Background to the Game of Poker

Poker is the world`s most popular type of card game, attracting millions of players every day. While the popularity of the game is not in question, the origins of poker are uncertain. Some people believe that the game can be traced to ancient China, but others are convinced that it came about much later.

Ancestor Theory

One established theory on the origins of poker states that the game incorporates aspects from various other card games played throughout the ages. Poker may have evolved from a game played by the ancient Chinese in the first century A.D., but details remain unclear. 13th century Egypt might also have spawned an early version of poker, but it is not until the 16th century that an early card game can be directly compared to modern poker.

The ancient Persians developed a game called `As Nas`, which was remarkably similar in structure to modern poker. As Nas featured a 25-card deck with clearly defined betting rounds. The game also utilised hand rankings to establish the winner.

Ancestry is also claimed by the French, German, Spanish and English, whom played card games similar to As Nas between the 16th and 18th centuries. The French developed a game called poque and the English followed with brag, but both of these games had directly descended from the German game pochen, which combined a type of card game with the act of bluffing. Meanwhile, the Spanish invented primero, which was similar to modern poker but required fewer cards to be dealt to players.

As for the name of poker, it is likely that poque inspired the earliest players, but the Irish game of poca might also have had an influence. In truth, nobody can be certain because scarce documentation on the matter exists today.

Genesis Theory

The alternative hypothesis states that poker was conceived in modern times without being significantly influenced by earlier card games. There is a contradiction of sorts in this theory because poker was said to have arisen in 19th century America - specifically the US State of Mississippi - after French colonialists made poque popular across the Atlantic.

The genesis theory of poker does assert, however, that no previous game matched the hierarchical structure of 19th century poker (though there is certainly an argument that As Nas achieved this to an extent). As the game of betting and bluff spread north and west along the Mississippi River, variations began to emerge in different parts of America, which at the time was plagued by civil war. Community card poker arrived on the scene somewhat belatedly in the early 20th century, sparking the most modern versions of the game, including Texas Hold`em.

Today, players of the world`s most popular card game rely on luck, skill, bluff and strategy to succeed. The game is hugely popular online, where players can compete for sizeable cash pots and generous tournament prize pools. Though an element of bluffing escapes the online game, poker hands remain every bit as crucial to betting as they are in real-world casinos and clubs.


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