Rolling Back the Years to Know Texas Hold’em History
What will happen if you do a survey with any poker player who is active in the poker world currently about which is the most popular poker game? You are likely to get Texas Hold’em as the answer. But, if you probably do the same survey with any of the old players (who dominated the poker world before 1970s), you are likely to hear poker game names like draw and stud that dominated the card rooms of Las Vegas. It is probably in the last 3 decades or so when Texas Hold’em has gained tremendous popularity.
So, what has been the Texas Hold’em history and how has it managed to gain popularity over the past few decades? How did the Hold’em poker managed to surpass the popularity of draw and stud poker games? Let us deep dive into the poker history and find out how Texas Hold’em came into existence and evolved over the years.
How did the name Texas Hold’em Come Up?
There are different stories about behind the Texas Hold’em name origin and the actual origin of this Hold’em poker. It is believed that the word ‘poker’ got derived from ‘pochen’ (a German word) which means ‘to knock’. And the name ‘Texas Hold’em’ is believed to have originated from the story that this game started out in Texas in the early 1900s. The Texas State Legislature officially recognized Robstown City as the place of origin for Texas Hold’em.
An article about the variations of Poker which got published in 1968 by LIFE magazine gained lots of eyeballs when it came to poker history. The reason being this article did have a mention about the wild new poker game ‘Hold Me Darling’ which many historians believe to have later been popularly known as ‘Hold’em Texas’. The article did specify about this game originating in the South / Southwest several years ago.
Of course, all of this got discussed in hindsight as at that point of time (around 1968), there were very few who heard about the Hold’em game.
A Bit of Poker History – Leading up to Texas Hold’em
The early days of poker were quite different to the poker we are used to today. The initial poker games involved dealing of five cards and just one betting round. These were followed by the draw poker game variant that made it more fascinating and brought in more skills. The success of draw game was followed by another highly intriguing poker game variant known as Stud. This game brought about a different method of playing poker which involved unveiling of few of the cards before the showdown.
The Texas Hold’em game is believed to be the next big poker game variant to follow the Stud poker game. The Hold’em game involved sharing of as many as five community cards that are dealt in the middle of the table for all the poker players on the table, after every player is dealt with two cards face-down. This was a big change as compared to every individual player getting a series of face-up and face-down cards.
There is a popular story that explains how people resorted to the Hold’em game from Stud game. It is said that a group of people had gathered around to play the then popular game of Stud. However, they realised that there were far too many players for which a single deck of cards would prove to be insufficient. With less number of cards (two hole cards and five shared community cards for all players) required to be dealt to every player involved in the Hold’em game, that was how the people started out playing it.
The History Behind Texas Hold’em
As discussed earlier, there are many stories around the origin of Texas Hold’em poker game and how it evolved in the 1900s. There is a not so popular declaration by Al Alvarex in Poker: Bets, Bluffs and Bad Beats (2001) about the Texas Hold’em game being played in Texas since the end of nineteenth century. However, there are not many others who have agreed with this declaration.
Few years after this declaration there was a formal announcement by the Texas state legislature in the form of a passed resolution in 2007 (May). This resolution does specify a brief history of the Hold’em game. As the history goes, it is said that the first hand for this popular Hold’em card game was dealt in Robstown city (which we discussed about being the origin city for this game earlier in this article) in the early 1900s. There is no confirmation on the exact date or year when this Hold’em game took birth in Texas, but, many of the stories point towards this theory of the Texas state legislature.
The Connection Between Texas Hold’em and World Series of Poker (WSOP)
All poker game variants including the Texas Hold’em continued to grow in the second half of the 20th century, but all of these were mainly confined to riverboats, gambling halls, backrooms, and more. The overall scenario for poker took a big turn around 1970 which is when Benny Binion sent an invitation to the best seven poker players for a competition at his Las Vegas casino. This was the origin of the World Series of Poker (WSOP). Let us go back just a little to rewind back few years before this competition and look at the series of the events leading up to it.
Corky McCorquodale, a professional player introduced the Hold’em game at the California Club in Las Vegas, in 1963.
Several card players from Texas like Crandell Addington, Amarillo Slim, Doyle Brunson, etc. started to play the Hold’em card game quite regularly in Las Vegas. It is considered that they modified the ace high in present form, where aces are low.
It is said that during that time, the Golden Nugget Casino in Downtown Vegas was the only venue where Hold’em poker game was offered to the players. However, due to the location of this casino and its dull décor, there were hardly any high-stakes players who visited this venue. Most of the professional players were on the look out for a far more convenient place to place bets in the game.
