8 fascinating poker facts you didn’t know

So you’re a decent poker player, but do you know anything of the game’s history? Check out these facts and share them with novice players you meet! (Shutterstock image)

Poker’s colorful history is chock-full of amazing facts and crazy stories. Here, we’ve selected eight of the most significant moments from the game’s first 200-odd years.

Poker Is as American as Gumbo
Like jazz music and cocktails, poker got its start in New Orleans. While no one knows when the exact first hand was played, historians do know that the game as we know it today developed in the early 1800s in the Louisiana Territory. Popular as poque among the territory’s French speakers, the name poker evolved following the arrival of more English-speaking settlers after the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.

Poker Used to Be Played With Only 20 Cards
The most common form of early poker was played with a 20-card deck and four players. Players were dealt five cards and then bet on who had the best hand. The first documented mention of playing with a 52-card deck is from 1834.
The Longest Poker Game in History Lasted Eight Years, Five Months and Three Days
Although impossible to verify, the Bird Cage Theatre in Tombstone, Arizona, lays claim to hosting the longest-running game in history. Beginning in 1881, the Bird Cage tourney required a $1,000 buy-in and featured several legendary Old West personalities.

The Origin of the Poker Chip
Until the late 1800s, poker “chips” consisted of just about any small valuable object—anything from gold nuggets, or even gold dust, to coins. Desperately in need of standardized units, saloons and gaming houses crafted chips out of ivory, bone, clay and wood, decorated with unique symbols. However, these were often copied by cheats. By the early 1900s, commercial firms sold manufactured clay chips that were more difficult to copy.

The Birth of Texas Hold’em
While it’s a bit hard to definitively pinpoint exactly when and where the first round of Texas Hold’em was played, that didn’t stop the Texas State Legislature from passing a resolution in May 2007 declaring the south Texas city of Robstown as the game’s birthplace. According to the legislature, “The game’s invention dates back to the early 1900s.”

The World Series of Poker Debuts
The year was 1970, and the place was Las Vegas. A handful of hot shot players assembled to go head to head to determine the first world champion poker player. Unlike ensuing years when the winner has been decided by a freeze-out tournament, the first was decided by voting.
The First Televised Poker Tournament
CBS tapped into the drama of poker in 1973, nationally televising the World Series of Poker from Las Vegas. The first place prize money for the tournament was $130,000.

Poker Today
According to research cited by the non-profit Poker Players Alliance, approximately 70 million Americans play poker live and/or online—more than 20% of the population.
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