The True History of Poker

The True History of Poker

The True History of Poker


Poker has sustained mainstream popularity for going on 15 years now, but the history of poker origins is outside the common knowledge of most players out there.


Why is it, more likely than not, that you don’t have any knowledge about the history of poker?


Part of it is because of the history of poker is indeed hard to pin. Poker origin theories also depend upon what you think on the fundamental element of poker; the gameplay, or the cash. Both of those have different beginnings.


Where did Poker Originate?


Until recently, the traditional wisdom was that poker was derived from a Persian game called as-nas. As-nas seems a possible origin of poker as we all know it, but recently, historians have challenged the as-nas narrative. They point to other games as the most direct ancestor to modern pokers, such as:


  • Poque (France)
  • Poca (Ireland)
  • Brag (Britain)
  • Primero (Spanish, or possibly Italian)
  • Brelan (France, but a bit later)


Each game has its advocates as the true roots of the game, and each can stake a reasonable claim in the question “where did poker come into being?”


Brag, precisely, may have a case for two reasons:


  1. It comes from an English-speaking country
  2. They used antes


In its simplest form, the wager would continue not for X number of rounds, but until only two players were left. The game was typically played with a 32-card deck, and each player was dealt three cards. Three of a kind, as you might suppose, was the best hand. So perhaps this is where poker started in a direct lineage.


What is As-Nas?


Let’s go back to as-nas for a moment now, because it’s a pretty interesting game. There were only 20 cards in an As-nas deck, and the five ranks, from the highest to the lowest, were:


  1. As (Ace)
  2. Shah (King) 
  3. Bibi (Queen)
  4. Serbaz (Soldier)
  5. And the Couli (Dancer)


Each player would get five cards, which meant that the whole deck was dealt out. The high hands were the same ones that we use today, minus straights and flushes, and the best hand won.


There was wagering in as-nas, but with no draws and no remaining cards to be distributed, it was purely an exercise in deciding whether to bet commonly or bluff. Besides, there was even a form of dominating in as-nas, where you could bet before looking at your cards. 


The creator of as-nas may have been the one who invented poker cards in a very early form. Some forms of as-nas had five suits instead of the usual four, so 25 cards instead of twenty. Modern players of the game will replicate this by using five identical decks of modern cards and also utilizing the 5 aces of hearts (for instance), five Kings of Diamonds, five Queens of Spades, five Jacks of Clubs, and five Jokers.


History of Poker in the United States


Although there were gambling elements to all of these games, historians are more logical about how poker became popular as a United States betting game. That goes hand in hand with the advent of riverboat gambling that was on the Mississippi River, and nearby areas, in the 1700s and 1800s. It’s here where we start to see the similarities between poker then, and poker now; not just in gameplay but also in culture. This is when poker was invented as we know it.


In the gambling houses, saloons, and riverboats that dotted the Mississippi river at the time, they would sometimes play with a deck of 20 cards (as with as-nas), and sometimes played with a form of no draws; just straight-up best hand wins, after rounds of betting and raising (again, as with as-nas).


Moreover, this is also where they started playing poker-as-we-sort-of-know-it with the 52 card deck as well. Specifically, stud. The Stud has fallen behind hold’em and Omaha in popularity, but if you’re a stud player, you can say that you appreciate the classics. The stud has been played for going on over 200 years.


The history of Poker Culture

That covers it for gameplay, but what about this “poker culture”? Simply, it is those 1800s Mississippi River regions that poker became about the money. Let’s all be honest; as rich, precise, and lovely as poker strategy is, the reason we play it is to separate our opponents from their cash. That’s not necessarily true for other strategy card games, such as euchre or bridge.


Poker, at this point, started being played at gambling houses, and what we know today as casinos, were marketed as a way for you to use your wile and smarts as a way to win money. A lot of the same people attracted to the riverboats and gambling houses up and down the river were also keen on the prospect of exploring – they were all a part of the gold rush. So poker spread out to the West, and that’s why it became such a staple of Western saloons and is one of the most enduring elements of Old West culture that we all recognize today.


The Origins of Poker as we know it

Throughout the late 1800s, new hands were made known (like straights and flushes) and new variations on the play were also popularized(low-ball, wild cards, community cards of one type or another). However, from the downfall of Old West to the case of the World Series of Poker in 1970, the game entered something of a holding pattern, which was neither particularly rising nor falling in popularity. The WSOP, however, caused one huge uptick in poker’s fame, and online poker caused another one.


In conclusion, I hope that you’ve enjoyed getting acquainted with the history of poker and if you’re interested in playing poker online you can check out mega888 where they provide the best casino games online for players to play.