Poker has been around for more than a century, but it’s really only in the last ten years that the game really saw a spike in popularity. So what’s changed to influence this popularity and where did the game come from to enjoy such popularity?
While the origins of the game of poker are somewhat murky, with links to the Persian game of As Nas and the French game of poque, it is known to have really started to gain ground in the early 19th century along the Mississippi River, with a variety of forms of the game being played on riverboats where gambling was a common past-time.
Throughout the American Civil War and continuing after, variations such as stud poker, wild cards, and community card poker were all introduced tot he game. In Las Vegas, regular tournaments were held in an attempt to draw players willing to play in high-stakes games, but they invariably failed to draw the crowds and money players that were desired, despite the upgrading of casinos to accommodate these players. In the mid 20th century poker tournaments, including the World Series of Poker (WSOP), began in American casinos, finally drawing the type of player that they had desired. The game also started to show up regularly in popular culture, including television shows like Star Trek: The Next Generation and in films like Rounders.
In the 21st century the game saw a huge spike in popularity for a number of reasons. The introduction of online poker allowed anybody to play the game from the comfort of their own homes without the need to put together a group to play or travel to a casino. Also, poker tournaments being televised, along with hold-card cameras, turned poker into something of a spectator sport, with the Texas Hold ‘Em variety of the game benefiting in particular as it has become the most widely played version, especially at the WSOP.
With smartphones and tablets now being nearly ubiquitous, even more people are playing poker than ever before thanks to the availability of free apps to play anywhere or any time. Online poker players can even win seats at major tournaments now, with Chris Moneymaker arguably being the most famous thanks to his 2003 World Series of Poker championship win after winning an online tournament.
As technology continues to connect us it will be interesting to see how the game continues to grow and if it moves away from the casinos and tables and more to keyboards and pixels.