The History of Poker
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The history of poker is difficult to establish with any degree of certainty because there does not seem to be an obvious predecessor to the game using playing cards. We know it existed in the 19th century at least, and since most games are derived from earlier pastimes, we can fairly conclude that the history of poker is fairly lengthy.
According to J H Green in 1834, something called the "cheating game" was played on the riverboats that used to go up and down the Mississippi. A separate game called Three Card Monte was popular at the time, but poker was viewed as a more serious game by players who were largely unaware that it could be fixed by unethical scamsters.
The name poker could be derived from a French game called poque. Or it could just as easily come from the Hindu pukka or the German pochspiel. Some speculators remind us that "poke" used to mean cash or other valuables among pickpockets, and suggest that this might be the origin of poker. We like this idea, as poker really is "the money game" but the fact is that nobody will ever really know where the poker name came from, so we'll leave you to pick your favourite theory at your leisure.
Poker has a rather bad reputation in some quarters, with non-players instantly thinking of gangsters playing in the back-room or some seedy motel in between planning a bank robbery and counting their loot. Old Westerns used to show the black hat villain playing poker (and usually cheating) in a saloon with a lady of the night on his lap. Fortunately, the reality is very different.
Poker is a fun, enjoyable game which requires a good degree of skill as well as a teeny tiny dash of luck. It is legal in all casinos and is played professionally as a kind of "sport" by the most talented. These positive facts are finally beginning to sink into the public consciousness, and poker is crossing over to the "mainstream" of gaming even as we speak. Tournaments are being televised, poker magazines are springing up all over the place and women are getting just as involved as men.
Although the history of poker is a tad vague, the future of poker looks bright and hopeful. If things continue to progress as they are right now, we might even see poker being introduced as an Olympic event at some point in the future. Whether we'll be around long enough to see that happen is another thing entirely...
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