In today’s age, the game of poker is one that can be played through a variety of formats. From the bright lights of the Vegas strip and Atlantic City to a widening range of virtual platforms, poker is a classic casino game that has huge appeal across multiple demographics. This has not always been the case, however, as its origins can be traced back as far as the sixteenth century to a simplistic Persian card game called As Nas. This was far less appealing and far more restrictive in terms of participants, however, meaning that for years it was renowned as a ‘cult’ game.

From these sixteenth century Persian roots, poker experienced a sketchy evolution until the early 1800’s. It was then that the game first earned mass appeal, as French settlers in New Orleans adopted a basic version of the game that involved crucial elements such as bluffing and betting. This essentially represented the emergence of draw poker, which is the foundation for popular modern games such as Texas Hold’em. Following this, New Orleans became the first state to open a gambling casino in 1822, and this establishment offered games, liquor and gourmet food to guests for 24 hours each day.

The evolution of draw poker and gambling establishments represent seminal moments in the history of the game, and this was continued further with the Gold Rush momentum in San Francisco. This saw hundreds of thriving Wild-west saloons and brothels emerge along the San Francisco harbour, where popular contemporary bar games such as those detailed on this map first entered the mainstream. As a result of this, poker and similar gambling games became increasingly popular among wider demographics, before becoming central elements of popular culture throughout the U.S., Europe and Asia.

These periods in history were fascinating, as they laid the foundation for contemporary poker variations and online gameplay. They also saw poker develop an unsavoury reputation within society, as games in the prominent Old West mining camps such as Deadwood, Leadville and Tombstone became often turned violent and triggered bloody, fatal gunfights. While the nature of the game may have changed, this embodies the struggle that poker has historically faced with regards to reputation and criticism.

This is a struggle that the game has finally managed to overcome, however, thanks largely to its popularisation through mobile and online casinos. Not only has this made the game accessible to a larger and more diverse demographic of players, for example, but it has also helped to drive more stringent regulation and promote genuine fair play. Now part of a remote gambling sector that is worth in excess of $160 billion worldwide, it continues to gain credibility and respect from both players and regulators alike.

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