New Orleans to Global Online Games – Check Out the History of Poker

From the 1800s to the iconic table tournaments available today, learn about the history of poker.

From old school tables to online tournaments, how much do you know about this iconic game?

When you take a seat at one of our many online poker tables, you may not realise just how much the popular game has evolved over the past two centuries. That's right, folks. Poker has been entertaining players for over 200 years!  

There have been plenty of changes to the game since it was first invented. From the introduction of extra cards to the launch of online tournaments, the original game looks very different to the one we know and love today. But what's stayed the same is poker's ability to entertain. 

Kick back and join us as we explore the history of poker and how it came to be the global sensation on casino floors today. 

When was poker invented? 

The first stop on our journey is New Orleans, USA. Inspired by French settlers to the area, the closest form to modern day poker made its first appearance in the 1820s. The biggest difference for players here? The numbers of cards in play. The first version of poker only used decks of 20 cards, made up of 10s, Jacks, Queens, Kings, and Aces – that's half of a modern-day deck! 

After growing in popularity, folks decided to expand their operation and threw in more decks so extra players could join. Ever wondered why poker uses decks of 52 cards? There's your answer. 

The invention of Texas Hold’em poker 

A few decades after making the crossing across the pond to Europe, Texas Hold 'em poker burst onto the scene in the early 1900s. If you've ever played a game of poker or two before, then chances are you'll recognise Texas Hold'em poker. It's the version that most players are familiar with today, which can be found across our online poker tables here at Bally Casino. 

Home to sticky BBQ ribs, rodeo entertainment and, of course, that famous Southern hospitality. Texas boasts the invention of the iconic Texas Hold'em poker game. Although there aren't any physical records to support the claim, the first Texas Hold'em hands are believed to have been played in the eastern town of Robstown. Other famous players, such as Johnny Moss – who we'll get to later – claimed to have discovered Texas Hold'em for the first time in Dallas in the 1920s.  

One thing is for sure. Texas Hold'em took the original poker game and packed in even more entertainment! By using 52-card decks instead of 20-card ones, players had more chance of holding a winning hand – in the original 20-card format, the only flush possible was a royal one. Plus, with 13 different card values instead of five, there were more combinations available. 

Nowadays, not much has changed between the first version of Texas Hold'em poker and the current one. The aim is still to build the best possible five-card hand to beat your fellow players. And there are still two cards dealt face-up to each player and five community cards placed in the middle of the table. 

The World Series of Poker launches – with huge prize pots 

Poker may be a game but it's also a competition. After all, the aim is to best your fellow opponents by using strategy, cunning and Oscar-winning bluffing skills where needed. So, it wasn't long before someone decided a World Series of Poker (WSOP) was needed to decide the ultimate poker players in the business. The first idea for a WSOP came about in 1969, with the very first tournament hosted a year later in Las Vegas. And remember Johnny Moss? It was his games with Nick "The Greek" Dandolos that inspired the first games in the WSOP!  

Players each paid $5,000 to enter the initial event, which was won by Johnny, making him the first ever world champion of poker. His reign as winner wasn't to be a short one, though, as he scooped the WSOP title again in 1971 and 1974 – he even made it into the Poker Hall of Fame in 1979. You read that right - poker had become so popular that it even had its own Hall of Fame.  

In 1993, the WSOP gave us the first ever tournament with a total pot worth $1m. Back then, this was the big bucks. But as the WSOP has grown and the value of money has changed, pots have got bigger. In fact, the biggest win landed in a tournament now stands at a mega $18.3m. Players taking part in WSOP events nowadays can expect big buy-in prices, with some events costing $1m to enter, and some epic prize pots to go with them. 

WSOP events are now the face of poker, with many famous players like Phil Hellmuth and Daniel Negreanu making their names in these tournaments. A record of over 10,000 players took part in the 2023 WSOP Main Event, demonstrating how poker's popularity isn't slowing down anytime soon. 

Poker makes it onto the worldwide web 

The 90s was iconic for so many reasons. We're talking hip-hop music, our favourite Friends hitting the TV and, of course, the invention of the internet. Just over 170 years after the game was first played, poker made it online, opening the game up to players around the world to join from their homes.  

The first online poker game played on a dedicated poker website was hosted on January 1st 1998. What a way to start the new year! The site may not have lasted more than a couple of years, but it did the job of launching online poker into the world.  

Online poker received a big boost with the rags-to-riches story of an accountant named Chris Moneymaker in 2003. We know, we know, you couldn’t make that surname up. Chris qualified for the WSOP by playing a $40 satellite tournament and went on to land a total of $2,500,000 in prize money! But even better than the prize pot, Chris proved that online poker could take regular enthusiasts into the big time. This made online poker even more popular, and the boom that followed became known as the 'Moneymaker Effect'. 

The current state of play 

As you would expect, the introduction of online poker opened the doors to many more would-be players. We’re not just talking about tournaments – taking the game online meant that both small-time and big-shot players could get stuck into the action. 

If you want an insight into just how popular online poker is nowadays, then check this out: the WSOP estimates that over 100m people play poker online, of which over 60m are based in the game’s birthplace, the USA. And we think this figure is only going to grow as more people discover the excitement of poker! 

Pull up a seat for yourself 

Ready to experience a Texas Hold’em tournament? No need to book a flight to Vegas, here at Bally Casino we have plenty of exciting poker tables available to join! Whether trying your hand for the first time or looking to flex your poker skills, we've got you covered. 

We know poker is a social game, so we're not going to let our new buds play alone. All our members can enjoy our free live chat feature, which lets you chat to your fellow opponents and players while the action unfolds.  

And don't go thinking that there aren't big prizes on offer in online poker games. Nuh-uh. Just like in-person tournaments, online poker games offer real money prizes, with the potential to scoop some epic cash pots! We even have free poker tournaments available to join too.

Intrigued? Become a member to see for yourself. 

Check out the Bally Casino blog for more insights into popular casino games and to learn more about the wonderful world of Bally Casino.