Traveling Through Time in Poker

Poker History Goes Long Back In Ancient Times

Playing card games has been a favourite pastime of people all over the world throughout history. These games have evolved greatly over time with regards to rules and method of play, with newer versions having sprung up. A standardization of the card deck also contributed to this greatly. In this article, we have attempted to trace the origins of poker through the ages, to a time where it wasn’t an internationally-renowned card game, but a form of entertainment for the working class folk.

Before Poker

John of Rheinfelden, a Swiss Monk, is believed to have recorded the first ever card game played with a 52-card deck with cards valued from 1 to 10, around the year 1377. However, the Chinese are believed to have been playing card games much before that, although not with a deck of 52 cards. One of their popular games was a combination of Mahjong and poker, and was played around the year 969.

Around the 16thcentury, the Persians invented Ganjifa, which had a deck of 96 cards with intricate designs, made out of thin pieces of wood or ivory. As Nas was another card game invented by the Persians, which became extremely popular the world over. However, the Spanish game Primero is believed to be the earliest form of poker, as it involved three cards being dealt to each player followed by various rounds of betting.

Poker today

The most popular theory regarding the evolution of poker to its latest version began with the Riverboat gamblers who played card games on boats that frequented the Mississippi river. People from all walks of life played poker as a form of entertainment. Soldiers during the war, cowboys, the blue-collared population with regular jobs — poker had created a place for itself in the society.


There are many theories as to how Poker got its name. One says that it came from the French card game Poque. Another one states that it was taken from the German card game Poche. Yet another theory is that it was inspired by the word “Poke”, which was slang for “stealing”, owing to the large numbers of petty thieves and pickpockets in the poker circuit. Interestingly, poker was earlier also called “The Cheating Game” or “The Lying Game”, which is why the last theory seems to be more convincing than the rest.

As interesting as these theories are, it is not possible to pinpoint the most accurate one. And it doesn’t matter anymore, because no matter how poker came to be, it is today one of the most popular card games in the world. Variations like Texas Hold’em and Omaha evolved with the times, and are played the world over today.

Who knew that someday we would be hosting international tournaments for poker players from all over the world to come together and play. What’s more, online poker has also become a huge hit now, testament to the fact that this game has managed to keep up with the latest trends and technology. Even in countries like India, where poker was considered as a taboo until some time ago, this game has caught up greatly in both the live and online arenas. No matter what anyone thinks, poker is here to stay!

Originally published at on January 14, 2016.