Is there a definitive version of poker?

 

Poker Night by IanMurphy, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  IanMurphy 

If someone completely new to the game asked you how to play poker – what version of the game would you describe? Is there, in other words, one original or “definitive” version of the great game? The short answer, of course, is a resounding “no”. This has to be so because, for example, two gamblers from either side of the Atlantic Ocean may answer a resounding “yes” then go on to describe two entirely different variants.

And this is great. The boom in the online versions of poker and the different nuances of the rules, along with special bets and promotions mean there are now countless versions of poker. Put that together with the explosion on video poker and the world’s your oyster. Some of the bets sites offer some excellent variations on the game. If you look at https://www.bgo.com/vegas, for example, you’ll quickly see that this site has no fewer than 37 different video poker games – and they can’t all be the original version.

But if there is one game that comes close to the original, then Texas hold ‘em can lay a strong claim to be that game. This is now one of the world’s most popular versions of poker – and one which has become even more popular with online poker aficionados. In fact, Texas hold ‘em is probably now the single most popular poker variant out there and during the Internet age, it’s become something of a global phenomenon. Ask any n on-player to name a specific poker game they happen to know of – and it will probably be Texas hold ‘em; go a decade or so back and that probably wouldn’t have been true.

So why is this particular online poker version so popular and what’s its history; where did it come from in the first place – and why was that? And how did it get so popular all of a sudden? And finally – where did the strange name come from?

Well Texas hold ‘em’s history is interesting, though it isn’t completely clear and is somewhat contested. What is definitely true is that the game did come from its eponymous State originally. In fact, the “Lone Star State” of Texas recognizes one of its towns, Robstown, as the official birthplace of the game from the early 1900s.

So it’s very surprising that the game doesn’t seem to turn up in the history of Las Vegas until as late as 1967 when it was introduced by a group of Texan gamblers including Doyle Brunson, Crandell Addington and the unforgettably-named Amarillo Slim.

Then for years, only the Golden Nugget Casino staged Texas Hold ‘em, but it gradually gained popularity and by the time of Vegas’s second Annual Gambling Fraternity Convention back in 1969, it had become firmly established – and so was included in the Convention ‘s official roster.

In 1970, Benny and Jack Binion bought the rights to the convention and renamed it the World Series of Poker – placing the tournament in their casino, Binion’s Horseshoe. At the very first convention under its new auspices, the U.S. journalist Tom Thackrey recommended that no-limit Texas hold ‘em should become the tournament‘s main event and the Binions agreed. This is what happened and from just eight players in 1972, the numbers had snowballed to over 100 a decade later – and doubled again by 1991.

So although there may be no single, definitive, version of poker – Hold ‘em has certainly become the world’s most recognizable and popular variant.

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