Where did poker come from? This is a debate which has gone on for years and will surely continue. The earliest documented game featuring betting, hand rankings and bluffing was Pochspiel, a German game dating back to the fifteenth century. Poker also bares a lot of similarities to the Persian game As Nas and also to a French game called "Poque" which was played around the region where poker is said to have originated from, throwing yet another theory into the pot. More recently a school of thought has rejected such ancestries, focusing on the card play in poker, but this is trivial and could have originated from any number of games, or could be made up from general card play principles. The unique features of poker have to do with the betting techniques which are not documented in earlier card games.
It has been suggested that Poker dates back as far as the 1700's when it was played in a variety of forms and included both straight poker and stud poker. The evolution of poker can be linked to the historical movements that also saw the inception of commercial gambling. Joseph Crowell, an English actor reported that poker was played in New Orleans in 1829 with a deck of twenty cards and four players betting on which player's hand was the most valuable. Poker is then documented to have spread to the rest of the US by Mississippi river boats where gambling was commonplace. Later, fifty two card decks were introduced as was the "flush" and the "draw". As poker entered the twentieth century it had evolved further to include community cards games like Texas Hold 'Em and Omaha.
There are many poker terms which have found their way into our everyday vocabulary including; ace in the hole, call your bluff, pass the buck, poker face, and when the chips are down. These phrases have become commonplace in modern culture thanks to poker being a popular pastime.
Since 1970 there has been a World Series of Poker held in Las Vegas. Originally a small affair featuring six of the best known poker players at the time, the WSOP has become an enormous event attracting thousands of players from across the globe. There are currently fifty five events featuring different games with the winner of each event being rewarded with a WSOP bracelet and a cash prize based on the number of entrants and buy in values.
Over the last few years poker has seen a huge rise in popularity due to the birth of the internet and online poker. Players can now compete across the globe from the comfort of their own home for modest stakes all the way up to huge jackpot tournaments. The introduction of the "hole card" camera has turned the poker into an international spectacle allowing viewers to follow the action and drama of the game as it unfolds.
So poker has come a long way over the centuries and with its ever increasing popularity and accessibility it will surely go a lot further.