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The History of Poker from the Riverboat Gambling to Online   A Brief History - The Game Arrives




   Jonathan H. Green makes one of the earliest written references to Poker in 1834. In his writing, Green mentions rules to what he called the "cheating game," which was then being played on Mississippi river boats. He soon realized that his was the first such reference to the game, and since it was not mentioned in the current American Hoyle, he chose to call the game Poker. The game he described was played with 20 cards, using only the aces, kings, queens, jacks and tens. Two to four people could play, and each was dealt five cards. By the time Green wrote about it, poker had become the number one cheating game on the Mississippi boats, receiving even more action than Three Card Monte. Most people taken by Three Card Monte thought the 20 card poker seemed more a legitimate game, and they came back time and time again. It would certainly appear, then, that Poker was developed by the cardsharps.

   From its New Orleans stronghold, the game was carried up the Mississippi and Ohio rivers by steamboat, quickly spreading into the interior by wagon and train, then heading west with the California gold rush. By the late 1850s, the game was fast evolving into its modern day form. But before poker would rule the land, there was a war to be fought. The Civil War caused a dramatic explosion in the popularity of poker, with tens of thousands soldiers playing the game in barracks across the North and South. The Civil War also brought significant modifications to the game, such as 'stud poker,' 'the draw,' and 'the straight.' By the war's end, Poker had become America's favorite card game, played pretty much anywhere two or more men and a deck of cards could be found.

   European influence officially ended in 1875, when the Joker was introduced as a wild card. By the early 20th century, the skill based game of draw poker, in which all the cards are dealt face down, rose to prominence. During the Wild West period of United States history, a saloon with a Poker table could be found in just about every town from coast to coast.

   In 1910, Nevada made it a crime to run a betting game. The Attorney General of California affirmed that draw poker was based upon skill and consequently the anti gambling laws could not stop it. But stud poker was illegal, as it was based solely on chance. With this verdict, draw poker games developed and grew. This caused Nevada to reverse itself in 1931 and legalize casino gambling.

   With ever growing popularity, poker has assimilated itself into American culture, coming out of smoky back rooms and expanding into the mainstream. Its history is rich with famous places and characters. The game is famously featured in many Hollywood films, from past classics like "The Cincinnati Kid" and "The Sting" to modern day features like "Rounders" and "Ocean's Eleven." And like films, poker has become a thriving American export, claiming over 100 million players across the globe.

   Today, Poker is cautiously regulated by gambling laws, and saloons have given way to casinos, but Poker is played more than any other card game on earth. It has grown into a sporting event, with competitions and tournaments all around the world. Every week, a major Poker tournament is held somewhere in the world, giving rise to international champion players of legendary nerve and skill. If you compare the prizes of major sporting events around the world, you will find that the monetary outcome of any given event in Poker would (pardon the pun) stack up. Poker today is one of the fastest growing, but hardly recognized sporting events. The pinnacle of the poker world, The World Series of Poker, attracts players from all over the world every year to compete for money and titles as the world's top Poker players.

   In the 1990s, Poker became trendy on the Internet. Software advances made it possible for live poker games where players from around the globe could pull up a chair to an online poker table and bet against players in other countries and even other continents. The original players would certainly be surprised by the computer technology that allows for poker to be downloaded and played without a deck of cards!

   Through all the wide ranging theories on the origin of Poker, one thing comes clean through. This is a game which has stood the test of time and becomes more rich and full with each generation. That is the joy of "Dealer's Choice" poker. Each person who makes their own variation adds another portion to the immense and charming history of poker. Poker will always be around and will continue to grow and flourish like so many other past times. There will always be a game to play, money to be won, and crowns to be worn.


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