The history of Texas Holdem

How did Texas Hold'em Poker start?

If you play a lot of online poker at PokerStars or at another poker room with good action, or if you are interested in getting started, you may wonder about the origin of the popular game of Texas Holdem.

The origin of poker

Texas Hold'em Poker is the most popular version of poker, but it was not so in the past. Poker is a constantly evolving card game with hundreds of variations. Originally draw poker was how poker was played in America and remained the favorite poker variation for a long time.

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But many years later as of today, draw poker is becoming obsolete as Texas Holdem has exploded online and in live settings, not in small part due to the influence of televised poker tournaments.

The true origin of poker is unknown, especially as one goes back far in time. The general assumption is that the Persian game named "As Nas" is the ancestor of the game of poker, brought back to Europe by the Crusaders.

Later at the end of the XVth century, a few card games played in Europe have similarities with poker such as Brelan played in France and Brag played in England, which both include the notion of bluffing.

Another similar card game played in Germany is credited as the source of the name poker itself: this game was called Pochen or Pochspiel. The English meaning of the word pochen would be to poke, literally to knock or to brag as in a bluff.

These distant ancestors led the way, but it is not until the early 19th Century in America that the game of poker as we know it can be traced. The first known record of a game of poker actually played dates from 1829 in New Orleans. This game was played between four players who used only twenty cards and made bets to represent the strength of their hands.

Card games were played on the Mississippi steamboats and it is not surprising to see the first account found in Louisiana. From there the game spread west, all the way to the Far West where it became the favorite past time of cowboys and gold diggers seeking entertainment after a hard day of work. The popular variations were draw poker and stud poker which appeared around 1860.

The rise of Texas Holdem

What distinguishes Texas Holdem from other poker variations and also from many games is that there are community cards shared by all players. They were introduced in Texas in 1925, not surprisingly leading to the designation Texas Hold'em.

Texas Holdem remained in the Lone Star State for a long time and was not played in Las Vegas until 1967. Before then draw poker and stud poker were the norm in Nevada and California. It is the legendary Texan Doyle Brunson himself who introduced holdem in Vegas and the game rapidly caught on fire there.

Texas Holdem quickly became the favorite poker variation in Nevada. At the 1971 WSOP which was the first WSOP with a tournament contest (as the 1970 WSOP was decided by a vote), there were five tournament events. The four preliminary tournaments were Stud and Draw games, but the Main Event was from the beginning and remains to this day a No-Limit Texas Hold'em event.

In the "The Cincinnati Kid" filmed in 1965, Steve McQueen plays five-card-stud poker but this is the end of an era. Indeed 5-card stud is almost never played nowadays, as 7-card stud has replaced it. Anyway 33 years later, in "Rounders" Matt Damon plays No-Limit Texas Hold'em, illustrating the change of the dominant form of poker between these two generations.

It took more time to reach the East Cast, as California resisted the Texas Holdem hegemony until 1987 as its required to make a change to the law there.

Why did texas holdem overcome the other poker variations so easily?

There is more action in Holdem and more bluffing opportunities. It is all due to the community cards. Because each player can use any combination of the five board cards plus his two hole cards, this allows numerous permutations and creates higher chances to hit one or more big hands than at more standard draw or stud games.

Bad beats, drawing hands, bluffs on scary boards, forfeited hands, donk calls, and all the excitement that comes with it,..., all this is due to the amazing effect of the community cards.

More recently the explosion of Texas Hold'em to mainstream entertainment is due to televised poker shows using hole cameras to reveal the players' hole cards as they play live. Here again no other poker variation allows such a sneak peak at the players' cards instantaneously clarifying the situation as it unravels.

Texas Holdem and poker's popularity is also due to the Internet revolution which makes playing holdem from the comfort of your house a walk in the park. No need to drive your car to a distant casino.

The newest popular poker variation is Omaha holdem, which is a modified form of texas holdem with even more action. If you are interested in any of these poker variations, PokerStars is the online poker room offering the largest choice of poker games in all formats. Visit is now.


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