The game of poker has evolved into the game we know today over a period of nearly 1,000 years and across a wide spectrum of civilizations. Some attribute the origins of the game to the Sung Dynasty of 10th century China, while others mark its beginnings with a Persian game called "As Nas" dating back to the 16th century. Throughout its history, the game has varied considerably, however the basic concepts of psychological strategy and card ranking have always featured along the course of its evolution.
The version of the game that is most closely linked to its contemporary form is Poque, which hails from 17th century France. The game made its way across the Atlantic with a group of French settlers who eventually founded the city of New Orleans. From there, it spread up the length of the Mississippi River during the 18th century. The game flourished in the United States during the 19th century when the country began its westward expansion. For this reason, the history of poker is commonly associated with America's "Wild West".
Originally, the most prominent version of the game was Stud Poker, but other versions were developed and became popular, including: 5 Card Stud and 7 Card Stud , Texas Hold'em, Omaha and Omaha Hi-Low. Texas Hold'em began its rise to cult status during the 1970s when it appeared as the featured game in the World Series of Poker. Today it is by far the most popular of all and is regularly played in leading online poker rooms, as well as in land-based casinos throughout the world.
The history of poker would never be the same without the rise of the World Series of Poker, the game's most distinguished annual competitive tournament, attracting professional players from around the world. Johnny Moss was the first to win the title of Poker World Champion in 1970, when the game was held at Binion's Horseshoe. In 2003, Harrah's Casino bought the rights to become the exclusive host for the tournament, which is now held annually at the Rio Hotel and Casino. The World Series of Poker has expanded beyond Las Vegas to venues across the United States and in late 2007 the first-ever World Series of Poker Europe was held. With over $100,000,000 in prize money and fifty five gold-bracelet events, the World Series of Poker has reached epic proportions and is continuing to make poker history.
Doyle Brunson: (AKA - Texas Dolly) Brunson was the first-ever million dollar poker tournament winner. During the course of his professional career, he has collected nine WSOP bracelets. Brunson also published one of the most authoritative tutorial books on the game, called Doyle Brunson's Super System.
Stu Ungar: (AKA - The Kid) One of the game's child prodigies, Stu Ungar earned his reputation as a champion player by the age of fourteen. Considered a "natural talent", Ungar's poker skills won him five WSOP bracelets and an estimated $30,000,000 over the span of his career. Sadly, most of these earnings were squandered away to support an abusive drug problem and bad poker habits, which led to his premature death at the age of 45.
Johnny Moss: (AKA - Grand Old Man) From the days of youth when he was hired to monitor games at a local saloon in his hometown of Odessas, Texas, Moss was a fair-play fanatic. So much so that he threatened to shoot (and eventually wounded) a man whom he caught spying on his cards during a game. Moss won eight bracelets in the 25 consecutive WSOP events that he participated in, between the years 1970 to 1995.
Thomas Austin Preston, Jr. (AKA - Amarillo Slim) Controversial both at and away from the poker tables, Preston's life story includes remarkable adventures, notorious slips of the tongue and a moderately successful career in show-business. He has won four WSOP bracelets and is listed in the Poker Hall of Fame.
Benny Binion: (AKA - The Cowboy) As founder of the World Series of Poker, Binion revolutionized the game and played a key role in bringing it to the masses. His pioneering vision propelled Las Vegas into a world-class gambling resort and he is considered to be one of the most influential figures in the city's history.
The history of poker will undoubtedly continue, and other rising stars will one day become recognized as poker legends. It's quite possible that a decade from now, Team Titan stars Sam Trickett and Marvin Rettenmaier will have made a permanent mark on the game of poker.