A Brief History - A Few Versions
ORIGINS OF THE GAME
There seem to be differences of opinion on the origin of Poker. Moreover, there seems to be no clear or direct early ancestor of the game. It is more likely that Poker derived its present day form from elements of many different games. The consensus is that because of it's basic principal, its birth is a very old one.
While its origins are unknown, it is likely that poker is a direct descendant from the Persian game of As Nas. This is a 5 player Persian game, which requires a particular deck of 25 cards with 5 suits.
Playing cards are believed to have originated in Egypt by the Mamelukes, then spread to Europe through traders. An almost complete pack of ancient Mameluke cards was found in Istanbul in 1939, lending credence to this theory. This ancient pack of playing cards consisted of 52 cards. The traditional poker deck can trace it origins to this set. Many of the suits and images in the antiquated deck can be found in your average poker hand today Kings, queens, and weaponry.
The starting point of Poker is widely uncertain. There are as many likely birthplaces as there are variations of the game. The most well liked belief is that it was invented by the Chinese around 900 A.D., possibly resulting from the Chinese dominoes. On New Year's Eve, 969, the Emperor Mu tsung is reported to have played "domino cards" with his wife.
Another speculation calls on the French "poque". The French who settled New Orleans played Poque, a card game involving bluffing and betting. This was stated to be the original use of a deck consisting of spades, diamonds, clubs, and hearts.
Remains of cards have been tentatively dated to 12th or 13th century in Egypt. Some suggest that modern cards originated from the Indian card game of Ganjifa. We can see that narrowing down the precise origin becomes as tricky as pulling a royal straight flush.
ORIGINS OF THE NAME
The origin of the word Poker is also well debated. Most of the dictionaries and game historians say that it comes from an eighteenth century French game, poque. However, there are other references to pochspiel, which is a German game. In pochspiel, there is an element of bluffing, where players would indicate whether they wanted to pass or open by rapping on the table and saying, "Ich Poche!" Some say it may even have derived come the Hindu word, pukka.
Yet another possible explanation for the word poker, is that it came from a version of an underworld slang word, "poke," a term used by pickpockets. Cardsharps who used the 20 card cheating game to relieve a sucker from his poke may have used that word among themselves, adding an r to make it "poker." The thought was that if the sharps used the word "poker" in front of their victims, those wise to the underworld slang would not surmise the change.
There are those who also believe that "poke" probably came from "hocus pocus", a term widely used by magicians. The game of Poker later evolved to include 32 cards, and eventually the modern day deck of 52, not counting the two Jokers.
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