History Of Poker Pt. 2 – Texas Hold´Em History

In History of Poker Pt. 1, we time traveled from the 19th century New Orleans, through the wild west, to the dawn of Texas Hold´Em in the early 20th century. Today´s post, History of Poker Pt. 2 is going to be mostly about Texas Hold´Em history in the 20th and 21st century. To find out, how Texas Hold´Em was invented, read the previous poker history article.

Las Vegas had already become a gambling capital, but before we get to tournament poker, there is World War II to deal with. Yes, they even played poker at war.

Poker In World War IIa second world war plane with picture of a blonde woman in a blue swimming suit

During World War II, American soldiers played poker, and the game got about around the world. Soldiers needed something to pass the time and forget about the war for a while. Playing card games was their favorite pastime.

The American soldiers in World War II practiced a lot of cheating. The US army got so concerned about this, that they hired magician John Scarne to educate soldiers on the dangers of cheating. Scarne taught the soldiers, that they could win in poker by calculating probabilities instead of cheating.

The Allies printed card decks with pictures of Roosevelt, Churchill, Stalin and Hitler printed on them.

1960´s – Texas Hold´Em Arrives In Las Vegas.

Until 1960´s, older poker variations were played in Las Vegas casinos, but not Texas Hold´Em. A businessman and poker player Crandell Addington was the man who brought Texas Hold´Em to Las Vegas. The famous Golden Nugget Casino in downtown Las Vegas was the first casino in Vegas to run Texas Hold´Em games in 1967.

A gambler and mob boss Benny Binion and his son Jack were running gaming businesses in Las Vegas. As the name suggests, the famous Binion´s casino in Las Vegas was also founded by Benny Binion. Binion got interested in Texas Hold´Em, and ended up founding the most famous poker tournament series ever.

binions casino in las vegas
Binion´s Casino On Fremont Street, Las Vegas. Photo By Neuroatypical Poker.

1970s – World Series Of Poker And The Rise Of Poker Tournaments

You may already have guessed the name of the new poker tournament series. That was World Series Of Poker. Launching of the World Series Of Poker had a big effect on the Texas Hold´Em history. The first WSOP was held in 1970. The first year Binion invited high-roller players to play on cash games, and they voted for the winner. In 1971, the first actual WSOP tournament was held.

In the 1970´s there were not many participants in the World Series Of Poker yet, but in 1979 an amateur poker player won a WSOP championship for the first time. The winner was 60-year old Hal Fowler. All his opponents were pro players, but Fowler beat them. Fowler´s championship even created a phenomenon called “Fowler effect”; anyone can win a poker championship. This made WSOP more and more popular in the following years.

The first real poker strategy books were also published in the 1970´s. These included Doyle Brunson´s Super System, Mike Caro´s Caro´s Book of Poker Tells and David Sklansky´s The Theory of Poker.

poker chips and playing cards ace jack on a red poker table

1980´s – 1990´s – Poker Takes Over The World.

In the 1980´s, poker became more and more a game of common people. Many new poker rooms were opened. In the 1980´s, Texas Hold´Em also spread to Europe.

In the 1990´s, casino gambling spread across United States. In 1998, the first online poker game ever was played on Planet Poker. In 1998, the famous poker movie Rounders starring Matt Damon and Edward Norton also came out. The British TV show Late Night Poker started running in 1999.

2000s – Worldwide Poker Boom!playing cards two kings on a black poker table

Late Night Poker, World Series Of Poker and World Poker Tour were shown on television. Also, later in the 2000´s new poker TV shows Poker After Dark and High Stakes Poker gained popularity. Watching poker on TV became extremely popular thanks to the invention of the “hole cameras”. They allowed seeing each player´s hole cards, which made watching poker games much more interesting. Poker became a spectator sport just like any sport shown on the television.

Online poker was an important factor in the birth of the poker boom in the 2000´s. Cheap and anonymous online poker games encouraged amateurs to try poker. When Chris Moneymaker won the World Series of Poker Main Event in 2003, a poker revolution had begun. Moneymaker was an amateur player, who had won his tournament seat on an online satellite. His victory proved, that anyone can become a poker world champion. The number of online poker players grew exponentially.

Unfortunately I did n´t play poker yet during the poker boom. I got interested in poker later, in the 2010´s, when the biggest hype had already vanished, and even some amateur players had actually got better at poker.

2010´s – The Black Friday Drained The American Online Poker. What´s Next?

In 2006, online gambling was banned in the United States, but many online poker rooms still continued to accept American players. On April 15th 2011, the department of justice of United States sued these online poker rooms, forcing them to block American players from their games. Today, there are still very few online poker rooms that accept American players. Also, some European countries have blocked some online poker rooms.

It infuriates me, that here in Finland they are trying to make a similar law, that would block gambling on all foreign online casinos. Only the Finnish gambling monopoly Veikkaus would be allowed. Their poker games alone would not be enough for poker pros or any active poker players in that matter. Finnish poker pros would have a hard time making a living playing poker anymore.

Veikkaus is trying to convince politicians to ban all foreign online casinos, because obviously, Veikkaus wants to make more profit. It is clear, that money is their true motivation, not preventing gambling addiction as they claim. It makes no difference if you play on foreign or domestic online casinos, if you have a gambling problem. Banning online casinos is just making life difficult for poker players. It does not help those with a gambling problem. There are many gambling addicts in United States, and there would still be many gambling addicts in Finland, even if foreign online casinos would be blocked.

I can´t stand how blocking online casinos restricts people´s freedom of choice. I really hope the online casino block will not become valid in Finland.

playing cards falling on a black background

The poker boom of the 2000´s is over, but poker is not dead, and making money playing online poker is still very much possible. Today, poker is even considered as a mental sport. Streaming online poker on Twitch has also become very common in the 2010´s. As long as arbitrary laws won´t ruin the future of this fantastic game of skill, there could even be another poker boom coming up.

Any thoughts on Texas Hold´Em history? Did you already play poker during the poker boom, or did you start later? Please share your thoughts on the comment section below.

Comments 2

  • It’s cool to read a history of poker all neatly lined up like this. I got ‘addicted’ on poker during the second half of the 2010s while watching Poker After Dark. Also, Zynga poker on Facebook has drawn many like me to start learning the game. I believe that tournament poker is far from gambling. Online free games are different story. Anyway, I hope the goverments all over the world will quit banning people from poker.

    • So true, tournament poker is certainly not gambling. Well, it can be for some players who do n´t study the game. But if you study the strategy and play accordingly, it´s a game of skill.

      Yes, governments should see the difference between poker and slots. Most gambling addicts have a gambling problem with slots, not poker. Nobody is banning chess, for instance. Banning poker is as dumb, in my opinion, as if chess would be banned.

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