Early Poker History - Poker Forerunners

Although the early history of poker is somewhat unclear, we do know that modern day poker came to us via steam boats on the Mississippi river.

Which Countries Were the Poker Forerunners?

Everyone agrees that poker is an old game that has been around for a long time, but there is little agreement as to the origin of this popular game. Most believe that the game originated in around 900 A.D. in China. Those who hold this belief feel that the game may have been derived from Chinese dominoes.

There are other beliefs that hold the view that the card game comes from Persia where it was known as 'As Nas', or India where it was known as 'Ganjifa.' Some believe that the game originated in France as 'Poque' or Germany as 'Pochen.' Because of the uncertainty of the origins of the game, all these pjlaces are known as the forerunners of poker. The origins of the face cards used in the type of card deck used today are believed to have been developed in France, and then later were brought to America.

Poker Arrives in America

Poker came to America with French travelers, where the game was played with a deck of 20 cards. The winner, as with modern day poker, was the player with the strongest combination in their hand. Because the game was only played with a 20 card pack, the range of combinations available was limited to the following: four of a kind, trips, two pairs, and one pair. The cards that made up the 20 card deck are 10s, Jacks, Queens, Kings and Aces.

Jonathan H. Green said that he had discovered the 'cheating game' on Mississippi river boats in 1834. He described the 20 card poker game mentioned above. During the California Gold Rush in the 1850s, modern poker travelled from New Orleans, via steam boats, along the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. The game was spread further inland by trains and wagons.

Poker in the Civil War

Poker increased its popularity in the American Civil War. Soldiers in both the North and the South needed to be entertained, and poker became a favorite amongst them. New versions of the game such as 'stud poker', 'the straight' and 'the draw' evolved at this time. By the end of the Civil War, poker had become the most popular card game in America.

1910 - A Landmark in Poker History

In America, until the year of 1910, poker had been considered an offense, along with other games that entailed betting. In 1910, the Californian Attorney General decreed that because draw poker was not based purely on luck, but on skill, that the anti-gambling laws that were in effect could not prevent the game from being played. Except for the version stud poker, which was a game of only chance, poker became legal. This allowed the game to grow and develop, eventually leading to Nevada changing their laws in 1931, at which time casino gambling was legalized in the state.

Poker is a well-loved game that is played by all sectors of society, from the rich to the poor, and by men and by women all over the world.