The History of Poker

When looking at major sports, you can get an idea of the origin of where each came from. For poker, however, not so much.

The history of poker has a lot of interesting twists and turns. The adaptation to many variations of certain games has also made it hard to pinpoint an exact moment in time of where it all began.

Looking back, you can get a rough estimate, but it is, at best, just an estimate. By looking at historical events, you can get a better picture of how poker came to be.

Likely First Start

If you look up the history of poker, you will see a very likely origin of a Persian game called as-nas. This game featured 20 cards with five ranks. The rankings were as follows:

  • as (ace)
  • shah (king)
  • bibi (queen)
  • serbaz (soldier)
  • couli (dancer)

This game dealt out five cards to four players, so the entire deck was handed out. Players would either have to bluff or show the best hand to win.

This is very similar and a great example of the groundwork for what poker is today. It is not perfect, but it shows that cards were used and some hand ranking was used to show a winner.

Origins From Other Places

Taking a look around the world, you can see how poker has its origins spread out all over the place. These regions had their own names for poker in their respective languages.

The following are regions and their language:

  • Poque (France)
  • Poca (Ireland)
  • Brag (Britain)
  • Primero (Spanish, possibly Italian)
  • Brelan (France, at a later date)

Using Britain as an example, this game of Brag might be an early indicator of poker. This is because they are an English-speaking country, and they used antes in their game.

The game they played was some form of a three-card poker game. The deck they had was composed of 32 cards, and then three cards were dealt to the players.

It could be concluded that they were playing the best hand after three cards, so three of a kind would be the ultimate hand here. It is possible that America could have copied this style of play.

Gambling in the US

One popular timeline of gambling in the US was on the river around the 1700s and 1800s. More specifically on the Mississippi River and on riverboats. The culture of it all is the best example of what we have today.

The games most commonly played were versions of the games like as-nas. They had decks of 20 cards and tried to make the best hands possible.

This also led to the beginning of using a 52-card deck and the introduction to the game of stud. Stud has been around for a minimum of 200 years or more.

Poker in the 1800s to Now

Poker in the late 1800s primarily became popular because people were looking for ways to take your money in a gambling way. The primary reason, other than having fun, was to see if you could clean someone out.

Today’s poker, regardless of strategy or etiquette, is to leave the game with more money than you came with. This held true back then and even now. Players were trying to make a living doing this, and even more so in today’s world, players make millions by winning tournaments.

What has developed over the years was not only a sense of style and variations of poker games but the culture of it all as well. Not to mention the online play has transformed the game even more.


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