History of Poker

The casino floor is home to a host of games with differing styles and rules, but one truly stands out from the rest as the king. Poker has been a huge part of the cultural zeitgeist for decades and remains a popular choice for players around the world. Despite all of its sensational popularity, many people are unaware of the winding and historic story of its origins, growth, and continuing evolution as a casino sport.

In this guide, we will cover everything from the very beginnings of the game all the way to the present day and what we can expect to see in the near future as poker holds its place as the most popular card game on the planet.

Origins of Poker

When it comes to card games, it’s often quite difficult to pinpoint the exact origins of their inception. Many have developed their own pastimes that share common rules and similarities due to the devices they use to play. Because of that, we can look at a number of different games that have popped up across the globe and could be seen as predecessors or early influences on what would become the game of poker. These come from almost every continent and it’s clear to see that an increase in global travel and sharing of pastimes is a big part of the story when it comes to the history of poker.

Robert Frederick Foster, a writer from the early 20th century who focused heavily on dice and card games, made a bold claim in 1937 that the poker that was being seen in the United States could be traced back to Asia and, in particular, Persia. A card game named As-Nas was popular in what is now Iran in the 16th Century. In terms of its rules, it follows the exact same rules as what we recognise as poker but does not include flushes. It does, however, include other hands that we would recognise, as well as bluffing, known as tûp zadan. So could this be the true beginning of the game? Some would suggest it began on a different continent altogether.

History of Poker in Europe

As we mentioned, it’s sometimes hard to narrow down the specifics when we’re discussing games of this type. Continental and national pride can often blur the reality of where something started its life. Because of that, while it seems that As-Nas could be the game that started the poker craze on the continent of Asia, Europe has its own story in the development of poker. Even then, it overlaps very much with its trip across the Atlantic to the United States. So how does Europe play its part in poker history and ongoing story?

To look at where the Old World has its place in this story, we have to go back to the 16th Century once again. Only this time, we’re travelling to Spain instead of Persia. Primero was a game played with a 40-card deck that bore some extremely noticeable similarities with both modern-day poker and the game of As-Nas. As with both of those, the winner was decided based on the rankings of different hands. Interestingly, this game included what was missing in the Asian game. That is the flush, known as fluxus here.

Thereafter, the following century saw the French and the Germans try their hands at developing a similar game based on the Spanish original. Poque in France and pochen in Germany is where we start to see the name of the casino card game that we’re so used to. These three-card games all used the same mechanics of hand rankings and bluffing that were included in both As-Nas and primero. It was the French game of poque that would really light the touchpaper in the history of poker, though, when colonists from the nation settled in North America.

The early 20th Century in Europe was a tumultuous time, but that didn’t stop its citizens from continuing their love of card games. The trenches of World War I were full of games of poker and even future world leaders, such as Harry Truman, who would later become president of the United States, would play. Truman is said to have been involved in “an almost continuous game of poker”, showing just how important it was for morale.

History of Poker in the US

After growing in popularity in European countries throughout the 1500s and 1600s, it makes sense that those who left in search of a new life across the Atlantic would take their card games with them.

In particular, French nationals who had moved to the Mississippi River region brought poque with them and it became popular in cities like New Orleans and on the riverboats that are so synonymous with the area.

From there, there was no stopping poker. Tthe prevalence of casinos, as well as the famous cities of Las Vegas and Atlantic City, meant that the game boomed. Then with the introduction of the World Series of Poker in the 1970s, the idea of competitive gaming propelled it well and truly into the mainstream. It had now become more like a sport than a traditional casino game, with televised events gripping the nation.

Variations of Poker Since Its Evolution

With all the various players and cities that have adopted the game throughout the years, there is no surprise to find so many different versions.


Probably the most popular poker game around, this variant is the standard one you will find at casinos online and offline. Also known as Texas Hold ’em, the difference between this and the early draw games was that you bet four times instead of two.

Omaha Hi-Lo

This is a little different to most poker games. There can potentially be two winners. If no one folds, the players present their hands, and the best high hand wins the high pot, and the best low hand wins the low pot.

Five Card Draw

This variant is what you will usually find in video poker and is the simplest of the variants, especially for beginners. Each player is given five cards and after placing bets, they can then draw new cards to replace any they discard.

History of Poker in Online Casinos

It’s hard to talk about a casino game like this without touching on the history of online poker. Ever since the internet revolutionised every industry it came into contact with, it has remained an ongoing component in their stories. Poker has been extremely successful in making that leap from gaming venues to the online sphere.

The first ever real-money poker game was played in 1998, meaning that this was a game that could be seen as an early adopter as far as internet technology goes. Ever since then, it has gone from strength to strength with more online poker rooms opening up every year. This has led to an increasing number of variants.

Take Time to Think | | 18+

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