The Poker Origins Debate

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Poker has a rich and interesting history that could possibly have some of its origins in as far back as the 15th century, and in some cases back to 969(A.D.).  While debates about the history of the modern game of Poker continue to exist, no one can deny that poker has had a long timeline of evolution.

It holds a striking, almost identical, resemblance to a Persian game of As Nas, played with 25 cards and various levels of basic principle card rankings.  Of course, the bluffing, betting and card and hand ranking (can also be called ‘domino combinations’) parts of modern poker can be traced all the way back to 15th century Germany; Pochspiel may be one of the earliest known games to combine all these game aspects.

Even the famous author R.F. Foster believed poker to be a form of the ancient Persian game.  In 1937, Mr. Foster wrote “…the game of poker, as first played in the United States, five cards to each player from a twenty-card pack, is undoubtedly the Persian game of As Nas.

However, the Persian game of As Nas is not the only ancient game that has a poker ‘feel’ to it and by the late 1990’s there were several historians that began looking at other places for the game’s origin.  Another popular opinion of the poker history debate is that the game could have began in 969 A.D. in China.  A game played by Mu-tsung, the Emperor at the time, has been offered as another possible poker origin.  It is said that the Emperor would play this domino type game of ranking combinations and bluffing deception with his wife on New Year’s Eve.

Still others believe that there is evidence that poker evolved from Egypt in the early 13th century.  In Egypt, there were several forms of card games being played among the Egyptians.  Returning back to Persia, there was also a game called ‘Ganjifa’ (literally Treasure Cards) that looks similar to poker and relied heavily on betting and bluffing.  This game was played with 96 very decorative and elaborate cards that could be made of anything from very thin sheets of paper to beautifully carved wood or ivory.