Things started to change as another casino by the name ‘The Dune Casino’ at the Las Vegas Strip organized the Texas Hold’em tournament at its lobby in 1969. It was an experiment to attract the attention of poker player to this game. And it proved to be a grand success as this tournament captured lot of attention, got high-stakes players play the game, and the popularity of this game began to spread rapidly. This resulted in many poker enthusiasts take interest in learning poker and joining the poker tables.
A gambler by the name Tom Moore launched the ‘Gambling Fraternity Convention’ by adding few poker tournaments including the in-demand poker game Hold’em for the Second Annual Gambling Fraternity Convention in around 1969.
All of this eventually led to Benny Binion opening the Horseshoe Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas in 1970. Benny along with his son (named Jack) got the rights to the Tom Moore’s Gambling Fraternity Convention. They changed the name to WSOP (World Series of Poker) and transitioned this tournament to be played inside their own casino.
The World Series of Poker started out by including cash games such as five-card stud, seven-card stud, Razz, deuce to seven low-ball draw, as well as the Texas Hold’em variants.
In the very first year of WSOP, it wasn’t an exactly formal tournament like we recognize it to be as on today. Poker legends such as Amarillo Slim and Doyle Brunson used to play cash games and at the end they voted to get the first-ever world champion of poker.
There was a suggestion by journalist Tom Thackrey to the Binions to consider hosting Texas Hold’em (No Limit) as the Main Event in the WSOP. Ever since, the WSOP Main Event has been played in the No Limit Hold’em format only. The things in its favour were its fast pace, the use of community cards, and the fact that any player can bet all his / her chips at any moment.
During the 1972 WSOP Main Event, around eight players participated. Can you believe a World Series of Poker being competed between just eight players when you see thousands competing today? But, yes that’s the amazing journey that Texas Hold’em has travelled over the years from the beginning of the WSOP Main Events.
The overall popularity of Texas Hold’em continued to grow outside of the WSOP through the 1980s when legal card rooms of California started to grab attention of players. Irish bookmakers Liam Flood and Terry Rogers watched this Hold’em game in the early part of 1980s and they took the decision to introduce this game in Europe. This was followed by creation of the Irish Poker Open which became the second longest running poker tournament in the world after World Series of Poker Main Event.
The number of competitors in the WSOP grew to over 100 in 1982 and then above 200 by 1991. There was no looking back for the WSOP event. It grew from strength to strength, got better in terms of structure, number of participants, number of events, and eventually went on to become the largest poker tournament series in the whole world.
As on today, players from around the globe look forward to play in the WSOP tournaments every year to win big money and coveted bracelets. The WSOP Main Event was the No-Limit Texas Hold’em which was a highly fast paced poker game that was not only easy to understand, but also quite fun to watch. Going by this turn of events in the poker history, Texas Hold’em has come a long way in creating a place for itself and becoming one of the most popular poker game known today. It is believed that Hold’em was not more popular than the Stud game till the late 1980s, but the next decade or so completely changed the dimensions in favour of Hold’em poker, thanks to the rise of technology usage and online poker.
Boost of Online Poker, Television and Hole-Card Camera
Earlier it was only the gambling halls or the casinos that would allow players to try their hand at different poker game variants. But, all of this began to change in the 1990s as online poker started to gain popularity. Now, it became possible for people to watch and play poker games from the comfort of their homes. Also, the advent and use of hole-card camera became more interesting for Hold’em poker game.
The popularity of poker and Hold’em variant touched the skies with the start of the WPT (World Poker Tour) around 2002-03 by Steven Lipscomb. This was an international poker tournament that got broadcast on TV across 150 countries. Another unique thing happened around 2003 when an unknown amateur player Chris Moneymaker grabbed a seat in the World Series of Poker Main Event by winning a $38 buy-in online satellite.
Do you know what followed? Yes, this is the story of a common man (not known in the poker world) going onto win the WSOP Main Event and taking home prize worth of $2.5 million. That was the fillip that the game of poker had been waiting for! Such an unexpected victory at the global stage in a WSOP Main Event inspired poker fans across the globe and motivated them to pursue playing professional poker. Knowing poker as a game was one thing, but the 2000s saw an unprecedented growth in the number of people learning poker and wanting to take it up as a profession. That was the major change witnessed in people’s approach towards the game of poker.
And the WSOP as well as Texas Hold’em poker game had a big hand in this! The fact that Hold’em is a highly entertaining game to watch and play has made it popular and has added that curiosity amongst poker beginners or non-poker players to know more about this wonderful game.