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Origins of Poker

Origins of Poker

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Arguably, there are several unique differences of opinion on the precise origin of Poker. Ironically, there seems to be no definitive ancestor of Poker either. It is probable that Poker derived its current present day incarnation and name from components of many different games. The general consensus is that due to its basic principle, its actual birth is a very, very old one.

There are many variations regarding the actual birthplace of Poker. The most popular historical belief is that the Chinese invented this game close to the year 900 A.D., and possibly derived Poker from the Chinese dominoes. Other historians believe that Poker came from a game in Persia known as "as nas", which is a 5-player game, which requires a specialized deck of cards (25 of them, to be precise), with 5 suits. This origin dates back to the 17th century.

Another historical theory calls on the French "poque". The French who settled in New Orleans, Louisiana in the year 1480, played Poque, which is a card game that similar to Poker, involves betting and bluffing. Historically, this is believed to be the 1st use of a deck that included diamonds, spades, hearts, and clubs.

Remnants of playing cards have been dated back to the 12th or 13th century in Egypt. Some historians assert that that modern cards originated from the Indian card game of Ganjifa.

In the modern world, Jonathan H. Green makes one of the earliest written references to Poker in the year 1834. In his writing, Green describes rules that allude to a "cheating game," which at that time, was being played on Mississippi riverboats. Green recognized that his was the first reference to such a game, and since it was not referenced in the current American Hoyle, he took it upon himself to call the game Poker.

Green's game of Poker was played with 20 cards, using only the A's, K's, Q's, J's and 10's. 2 to 4 people could play, and each was dealt 5 cards. After Green wrote about it, Poker evolved into the number 1 cheating game on Mississippi riverboats, grabbing even more attention than 3- Card Monte. At the time, most people thought that the 20-card poker game seemed like more of a legitimate game, than 3-card Monte. It thus appeare that Poker was originated by the cardsharps.

The origin of the word Poker is also debated. Most of the dictionaries and game historians say that it comes from an 18th-century French game, called poque. However, there are other references to the game pochspiel, which is a German game. In pochspiel, there is a similar aspect of bluffing, in which players could indicate whether they wanted to pass or open the game by rapping on the table and saying, "Ich Poche!" Others say it may have been derived from the Hindu word, pukka.

Finally, another possible explanation for the word poker, is that it originated from a an underworld word, "poke," a term coined by pickpockets. Cardsharps used the 20-card cheating game to relieve a person from his poke may have used that word amongst each other, adding the letter "r" to make it "poker". The theory bandied about was that if the sharps used the word "poker" in front of their victims, those who were in tune with the slang would not question the change.

Yet others believe that "poke" probably evolved from the term "hocus- pocus", a magician's term, that we are all familiar with. Poker later evolved into a 32 card game, and eventually the current deck of 52 cards, not including the 2 Jokers, was adopted.

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