There are no shortage of explanations when it comes to precisely where and when the game of poker sprang into being. For the most part the theories are pretty tame, with most people believing the game to be a combination of the Turkish game As Nas and the French game Poque, the latter of which also led to the bastardized English pronunciation: Poker.
At a time when tall tales and legendary men tamed the continent this explanation seems to be a pretty reliable yet quite unremarkable description of poker’s origins.
On the other hand, even though they are more recent, the origins of the game of Stud Poker and Holdem Poker are a bit more dubious, and harder to pin down. This article will detail the most widely believed story for each variant, beginning with the one of my favorite poker tales, the birth of Stud Poker.
The origins of Stud Poker almost certainly have something to do with a horse. Not only is the word Stud a reference to horses, but in California the game was known as Stud Horse Poker, and even appears as such in a law banning the game in 1884.
In Sucker’s Progress, An Informal History of Gambling in America, the author, Herbert Asbury reasons that Stud Poker was invented somewhere out west, as the game was popular in that region long before it caught on in the East or along the Mississippi.
However, there is an alternate theory that also explains how a game with exposed cards got its start. in 1934 George Henry Fischer wrote, Stud Poker Blue Book and explained the origins of Stud Poker thusly [paraphrasing]:
After some heavy betting one player, out of money, put his hand down and ran outside to get his horse. When he returned he suddenly realized the folly of his actions. having left his cards unattended, and said, “You fellows know damn well what I’m betting on. I propose each man turns three of his cards face up and draws two face down… I’ll gamble this here Stud horse on my chances.”
I’m actually quite surprised Stud poker has fallen out of favor in the poker world. The likely reason being the onset of online poker (multitabling Stud, where card memorization is critical, is the ultimate bankroll killer) and the fact that Stud, which is almost always played with a limit betting structure, doesn’t translate well to tournaments or TV.
Still, the game requires far different skills than Holdem, such as card memorization, and also differs in that a player cannot rely on positional advantages. Stud games also produce good sized pots, since the game has a fifth betting round and uses antes and forced bets to drive the action.
We’ve all been playing cards around the kitchen table and realized there simply wasn’t enough cards to play certain games, which usually leads to some tweaking (6-Card-Stud anyone?) of the usual games. By most accounts this is exactly how Texas Holdem sprang into being.
The popular version of the tale is a bunch of cowboys were sitting around the campfire playing poker but there wasn’t enough cards to accommodate everyone who wanted to play, so someone came up with the bright idea of just two hole cards and community cards and voila, Texas Holdem was born – a game capable of accommodating up to 22 players.
I doubt Holdem was the first community card game, in fact there are old descriptions of Stud games where the top card on the deck is revealed and available to all players, but Holdem’s simplicity to play, and reliance on bluffing, makes it the proverbial perfect poker game.
Only limited to your imagination
The beauty of poker is that the games are only limited to your imagination. Razzdacey, Nighttime Baseball, Guts, Six Card Omaha High-Low, Progressive Games, and countless other poker variants have all been dealt at one time or another.
Some games are too complicated. Some games are simply too skillful and die out. Some games don’t produce enough action. Some games are more or less luck-driven and never catch on.
But then you have the games like Texas Holdem and 7-Card-Stud that fall right in the sweet spot. These are “action” games that are not too complicated and have the right balance between luck and skill.
These games have stood the test of time, with Stud coming about sometime in the mid-1800’s and Holdem tracing its roots to the early 20th Century. Remarkably, with the huge popularity surge of poker over the past decade no one has been able to invent a new variant to supplant these games, and it’s not for a lack of trying.
Eventually another game will catch on, and we can only hope its origin story is as seemingly farfetched as the two I detailed above.
If you fancy playing a little Texas Hold’em, then why not take a look at the latest Sky Poker no deposit bonus available, allowing you to play for free to see which version of the game you prefer!