The first records of a poker-style game of cards being played come from America in the early 19th century. This was thought to be a development of several earlier card games but the addition of the betting element was a genuine innovation.
Once it began to be played in New Orleans its popularity quickly spread up the Mississippi River thanks to the steamboat casinos that plied their trade up and down the huge waterway. From there, it extended its influence across the whole country.
And, while the typical image of a poker game was once that it was played in smoky bars and back rooms by men drinking bourbon and bluffing their way to success, over the decades the game has seen a complete transformation.
Some of the greatest changes started to occur in the 1970s when the first tournaments started to be played televised games started to be shown.
But it has been the arrival of the online version of the game that has been by far the biggest catalyst in its transformation.
Even this has seen huge changes since it first arrived on the scene in the 1990s and when it comes to online poker UK definitely leads the way.
For many years poker had something of an intimidating image for many people. Despite being a relatively simple game on the surface – you either have a good hand, or you don’t and the better the hand the greater your chance of winning – there are many mysteries to it.
To begin with, there’s the language and jargon of the game, all the flops, big and small blinds and so on, to understand. Then there’s the strategy of betting to master too. For the novice this can be quite intimidating especially as these are skills and knowledge that you can only really pick up by playing.
But poker online offers plenty of opportunities to do this at your own pace and relatively anonymously.
Realising that there are many people out there who would like to learn how to play, leading online sites are now doing more than ever to facilitate this. For example, most have blog posts and articles explaining everything from the rules to strategies for every level of player. Many also allow a certain time of free play to help newcomers get game experience without having to bet their own money.
Add to this the generous welcome bonuses that most sites offer to new players and it’s easy to see the appeal.
Finding a level
In fact, many people believe that online poker sites are the perfect way to get the very best grounding in the game. This is because, once a player does take the plunge, they can always find a game on the site to suit their level.
As they grow more proficient and experienced, they can then advance to playing cash games with higher stake limits. Maybe they will also advance to playing in the regular tournaments that all of the major sites offer. Another relatively recent innovation has been the ability to win a place at the table for actual tournaments by succeeding in online ones.
The net result of these online advancements has been to greatly increase the numbers of people playing online poker, a figure of around 120 million worldwide according to World Poker Tour estimates.
Fast-moving games designed for today’s players
Poker is a game that has always been evolving, and this is as true today as it has ever been. So if you visit a typical online site you can expect to find many more variants than the traditional Texas Hold’em with variations of other games like Omaha on offer as well as some specifically designed for online play.
These range from three-handed games in which you play against the clock for a randomly set jackpot to others in which you’re automatically dealt into another game whenever you fold in your current one.
The aim of these online-only games is to make the action exciting and unpredictable, not to mention very fast moving. The fact that they have been optimised for mobile play also makes them especially appealing for anyone who wants to dip in and out of the action quickly.
The influence of the media
Alongside the explosion in player numbers, poker now has a far higher media profile than ever before. For example, the trend for sporting podcasts now also includes countless ones for the game in which experts offer tips and explain strategies. And, for anyone who wants see the game being played at the highest level, more big money tournaments are now being televised than ever before.
The net result of all these influences is that an increasing number of people are considering becoming semi- or full-time poker professionals – something few of us could have predicted even a relatively short time ago.