & trying to nail Jodie Foster by the end of it. Most serious film critiques would probably strangle me in my sleep for saying it, but I don't care, it's fab and a great film to warm the poker cockles.
The era in time that this was all happening was in the 18th century which is why we associate poker with the Wild West. Pretty cool by me. There could not have been a better time or location for us to wish we playing poker in. I can completely imagine myself tethering up my horse, rolling into the saloon with my slacks & my gun, trusty side kick in tow, the cowboy hat of course & let's throw in a sheriff's badge for good measure, why not, this is my fantasy.
Sitting at the table, I would like to ad in my fantasy husband, Liam Neeson, as collateral. Well, ok let's be honest, it's more likely that I would be the dancing girl at the back. In fact I would probably even be the one that gets shot first when John Wayne comes in and shoots everybody. OK moving on...
The Wild West is where a lot of our poker terminology comes from as well: 'Under the gun' is a well known saying in poker which means you are one to the left of the button & therefore first to act in each hand.
Back in the days of Cowboys and Indians they didn't have shiny plastic buttons to keep track of the betting so they used their guns. Saying 'I was sat under the shiny plastic button' just doesn't sound quite as cool does it, so the saying 'Under the gun' stuck.
Holding 'The Nuts' is another fantastic poker saying from the good ole days. It means you are holding the best hand and it comes from literally throwing your 'nuts' in as collateral. Don't worry guys, I'm not talking about your own personal nuts, I can't imagine many other men being interested in those. I'm talking about your carriage nuts.
Apparently, as legend would have it, men used to take the nuts off their carriages to take into the saloons with them so people couldn't steal the carriage while they were inside. If they then got caught up in a little friendly poker game and found themselves with the best possible hand and didn't have enough money to bet big, they would simply throw in the carriage nuts to up the bet and so forth comes the saying "I've got the nuts' - the best possible hand.
But enough of poker sayings we can go there later, back to history.
Poker started its rise to fame and became hugely popular for a few reasons. One reason is the huge success of the WSOP (World Series of Poker) - which started in 1970 - where tournament play was introduced and along with it poker celebrities were born: Doyle Brunson, Amarillo Slim, Johnny Moss and Benny Binion to name a few. The next catalyst for the rapid growth of poker is the success of internet gambling and mainstream TV coverage. The first real money internet hand was dealt by Planet Poker in 1998 and in 1999 the cult TV show 'Late Night Poker' was first aired. These factors opened the game up to thousands across Europe.
I like to think that I played my part, presenting a hugely popular Poker TV show called 'Poker Night Live' learning and loving the game with anyone who happened to travel too far up the Sky Channels and find us.
So Poker boomed and we have come a long way from the days of slacks and saloons. Now players can sit in the comfort of their own homes playing online for cash and winning seats into Million pound tournaments. There are many poker variants, Texas Holdem being the most widely played, also Stud (5 & 7 card), Omahi (Hi & Low, 8 or better), Razz, Horse, Three Card, Triple Draw, Chinese... the list goes on. Then you have limit, no limit, pot limit. On top of this you have cash games, tournament games, sit and goes, satellites, shoot outs, freeroll, turbo, knock-out and heads up. It sounds confusing but do not fear because I am here to help you through it.
So strap on your leathers, lengthen your lasso and polish your spurs, maybe we can make some history of our own...
READY to Play? Get novice tips and low-stakes advice at our Party Poker Beginners Guide.