It may seem like a simple game of cards and chance but poker is one of the best-known and most-played games on the planet. With a dozen different popular variations and even more behind closed doors, poker can take on many different forms but maintains a simple structure and ruleset. It feels like a game as old as chess or checkers but isn’t as old as many people think. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why poker has survived the test of time.
The exact origins of poker are still the subject of much discussion. The game in its modern form has its root very much planted in the United States. There were reports of early American settlers playing a 20-card version of the game back in the 1820s. A draw was added to the rules prior to 1850 and other variations and laws like the stud and straight followed as the game spread across the United States during the American Civil War.
But the origins of the game date back even further than the United States of America. The game has similarities to a thousand-year-old Persian game known as As-Nas which spread across Europe in the Medieval Period. Many European countries and settlements picked up a similar game in the 16th and 17th centuries with the Germans playing a variation called Pochen and the French playing Poque. It is believed that French colonists brought the game with them to the modern United States and Poque became Poker.
The game’s popularity continued to spread throughout the twentieth century. Tournaments began being played across America, surviving the Prohibition era and the postwar years. But it wasn’t until the digital age when poker truly exploded in popularity. Online poker has become a massive part of the gambling industry with traditional betting sites like Betway launching their own online poker sites.
But why has poker become so popular? Well, as a game it is incredibly fun to play and interesting to watch. Poker’s strength is its simplicity. A new player can be taught the rules in five minutes and all a group really needs to get a game going is a pack of cards and something to bet with. Then, once the game does begin, the entropy of a deck of cards means that no two hands will be the same. Poker has often been accused of a game of chance and while there is some element of luck involved, the best players will almost always come out on top. That is because poker is far more than a simple case of which player gets dealt the better cards. There is a deep psychological side to poker with regards to betting, bluffing and getting a read on your opponents. There is a remarkably high skill ceiling for poker with regards to psychology and decision making.
And there is certainly a desire for people to get to know more. Poker has been a part of popular culture for a long time with appearances in everything from films and television to video games. There are ties to James Bond and the casino as well as the Wild West and cowboys. In fact, according to Pokernews.com, poker is expected to be one of the playable side games in the upcoming Red Dead Redemption II.
This has only grown in recent years with the birth of poker as a spectator sport. The World Series of Poker is a hugely popular spectator league with fans getting to know the players in great detail. It is also a huge cash cow for networks like ESPN which own the rights to broadcast the league on television.
This wouldn’t be the case if poker wasn’t as entertaining and nuanced as it is. The modern game in its most popular Texas Hold ‘Em style is undoubtedly most closely associated with the United States. There the game has spread and enjoyed a remarkable surge in popularity in the last few decades. The internet has given poker a new impetus and it’s not easy to see why. It’s a game dating back over a thousand years but it’s not going away anytime soon.