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Poker history is a mix of fact and legend.  Wild Bill Hickok was killed with the Dead Man’s Hand—aces and eights.  Poker tournaments are held in Texas Holdem.  Here is a Juicy Stakes Poker Review of three great “events” in poker history that shaped the game.

Poker Travels up the Mississippi River

Many people don’t remember that until 1803—long before Juicy Stakes came online— much of the center of North America was under French control.  In that year, President Thomas Jefferson made what has been called the Louisiana Purchase for a few million dollars and the fledgling United States took over vast interior lands in North America.

Within that land mass was the long Mississippi River.  Few if any people knew the full extent of this river at that time.  The Mississippi River is not only long; it is navigable for its entire great length.  Thus it became an avenue of transport for goods, raw materials, and more.

Go North Young Game

The newfangled card game that today we call poker made its way northward into the heart of the continent starting at New Orleans and moving north on the great Mississippi River!

How Did Poker Get to New Orleans?

When New Orleans was still a French city, it was visited by French trading ships.  The sailors on these ships brought poker to North America in the form of a card game that they called poque.  Poque became poker when English-speaking people started moving westward into the former French territory.

By the time the game started moving north on the river, the land was already in the hands of the United States.  Poker was exclusively five card draw poke at that time.  The stud poker variations not to mention games with community cards had not yet been developed.

As poker moved northward on river boats, it naturally spread westward more than eastward.  There was an air of adventure in the game and adventure in North America at the time was in westward movement.

The Importance of the Mississippi River

This river is the longest in North America but that is not the most significant aspect of its importance.  As we have said, it was the main artery for commerce in the western lands of the United States from 1803 onward.  Mark Twain made the river famous in his many novels based on life on the river.

The Mississippi has endured as the most romantic American river and that may have lent a romantic hand to the growth of poker.

Soldiers played poker during the Civil War but the game became part of the legends of the Wild West.  The next step in this magnificent journey was the introduction of open cards and then community cards.

Stud Poker

There is a legend that a man used his horse to place a bet in poker in a western saloon and asked only that each player reveal two of his cards.  In this way, five card stud poker was born.  For players to be able to see two of the other players’ cards, changed poker dramatically.

As so often has happened in the tapestry of American history, the introduction of community cards took place far from the gazing eye of the big Eastern newspapers!  In the wildcat regions of Texas, a brand of poker developed in which the players’ who lasted until the end of the hand saw five of the seven cards.

The cards in the middle of the table came to be known as community cards.  This game was called Holdem by the local wildcatters who played it.  The name changed only in the early 1960’s when Amarillo Slim and Doyle Brunson brought it to Las Vegas.  A man whose name is a lot less well known in poker lore, Crandell Addington, touted Holdem as the intellectuals’ version of poker.

As Amarillo Slim and Doyle Brunson were Texans through and through, the version of poker that they were teaching everyone in Las Vegas at the time came to be known as Texas Holdem.

Texas Holdem was the featured game in the first World Series of Poker and has become the go to variation of poker in tournaments, poker rooms, and even in dining room poker games among friends where many other versions of poker are played as the dealer names the game.

The Grand Challenge of Texas Holdem

We might think that Texas Holdem is a simple game since players see five of the seven cards.  In fact, this version of poker is vastly complex.  Modern poker study focuses almost exclusively on how to analyze hands in Texas Holdem.

The introduction of the blinds to replace the communal ante also made strategy depend to a large degree on position.  Modern poker players learn the mathematics of hand analysis and pot analysis.  Playing by hunch is no longer considered the best way to play poker.

In the past, poker players adapted to poker what Ernest Hemingway said about writing: To put into the game or the story “everything you know about people”.  Today, in addition to acting based on one’s knowledge of people and specifically about the people around the table, poker players have become statisticians of a sort.

It was left to an accountant to demonstrate the importance of taking account of the game!

Poker in Las Vegas and in Kitchens

There was a time when most people who played poker played in their home or in the home of a friend or relative.  The legal poker rooms were far from home.  Then online poker burst onto the scene!  At first, players treated poker like a hobby they could play online with strangers from around the world.

Television came to the World Series of Poker and players tuned in to see the pros go at it. 

The biggest breakthrough in tournament poker came at the World Series of Poker in 2003 when a portly accountant from Ohio won the tournament.  Chris Moneymaker had learned the game as a kid and had sharpened his skills in online poker rooms.  He won entry into the World Series of Poker by winning an online poker tournament.

It shocked the poker and gaming world that an amateur could play poker like a seasoned pro!  Moneymaker’s win turned thousands of weekend poker players into serious or semi-serious players.

Poker Enters a New Era

The three great historical events we have mentioned here do have a great deal in common in their own way.  The Mississippi River was the great superhighway of generations.  It spawned movement and the desire to leave home and embrace a life of adventure.

At the same time, the Mississippi was a massively important element in the modernization of communication in North America.

The oil fields of West Texas were where boys became men.  The game they played in those hard scrabble lands travelled throughout the west and ended up in Las Vegas which was the epitome of the extravagance of American affluence.  Rough and tumble Texans brought a new version of poker to the land of bright lights and not only did poker not look back but it took North America into an era in which a card game could be watched by millions of people on television.

The tournament that so many people watched on television inspired an anomaly that is hard to imagine even today.  Where Texas Holdem was developed and popularized by hard men, the revolution in the popularity of poker was brought about by a soft-spoken, pudgy man who took the intellectual side of Texas Holdem seriously and outsmarted the field in the grandest poker tournament of all!

Play Poker at Juicy Stakes

Juicy Stakes is happy to welcome all eligible poker players to our online poker room.  We offer games in Texas Holdem, of course, and in other versions of poker as well.  You can play for low or high stakes, in tournaments, or just for fun of an evening.

Come join Juicy Stakes NOW!


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