The history of poker is quite a deep rooted one. There’s good reason why Poker is considered to be an ‘all-American’ pursuit: it is believed that the game originated in the American South sometime during the 1820s, and was widely played on the many steam boats travelling the country’s waterways.
Writing in his memoirs during his later years, renowned English stage actor Joseph Cowell made mention of a 20-card game he had witnessed being played in the city of New Orleans, Louisiana, which was constituted of players making bets based upon the perceived values of another’s blind hand. This can only be a reference to Poker or, at least, an early incarnation of the modern game.
The spreading of the game throughout the rest of the United States has been attributed, most prominently by American gambler/writer of the time Jonathan H. Green, to the crews of the Mississippi riverboats, among whom gambling was an extremely popular pastime. Eventually finding its way out west during the time of the great gold-rushes, Poker quickly became a vital part of the frontier nation culture.
Over the course of the game’s formative years, many new rules are likely to have been introduced – including the eventual inclusion of the complete 52-card pack, not to mention the creation of new hands to fit new card values.
A handbook on the game dated to around 1850 made first mention of ‘the draw’, with the Civil War of 1861-65 believed to be responsible for the addition of many of the final and lasting conventions to the game, such as online video poker, straight and the stud format.