Analysis. History. Perspective.

Sports Then and Now

Poker in 2017 compared to 1800’s

Posted on October 17, 2017 by Jeremy Biberdorf

poker-2While there is much speculation in regards to its exact origins, what’s clear is that poker has been around since the days of the Wild West. Today, over 60 million people play poker in the USA alone. Around the world, more than 100 million play regularly, making poker even more popular than tennis and golf! Today we look at how the game has evolved since the gun slingin’ days of the 1800s to now.

Firstly, let’s just say the safety of the game has improved considerably. Back in the Wild West, it was not uncommon for a game to end in a gun fight! If you were caught cheating, chances are you may have even been hanged for your indiscretion, or at the very least, driven out of town. Nowadays, things tend to be a little more respectable, and a lot less life threatening.

Over the years, poker has taken on many forms –straight, stud, draw, Omaha, even Strip Poker!  All these disciplines have enjoyed their time in the sun. Arguably the most significant change to the game itself came upon the creation of Texas Hold’em, which began in Robstown Texas in the early 20th Century. Texas Hold’em, which is popular due to its ease and the fact it allows players to think tactically, didn’t hit the mainstream until around 1967. The game was taken to Las Vegas by Texas businessmen but was initially only played in one dingy casino miles away from The Strip. The game’s big break came following a tournament in the lobby of The Dune Casino, one of Las Vegas’s top spots. When a number of High Rollers won big, Texas Hold’em was catapulted into the poker limelight. Just a few years later in 1970 the World Series of Poker was established and since 1971 the Main Event of the tournament has always been a no-limit game of Texas Hold’em.

Another significant change to the game since the 1800s is the popularity of the sport. Back in the day, poker was largely a recreational activity played amongst small groups. As the years have rolled on, and the stakes have been raised, the game has evolved into an enormously popular spectator activity, drawing international audiences and multi-million dollar cash prizes. This increase in popularity and player numbers comes down to the game going online in the 1990s – people no longer needed to source some buddies to play, or make the trek to the nearest casino. Now it was possible to play poker at any time and for real money!

This leads us into the final significant difference between 1800’s poker and 2017 poker – the winnings! Back in the Wild West, you’d be lucky if you returned home with a few gold coins (and your life!), nowadays international competitions see prize pots of millions, and you can win as much as $100,000 playing online from the comfort of your living room.

Who knows how poker will evolve in the coming years. What is certain is that those all-important prize pots don’t look to be getting any smaller!


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