Superior Gaming

History Of Poker

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The most widely accepted theories about the origin of poker:
 
From the memoirs of Joseph Cromwell we learn that he played a game in New Orleans in 1829 in which a player would receive five cards, place bets, and then the player with the highest hand would win all the bets.

The French Connection - Some contend the game originated from the popular French game of Poque (1803). Understandable, given the name. There are a few who back the theory that poker was derived from the German game of Pochen.  Then there are even others who believe it came from the English game of Bragg.  I'm sure they all exerted their influence in one way or another on the modern game of poker, but to get to the truth we must go back even further in history.

The Persian Principle - We don't know a lot about the ancient Persian game of As Nas, other than it's believed Persian sailors taught it to the French settlers in New Orleans.  Scholars are in general agreement that it was the earliest form of the game that we've all grown to know and love over the ages.

Poker spread to the river towns along the Mississippi and Ohio rivers via the riverboats.  From the river towns the railroad spread the game to the east while the wagon trains introduced the game to the west.

To help put everything into perspective we offer the following chronological timeline of poker history:
 
1833 to 1837 - the modern 52-card poker deck replaced the twenty-card deck.
 
1861 to 1865 - The Civil War saw the introduction of open cards, which led to stud poker. The straight and the draw also became popular.
 
1875 - The wild card was introduced. Also in the same year the requirement of an ante and a pair of jacks to open was beginning to gather a loyal following.
 
1900 to 1903 - At the turn of the century in America low ball and split pot poker was started.
 
1909 - Bills were introduced to control and license poker players.
 
1911 - It was ruled in California that draw poker was a skill and therefore was beyond the current anti gambling laws. Stud poker didn't fair as well however and was therefore deemed to be illegal.
 
1914 to 1919 and 1939 to 1945 - During the war years poker was very popular, and during that time went through many changes.
 
1950's and 1960's - Innovations such as extra draws and minimum hands required to win were developed.
 
1972 - The book "The Advanced Concepts of Poker" had become the best selling poker book in history.
 
2000 and Beyond - Online poker has just begun to take hold in the hearts and minds of the intrepid souls who enjoy wagering a few dollars on a friendly game of poker betting.
 
Aces and Eights:
 
What do aces and eights have to do with poker history? This was the hand that James Butler "Wild Bill Hickock" was holding when he was shot in the back of the head in Deadwood, Dakota Territory, on August 2, 1876. It's now become know as the "dead man's hand".
 
The Origin of Playing Cards:
 
The origin of playing cards is obscure, but it is almost certain that they began in China after the invention of paper. Ancient Chinese "money cards" have four "suits": coins (or cash), strings of coins (which may have been misinterpreted as sticks from crude drawings), myriads of strings, and tens of myriads. These were represented by ideograms, with numerals of 2-9 in the first three suits and numerals 1-9 in the "tens of myriads". Wilkinson suggests in The Chinese origin of playing cards that the first cards may have been actual paper currency which were both the tools of gaming and the stakes being played for. The designs on modern Mahjong tiles and dominoes likely evolved from those earliest playing cards. The Chinese word p'ai is used to describe both paper cards and gaming tiles.
 
The time and manner of the introduction of cards into Europe are matters of dispute. The 38th canon of the council of Worcester (1240) is often quoted as evidence of cards having been known in England in the middle of the 13th century; but the games de rege et regina there mentioned are now thought to more likely have been chess. If cards were generally known in Europe as early as 1278, it is very remarkable that Petrarch, in his dialogue that treats gaming, never once mentions them. Boccaccio, Chaucer and other writers of that time specifically refer to various games, but there is not a single passage in their works that can be fairly construed to refer to cards. Passages have been quoted from various works, of or relative to this period, but modern research leads to the supposition that the word rendered cards has often been mistranslated or interpolated.
 
It is likely that the ancestors of modern cards arrived in Europe from the Mamelukes of Egypt in the late 1300s, by which time they had already assumed a form very close to those in use today. In particular, the Mameluke deck contained 52 cards comprising four "suits": polo sticks, coins, swords, and cups. Each suit contained ten "spot" cards (cards identified by the number of suit symbols or "pips" they show) and three "court" cards named malik (King), nā'ib malik (Viceroy or Deputy King), and thānī nā'ib (Second or Under-Deputy). The Mameluke court cards showed abstract designs not depicting persons (at least not in any surviving specimens) though they did bear the names of military officers. A complete pack of Mameluke playing cards was discovered by L.A. Mayer in the Topkapi Sarayi Museum, Istanbul, in 1939; this particular complete pack was not made before 1400, but the complete deck allowed matching to a private fragment dated to the twelfth or thirteenth century. There is some evidence to suggest that this deck may have evolved from an earlier 48-card deck that had only two court cards per suit, and some further evidence to suggest that earlier Chinese cards brought to Europe may have travelled to Persia, which then influenced the Mameluke and other Egyptian cards of the time before their reappearance in Europe.
 
The Origin of Card Suits:
 
The four suits (hearts, diamonds, spades, clubs) now used in most of the world originated in France, approximately in 1480. These suits have generally prevailed because decks using them could be made more cheaply; the former suits were all drawings which had to be reproduced by woodcuts, but the French suits could be made by stencil. The trèfle, so named for its resemblance to the trefoil leaf, was probably copied from the acorn; the pique similarly from the leaf of the German suits, while its name derived from the sword of the Italian suits. It is not derived from its resemblance to a pike head, as commonly supposed. In England the French suits were used, and are named hearts, clubs (corresponding to trèfle, the French symbol being joined to the Italian name, bastoni), spades (corresponding to the French pique, but having the Italian name, spade=sword) and diamonds. This confusion of names and symbols is accounted for by Chatto thus:
 
"If cards were actually known in Italy and Spain in the latter part of the 14th century, it is not unlikely that the game was introduced into this country by some of the English soldiers who had served under Hawkwood and other free captains in the wars of Italy and Spain. However this may be, it seems certain that the earliest cards commonly used in this country were of the same kind, with respect to the marks of the suits, as those used in Italy and Spain."
 
The kings of spades, hearts, diamonds, and clubs are David, Alexander, Caesar, and Charles (Charlemagne), respectively. The knaves (or "jacks"; French "valet") are Hector (prince of Troy), La Hire (comrade-in-arms to Joan of Arc), Ogier (a knight of Charlemagne), and Judas Maccabeus (who led the Jewish rebellion against the Syrians). The queens are Pallas (warrior goddess; equivalent to the Greek Athena or Roman Minerva), Rachel (biblical mother of Joseph), Argine (the origin of which is obscure; it is an anagram of regina, which is Latin for queen), and Judith (from Book of Judith). Parisian tradition uses the same names, but assigns them to different suits: the kings of spades, hearts, diamonds, and clubs are David, Charles, Caesar, and Alexander; the queens are Pallas, Judith, Rachel, and Argine; the knaves are Ogier, La Hire, Hector, and Judas Maccabee. Oddly, the Parisian names have become more common in modern use, even with cards of Rouennais design.

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