History of Poker

The origin of poker is a contentious one, and there are several historians who differ markedly as to the birth of this popular gambling pursuit. There are several card games from both the occident and orient which may have influenced the naissance of the game.

The more popular view is that poker is in fact a melange of several card games from Europe, and one of the earliest offerings to include betting, bluffing and hand rankings was in fact the 15th century German game, Pochspiel.

A game which closely resembled Pochspiel was the ancient Persian card game of �s Nas which was first recorded in the region in the 17th century. It was, in all probability, at the height of its popularity in the 1700 and 1800’s when there was frequent meetings between the east and the west, so it is likely that the game moved over the borders and into Europe. The Islamic Revolution in 1979 finally put paid to both the game and its players as a fatwa against gambling, amongst other things, was issued by the Islamic leaders of the day. Many ardent gaming historians still believe that poker does indeed have its roots in ancient Persia.

One historian, who begged to differ, was David Parlett. He claimed that the obvious precursor to poker was in fact the French card game known as ‘poque’ – let’s face it, the name does have a remarkable resemblance to the modern product, but then again poker could well be named after the Irish ‘Poca’, or the Germanic ‘Pochen’ which colloquially means to brag or to bluff!

It doesn’t stop there – there are allegations that poker has a shared ancestry with the Spanish Renaissance game ‘Primero’ first played in the 14th century and the French card game, ‘Brelan’. The English card game ‘Brag’ is allegedly a clear descendant of Brelan and incorporates bluffing. In all fairness, poker could well have been influenced by all these games, and there are elements of most of the games of old in the modern version of poker.

We do know that poker eventually made its way across the Atlantic to the United States and there is documented evidence that it was played in New Orleans in the early 1800’s. With the help of the Mississippi Riverboats, which were in fact floating gambling dens, the card game soon spread throughout the region, and became entrenched in the new frontiers including California and its gold rush and of course, the wild, wild west!