What was the Spark that Set Poker off on its Massive Upward Trajectory?
This is the third and probably the last in our series on the history of poker. Poker has now gone online. Let’s see how this move has changed the game.
To help out with this, Juicy Stakes has a simple rake calculator for determining the rake. The rake has a maximum and in hands where everyone folds to the big blind before the flop, there is no rake at all. That’s about it as far as major differences are concerned. So let’s get on to the history of poker.
Poker Changed in the Mid-19th Century
The major changes that came over poker from about 1850 to 1870 were the introduction of extra betting rounds. In draw poker, there are two betting rounds: before the draw and after the draw. Poker players wanted to add betting rounds and the best way to do that soon became the advent of stud poker.
Five Card Stud
In this early variation of poker with more betting rounds, players got two cards down and one up. This was the first round of betting. Then each player still in the hand got another card up and there was a second round of betting. Finally, the remaining players got s fifth card down and the last round of betting took place.
Five card stud poker and five card draw had similarities. The most basic similarity was that the same odds of getting any given hand were the same since each player received five cards and there were no community cards.
Seven Card Stud
The desire for more betting led to the development of seven card stud. This poker variation has five rounds of betting! The first is on the deal with two cards down and one up. Then each player gets three more up cards one at a time and finally a face down card. After each round of dealing, there is betting amounting to five rounds of betting all told.
The advent of stud poker was born by the desire for more betting but the innovation of seen cards also changed the strategy of poker dramatically. This created a felt need for strategy books about poker.
Poker was Still Considered a Game of Chance
In the first years after the Civil War in the United States, poker was still seen as “emphatically” a game of chance. However, the author of that description of poker, William Brisbane, also wrote that poker was a game that would allow sharper players to fleece less skilled players. In other words, the author admitted without acknowledging his admission that poker is both a game of skill and a game of chance.
The Schenck Book of Poker Strategy
One Robert C. Schenck was a member of Congress from Ohio in the years before the Civil War and for a few years after the war ended. In 1870 he lost a re-election bid and President Grant appointed him to be the US Ambassador to Britain.
While he was in Britain he wrote a thin pamphlet on poker strategy. It is still thought that he wrote the book to teach the game to Queen Victoria although the truth is more likely that he wrote the pamphlet at the behest of his hoist after a night of the strange and beautiful American game of poker.
Schenck’s book was more a book of poker rules than a book of strategy. He focused entirely on draw poker. Schenck emphasized good luck, good cards, a lot of courage—what the British call cheek—and a calm disposition. Today’s emphasis on the science of poker belies the aspect of luck and the constant talk about how to avoid tilt has its first mention in Schenck’s entreaty to a calm disposition.
Two other books from the 1870’s are noteworthy. Henry T. Winterblossom wrote The Game of Draw Poker Mathematically Illustrated and John Blackbridge wrote The Complete Poker Player which talked about strategy at length. The only problem with these two books was that the authors disdained poker!
Poker in the West Texas Oil Fields
While poker had conquered the Wild West, a new wrinkle was being developed in West Texas among oil riggers called Texas Hold’em. This variation first appeared about 1900 but didn’t get national exposure until it was introduced in Las Vegas in 1967!
A Bit about the Geography and History of Texas
Texas is an enormous state. It is half the size of Alaska but twice the size of California. Until the 1930’s there was no electric system in central Texas much less in west Texas. There was no mass communication and land transportation from Texas to the big cities east of the Mississippi River was a daunting proposition.
Even today, with super highways it takes a full day of driving to go from El Paso in the southwest corner of Texas to Shreveport, Louisiana which is just outside the northeastern corner of Texas! Thus, it is no wonder that it took 67 years for Texas Hold’em to make its way to Las Vegas!
The fact that Texas Hold’em is by far the most popular tournament game is truly phenomenal considering that it has been around all over the US and then the world only since 1967!
The Pied Pipers of Hold’em
Two Texans, Doyle Brunson and Amarillo Slim, are credited with bringing Texas Hold’em to prominence. They barnstormed across the US playing the game and soon it was the favorite poker variation of a full generation of players.
We believe that one of the reasons Texas Hold’em became so popular so fast was that the game seems so simple. There are five community cards and two hole cards. It seems so easy. Yet Texas Hold’em may be the most complex poker variation of all.
The mathematics and science of poker have a very real role here but the elements of observation, study, attention to detail, and luck play a major role as well. Bluffing has been raised to an art form in Hold’em as with only two cards unseen, players have to calculate based on everything they know about the opponent if he or she is bluffing or not.
There is some difference of opinion as to which online poker platform was first and whether poker first appeared online in 1996 or in 1998. This is not relevant to us. What is relevant is that poker came online only in the waning years of the 20th century.
Given the state of online poker today, it seems incredible that online poker is younger than 25 years old as of June 2020!
Once poker made an inroad into the online market many poker portals opened for business. Some players wear the logo of one portal or another at the World Series of Poker in much the same way that NASCAR drivers wear all sorts of advertising.
An Amateur Teaches the Pros and Puts Online Poker on the Map
Just a few years after poker made its first appearance online, Chris Moneymaker parleyed a $39 entry fee and qualified for the World Series of Poker which he won in 2003! He and Greg Raymer were the two main catalysts of the poker explosion that took place following Moneymaker’s win.
Today many online poker portals hold their own tournaments. In addition, players can qualify online for many tournaments that will take place on land such as the World Series of Poker.
History Can Be Dull as Dishwater
We all remember studying history as kids. It was so much blah, blah, blah! Maybe if the teachers had focused on the many character who inhabit history it might have been more interesting!
The history of poker is one part the dry rules of the many variations but it is even more so the wonderfully colorful people who played the game on river boats, in western saloons, in the Texas oil fields, in the parlors of New York City, and in the royal palaces of Europe!
But enough on the history of poker. Let’s play!