The History of Poker

History of PokerBefore we really get into how to play poker it is interesting to understand the history of poker from its origin’s many Centuries ago up to the modern day history of the exponential growth in the popularity of poker.

969 AD: The Origins of Poker

Poker is a very general term that covers lots of variations of the game and to pinpoint the exact origin of Poker is difficult as each variation has it’s own history.

The origin of Poker is thought to date back to 969AD when the emperor of China is reported to have played a card game with his wife. The game then continues to evolve over many centuries with many different variants of poker games which all involved the same basic principle of cards being ranked and the use of betting to be able to deceive opponents.

A Spanish game called “Primero” in the 16th Century is widely considered to be the earliest form of poker that directly relates to the modern day variants of poker. In Primero players were dealt 3 cards and the use of bluffing to deceive opponents whilst holding a inferior hand was a big part of the game.

A German game named “Pochen” and a French game named “Poque” were games that were developed from Primero and were popular games of poker in the 17th and 18th Centuries.

But the real take off for Poker is when the game was imported to America by French colonials in the early 18th Century and this early poker boom can be traced to the Mississippi Riverboats where the game spread from New Orleans up the Mississippi river  and eventually throughout the whole country.

These early forms of Poker were in the majority 3 card poker games.

1800 – 1970: The expansion of Poker

The game of poker expanded from 3 card variants into 5 card variants with 5 card draw rising to be most popular game for most of the 19th century.

This was then overtaken by the popularity of 7 card draw in the 1930’s which continued to thrive until the 1970’s helped largely by the up and coming Las Vegas casino’s.

1970: The Birth of the World Series of Poker

Benny Binion was the founder of the World Series of Poker and in 1970 his Casino, Binions Horseshoe became the host casino of the first poker championship.

It attracted only approximately 30 players and drew little press coverage or public attention. Those 30 players shoe-horned themselves into a small room in Binion’s Horseshoe to make poker history. The inaugural world champion, Johnny Moss, was determined by a vote by all the players after several days of playing.

Binion recognised that improvements were needed to the format in order to improve it’s popularity and the following year in 1971 the championship event was played as a tournament with 7 players paying a $5,000 entry fee to compete. Champion again was Johnny Moss.

The WSOP really started to gain momentum in 1972 when Amarillo Slim Preston’s victory resulted in a influx of publicity that spread across America with the talkative Texan embarking on a publicity tour that promoted the WSOP. Preston appeared as a guest on the Tonight Show 11 times, wrote a best selling book and was really the first poker celebrity.

In 1973 with the public’s new found enthusiasm the WSOP was broadcast on television for the first time. The series continued to expand in the number of events and format over the next thirty years.

The 1970’s also brought into prominence Texas Holdem Poker which has since become the most popular game of poker and remains so today.

1998: The First Online Poker Site

In 1998, Planet Poker became the first operator to offer games of Poker over an Internet connection. It was quickly joined by PokerClub and Paradise Poker.

Planet Poker suffered by an early security issue in which their shuffling algorithm was cracked by someone who was then able to play and predict what cards would come next. This led to the majority of players leaving Planet Poker and migrating over to Paradise Poker which became the early leader in the Online Poker market share battle.

Over the next few years many other operators entered the market with notable names such as 888 Poker, Party Poker and Pokerstars. They brought with them large marketing budgets and big promotions which helped them build their market share.

Promotions of note included the ability to enter satellite tournaments to the World Series of Poker which enabled players to buy into a online tournament for a few dollars and win a entry to the World Series of Poker worth $10,000. This becomes significant to the history of poker in the coming years.

March 2003: The Early Signs of the Poker Boom

On the evening of 30th March 2003 a new Poker tour called the World Poker Tour was broadcast on the Travel Channel.

The event was the Five Diamond World Poker Classic at the Bellagio casino in Las Vegas and the TV show produced by Steven Lipscomb was the first time that real production had been brought to the game of Poker.

Cameras allowed viewers to see the players cards during the hands and information and explanations by commentators Mike Sexton and Vince Van Patten explained what was happening to the viewers and helped them understand how to play. Added to this the show was hosted by Playboy cover girl Shana Hiatt who often was pictured in just a Bikini.

Before long the WPT was attracting 4 million views per show and some prominent professional poker players were becoming celebrities and household names.

August 2003: The Start of the Poker Boom – what a MoneyMaker!

Chris Moneymaker won the 2003 World Series of Poker and this became the most important moment in the history of Poker.

Chris was an Amateur player who had won entry to the tournament via a $30 online satellite tournament. He then turned this $30 into $2.5 million by winning the WSOP Main Event. The effect of this was unparalleled, suddenly amateur players across America and the rest of the world thought if he can do it then so can I and the popularity in Poker rose exponentially overnight.

2004: A Higher Stage for the World Series of Poker

In 2004 the world’s largest gaming company, Harrahs bought the rights to the World Series of Poker and that combined with the effect of the Moneymaker Poker boom and the influx of players winning their WSOP entry via online poker tournaments led to a massive increase in popularity of the World Series of Poker.

In 2004 the entrants and prize money doubled to $5 million, then again to $7.5 million in 2005 and $12.5 million in 2006.

The World Series of Poker is now held on a large scale in gigantic conference rooms at the Rio Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.

2006: America takes a Stance against Online Poker

Up until now the online poker industry had become a major cash cow and players from around the world were playing online poker with these companies that were mainly based offshore in tax free locations.

In 2006 the online poker industry faced it’s first major challenge from the USA when they attempted to pass a statute which made playing online poker illegal for Americans.

When a first attempt to pass this statue in the Senate failed, two senators Bill Frist and Jon Kyl deceptively attached it to the back of a much more worthier bill which was designed to improve security at American ports. This bill was passed and as a result the totally unrelated Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA) came into law.

The UIGEA’s ban on some games “subject to chance” primarily targeted online poker sites and the amount of revenue going outside of America’s tax system to these offshore tax havens.

As a result of the UIGEA a number of prominent online poker operators withdrew from the US and refused to accept US based players any more. The most notable of these were Party Poker and 888 Poker who were both leading players in the online poker market and publicly listed companies on the London Stock Exchange.

Overnight their market share plummeted and other poker sites rose to take their place with the two most notable being Pokerstars and Full Tilt Poker who continued to accept US Poker players claiming that Online Poker was legal as it was a game of skill and not a game of chance.

2011: Poker’s Black Friday

At the beginning of 2011 the online poker industry was flourishing despite the economic downturn and this included the United States who despite the attempts of the US government to ban online poker with the UIGEA still had options to play poker online and the US player market was continuing to grow daily.

On Friday April 15th 2011 the FBI and the Southern District of New York took a stance against the 3 main online poker operators who had continued to accept US players after the UIGEA. They seized the domain names of Pokerstars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker and effectively attempted to shut them down.

This action had a massive impact on the online poker industry. US players found themselves unable to access the funds in their online poker account and the operators had to stop accepting players from the US immediately. It took some time for the operators to negotiate with the US Department of Justice a way to repay their US players.

The longer lasting effect of this was that for US players now it was practically impossible to play online poker which left a massive dent in the online poker industry.

August 2012: America Opens the Door Again?

In August 2012 a court in New York, America entered a ruling that Poker is a game of skill. This is of major importance to Poker as this means that online poker cannot be considered illegal under the 1962 Wire Act and various other statutes which America had used to define online poker as illegal.

What this does is open the door to individual states across the United States to draft legislation that would allow online poker to become legalised and once again enable operators to allow US players to play online poker again.

So this is the history of poker up until the end of 2012. What will 2013 and beyond bring?

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