Poker and its Popularity

Poker and its Popularity

The game of poker has been around for a couple of hundred years. Originally played mainly in North America, its appeal gradually spread throughout Europe and beyond. Today poker is played worldwide. In this article, we’ll take a look at the game and its rise in popularity.

The ancestry of poker

Poker’s roots are thought, by some, to stretch as far back as 1000 years to, firstly, domino and later card-based games played by different cultures around the world. However, the modern game is commonly thought to have developed in the 1700s in North America.

It’s generally thought that poker is a descendant of the 16th Century Spanish card game, Primero. This gave rise to French and German variants, called Pogue and Pochen, respectively. Players received three cards and bet on the final outcome, with bluffing accepted as a part of all these games.

History of the modern game


The features that set poker apart from older, similar card games are all to do with the betting rules that apply. The modern game of poker is thought to have really come into its own in the mid-1700s in North America with several forms being played.

By the 1800s, commercial gambling on the Mississippi riverboats had become a popular pastime to while away the otherwise tedious journeys. Poker was one of the games played, and its popularity gradually spread along the Mississippi river to the heartland of America, and west to the gold fields.

19th Century Poker

Modern poker really developed during the mid-late 1800s, when the use of a 52-card deck – that also saw the Flush introduced to the game – became common. Earlier poker games had used a 20-card deck. Other innovations, such as the straight and 5-card stud poker, emerged at this time.

Keypoints in poker’s history

  • Poker with betting rules first emerged in the 1700s in North America.
  • Popular game on the Mississippi riverboats in the 1800s.
  • Popular gambling game with pioneers in the American Frontier

Poker in the 20th Century


By the 1900s poker was firmly established as a popular card game in gambling establishments. It was also no longer largely restricted to North America. Instead, it was becoming a popular game across Europe, thanks in part to American servicemen bringing the game over with them.

Poker players in casinos and the like tended to be serious gamblers. However, as the popularity of the game spread, it opened the door for poker to be taken up by more casual players. Its popularity continued to grow slowly until the 1970s, when things began to move faster.

The Poker Boom

This boom began with the development of tournaments. In 1970, the World Series of Poker was established. This led to many tournaments being held, especially in American casinos. Alongside this, the first poker strategy books began to appear and even amateur players could dream of winning big.

In the USA, there were two significant events in the 1980s that further contributed to poker’s popularity. The first was the legalisation of a particular type of poker, the “flop” game, in California. The second was the legalisation of gambling on Indian reservation lands.

Poker on the TV

Towards the end of the 1990s tournaments began to be televised, thus bringing the game to an even wider audience. At first these tournaments were only shown late at night. However as interest, and audiences, grew, poker champions became celebrities and poker’s popularity continued to grow.

Poker in the 21st Century


With the advent of online gaming, poker experienced yet another boost in popularity as the 20th century gave way to the 21st. Now players no longer had to trek to bricks and mortar casinos to play, instead they could simply join an online casino and play from home.

Poker Online

As technology has advanced, so have the opportunities to play poker online. Gamblers can now take their pick from video poker, an ever-growing range of variants in the table games section of most casinos and, more recently, a growing selection of live online poker games.

Such is the popularity of the game, that now there are online casinos specialising in offering poker in almost endless variations. Players can not only choose between popular variants such as Casino Hold’em and Stud Poker, they can also select tables with bet limits to suit their budget.

Live poker

The most recent innovation is that of Live Poker games. Filmed in High Definition with a human dealer, its an online version of the game played in real-time. Accessible from home or on-the-go, Live Poker brings the thrill of the land-based game to players wherever and whenever they want.

Poker variants – offline

Poker games can be divided into three types – usually classified as stud, draw or those that use community cards, Played with 2 hole and 5 community cards, Texas Hold’Em is the staple game in the World Series of Poker and is arguably the most popular poker variant worldwide.

In 5 or 7-Card Stud, players are dealt their cards and must make the best hand they can from those cards. Games like 5-Card Draw or High / Low Chicago on the other hand, allow players to trade in up to three cards to improve their hand.

Poker variants – online

Online poker games offer players even more variety. Video poker began as games offered in land-based casinos and soon moved to the online gaming world. Played on a slot machine like interface, video poker games are based on 5-Card Draw. Popular variants include Jacks or Better, Deuces Wild and Jokers Wild.

Poker games routinely form part of the table game stable at online casinos. Players can opt to play for real money or in free play mode. The latter provides a great chance to learn strategies and hone skills without risking any cash. Popular games include Casino Hold’em and Caribbean Stud.

Final Thoughts


From its early beginnings in North America, poker has grown in popularity around the globe. It’s a game of skill and strategy, that comes with the potential for big wins – if you play your cards right. Thanks to technology, it’s now possible to play your favourite variant anywhere and anytime.

Author: Josh Slaiter
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