There is a dispute among card historians as to the exact origins of the card game known as ‘Poker’. Some claim that it is a derivation of a centuries old Persian game called ‘Nas’, while others insist that it is Chinese in origin started Emperor Mu-tsung. The French imported a Spanish card game called ‘Pochen’ (which they renamed ‘Poque’) into New Orleans which most people agree was the beginning of the game we now know as Poker.
The game of Poker quickly spread up the Mississippi via the Riverboat gamblers of the 1800’s. The earliest written accounts of the card game of Poker was made by Jonathan H. Green where he referred to Poker in his writings as ‘The Cheating Game’, a name that probably refers to both the idea of ‘bluffing’ (a major part of the game and until Poker seldom found in card games) and the amount of money lost to those who were unfortunate enough to lose their money to the riverboat gamblers of the period.
Poker soon became a part of Americana during this country’s Wild West era. There was hardly a saloon or hotel that didn’t have a Poker game in progress either in a backroom or at a table.
Until recently Poker was relegated to a card game that was played at a ‘boy’s night out’ gathering or by professionals at gaming casinos or illegal gambling houses. With the growth of the internet and the sudden rise of Poker variants such as “Texas Hold’ Em” Poker has now found its way into the social mainstream. Now everyone from housewives to professional gamblers are playing the game.
The game of poker has taken off like wildfire in both the United States and abroad. Poker sets are ‘flying’ out of the game stores and many stores have poker tables on back order because of the recent demand. There are now cable channels that are dedicated to the card game, and high stakes games are now televised nationally. Poker has become a true cultural phenomenon; one that the internet has taken full advantage of.
Before the advent of internet gaming sites, a poker player had to sit down at a table with other players in order to wager on a poker game. Since a major part of poker gambling involves ‘bluffing’ (pretending that you have a better hand than you actually have) the visual signals that one player could glean from another (often called ‘tells’) were critical for true gambling success. Now card players can play, wager, and bluff without ever seeing their opponent, shifting the emphasis from physiological clues to psychological pressure.
Currently there are literally hundreds of poker websites which cater to the beginner player all the way up to gambling poker professionals where hundreds of thousands of dollars can be won or lost on a single hand. Most of the online poker sites attempt to create a relaxed and ‘player-friendly’ environment in an attempt to allay the fears of first time players. Most allow new players a large amount of freedom to ‘roam’ the various ‘rooms’ and even observe actual games in progress so that they can get a ‘feel’ for the differences of online play verses the more traditional ‘live’ poker game.
The card game of poker has had an image overhaul. No longer is it a game played by card sharks and men in smoke filled rooms hidden away from the general public. It is now played by housewives, businessmen, and even little old ladies in Pasadena.