The History of Poker & Poker Variations
Historical evidence of people’s interest in various forms of gambling goes back nearly as far as history itself and is spread far and wide across cultures east and west and everything in-between. Early “card” games appear to have been played on clay or stone plaques, with symbols painted or glazed upon the plaques to represent various values or characters of play. Stones representing crude “dice” are also found at various archaeological digs.
Poker as it is played in the modern era, however, is a much more recent product of the evolution of gaming. Indeed, modern poker continues to evolve, but happily for most players, some of the evolution is being nurtured by professionals and organizations such as the Tournament Directors Association who seek to protect the game via oversight, guidance, standardized rules, and limits. Though home games and some casino games can go their own way in terms of house rules, policies, and etiquette, PalaPoker.com and its responsible affiliates strive to protect all players by following officially standardized, though still evolving, and sanctioned rules.
Poker Suits and Characters
Modern suits and characters on the cards themselves evolved in fifteenth-century France. The suits and characters carried serious meanings: the traditionally highest suit, spades, represented the State and its enforcement power via military force and hence the sharp-tipped spade like the tip of a spear; hearts represented the spiritual power of the Church; diamonds were the wealth of business merchants; and clubs, as suggested by their leafy clover shape, represented the agricultural class – the farmers. The four suits of cards overall represent the foundations and governance of civilization.
Face card characters were originally modeled after famous historical characters. The powerful king cards were supposed representations of great historical kings: spades was David of Israel; hearts was Alexander the Great of Macedonia (early Greece); the King of Diamonds was Julius Caesar and the splendor and wealth of Rome; and, clubs was Charlemagne of the Holy Roman Empire. Interestingly and perhaps appropriately, the joker is an American invention. Thus, when you are dealth a poker hand, you are holding history in your hands.
Origins of Poker
The exact origin of poker itself is somewhat murky due to the wide and sometimes wild variations of card games practiced throughout the world; however, it seems like modern poker, with its ranks of hands and methods of wagering, can be traced back to a variation of the French (God bless ’em) game “poque.” In America, early poker really was pretty dirty, and the image of riverboat gamblers and organized cheating appears to be pretty accurate.
Poker had a bad reputation in the 1800s, and probably rightly so. No officiating bodies nor standardized rules actually existed, and so cheating was much more common than it is today. Today, with the kind of business at stake with poker, casinos – online and otherwise – have a common interest in protecting the integrity of the game so as not to undercut poker’s popularity and people’s enjoyment of the greatest game in the world.
There have been many variations of poker throughout history. Early variations of the card game involved draw poker, like five-card draw, and then evolved through five-card stud and seven-card stud in World War II (Eisenhower was a poker enthusiast, as was FDR and Truman. More recent U.S. Presidents with poker enthusiasms include Nixon, who reputedly used poker winnings to finance his first congressional run for office, and Barack Obama.) Out of Texas in the early 1960s then came Hold Me Darling… which through the filter of Texas drawl eventually became Texas Hold’Em, the poker game that has become the most popular form of poker in the world today. A Texan named Felton McCorkindale brought Hold’em to the Golden Nugget Casino in downtown Las Vegas in 1964.
By the early 1970s, Benny Binion perfected the poker tournament and launched the World Series of Poker, a showdown of poker players, in which the main event and “world champion” is based on Texas Hold’em. Interestingly, years before the Texas Hold’em boom, Scottish author A.D. Livingston predicted, in a magazine article in Life magazine in 1984, that “Hold Me Darling” would surpass all other forms of poker in popularity as well as in being the standard form for big-money poker tournaments.
So you see, when you play poker, you are indeed joining a long, fascinating, and illustrious history with a cast of characters as broad as humanity itself. Have confidence that the modern game of poker as practiced in casinos and home poker rooms with integrity has the interest of the individual players and the broad game itself is being protected by officiating standards with trained staff and dealers. We are lucky to be in an era when poker has evolved into the magnificent game it is today. Be happy and enjoy.
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