Poker is notorious. It’s a game that pretty much everyone in the world knows. And if you’ve played it, there’s a good chance you love it too. But how long do you spend thinking about where it all began? Is this a game of thousands of years or is it a relative newbie? Where did it come from and why do we play it like we do? Well they are just some of the questions we’re going to try to answer for you in our quick poker history lesson.
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Quick poker history lesson part one: the timeline
It might surprise you to know that poker as we know it isn’t really ancient. It just dates back a few hundred years. Some say that the game cropped up in the early 1700s, because many historians think it must have already been popular in the Mississippi River area by 1800.
This is also when gambling was becoming an increasingly popular pastime, so it makes sense that this was when it did kick off.
Sidebar: how did poker become synonymous with the Wild West?
It might be surprising to many reading this quick poker history lesson that poker didn’t in fact originate in the Wild West. Whenever anyone thinks of the roots of the game, they’re likely to think about the west of the United States and not the Mississippi River Region.
The game travelled from the Mississippi River Region to the Wild West during the gold rush. This time in the United States saw widespread migration, with people who travelled on river boats trying to find their fortune in the west instead.
Quick history lesson part two: the roots
Even though poker itself isn’t likely to be more than a couple of hundred years old, the roots of the game are said to stretch back much further. The Persian game As-Nas, French games Poque and Brelan, Renaissance game Primero and the English game Brag all are rumoured to be the root of the game of poker we know today. Because this is your quick poker history lesson, we’re not going to get into the ins and outs. But rest assured, the truth is likely to be some mixture of several of these games.
Sidebar: what’s in a name?
If you start to think about it for a while, poker is a pretty odd name. Unlike 21, it doesn’t obviously explain a particular game element. So the theory goes it actually has its roots in another language.
Some people say it comes from póca, the Irish word for pocket. Other people say that the name (and the game itself) is derived from the French game Poque. Meanwhile, the German word for bluff or knock is pochen, so similarly, many people think that this is where the name originates.
Because poker as we know it almost definitely originated in the United States and the country at the time was such a melting pot, it’s likely that we’ll never know for sure where the name really came from.