Poker has had a rich and colourful history. The game as we know it today through the World Series of Poker on TV and online casino games on our computers and smartphones was born and grew up in the Wild West where it passed from community to community, carried by cowboys and wandering gamblers. The Mississippi River with its gambling steam boats also played a significant part in spreading of the game from state to state, as did the Gold Rush.
If your vision of poker’s early days has been fashioned by Western movies and you imagine it being played in bars and saloons by gun toting whisky swigging gamblers; where accusations of cheating were frequent and such accusations frequently resulted in shots being fired; if you imagine maverick players winning large amounts of money and making quick getaways whilst they were still able to do so; then don’t be disillusioned. It really was very much like that.
The successful poker players soon discovered the intricacies of the game; of the laws of probabilities and the application of personal psychology to the analysis of other players. There were huge differences between the skills of the professionals and the young green cowboys hopeful of winning a few bucks but finding themselves soon separated from their cash. Not surprisingly they often considered themselves to have been fleeced and cheated out of their money, but there was little need for cheating; it was not necessary and it was too dangerous; winning in itself was dangerous enough.
Poker was the game of the early American pioneers, and later became a major pastime between soldiers in the American Civil War, but as gradually the nation was tamed, so was the game and the rules become more regularised and new variations were developed. It was not until the 1930s that versions of the game which use community cards were introduced, though nowadays versions of these such as Texas Hold’em and Omaha are the ones most frequently played.
Since the early days the two most important poker developments occurred in the 1970s and later in the 1990s. The first of these was the growth of modern tournament poker which was pioneered by such colourful characters as Doyle Brunson, Johnny Moss and Puggy Pearson, and the second was the development of online poker sites which led to the dramatic growth that has resulted in the modern game we know it today.