The exact origins of poker are unclear. It seems to have originated from a 16th century Persian card game known as As Nas. This game was played with 25 cards with 5 different suits. The game played in a similar fashion to modern 5 card stud and possessed similar poker hands rankings, such as three-of-a-kind. When Europeans began to play the game, they called it 'poque' or 'pochen.' While poker's origins may lie in Europe and Persia, it truly developed in the United States. Poker was first widely played in New Orleans in the early 1800's. Prior to the American Civil War, poker spread quickly from New Orleans to towns throughout the Western frontier. 3 Poker's spread was the result of a general spread of gambling during the era. The West was comprised largely of speculators and travelers, both groups that enjoyed gambling. Gambling suited the speculator's individualistic and risk-taking traits. Unburdened by family needs and the social stigmas of Southern and Northern culture, travelers were allowed to indulge in this vice for their own entertainment.
Those responsible for poker's initial boom were professional gamblers, trying to expand their craft. The professional gambler viewed his occupation as quintessentially American. They considered themselves entrepreneurial businessmen who took advantage of America's growing obsession of gambling. However, the public did not have such a rosy view of professional gamblers.
The Persians were said to play a poker- like game centuries ago called “As Nas”. “As Nas” used 25 cards, had betting rounds and a hierarchical structure. A bluffing game called “Pochen” was played early in the sixteenth centaury, and later there was a French version called “Poque”. These are both said to have derived from a Spanish game called “Primero”, the first confirmed version of a card game directly related to modern poker.
While poker has been played for nearly 200 years, the online poker games version is a recent phenomenon. The face of poker has forever changed due to the boom in numbers who play online poker in the past couple of years.
Other types of online gambling sites were launched significantly before the first online poker room. Online sportsbooks sprouted in the mid 90's. The mid 90's also witnessed the launch of online casinos. For example, Microgaming, a major online casino software supplier, developed its first operational online casino in 1994.
The French brought “Poque” with them to New Orleans in the 18th century, its popularity was spread throughout that area travelling up the Mississippi River via the river boat gambling circuit and then throughout the whole country.
It was not until 1998 that the first online poker room was established. Planet Poker, which has since become a relatively small poker room, enjoyed the status as the sole online poker firm for a short period of time. While Planet Poker has since been overtaken by many other online poker rooms, the initial rake structure it set, 5% up to a $3 max rake, has been mirrored by other poker rooms. So while the industry has drastically changed since 1998, the rake structure has remained fairly constant.
Poque soon became known as poker, and the rules were modified to allow cards to be drawn to improve one’s hand. Stud poker, still very popular today, appeared about the same time.
Other online poker rooms soon entered the fray. Paradise Poker was established in 1999 and would soon become the industry leader. During this initial period of entry, the infamous case of Poker Spot occurred. Poker Spot was an online poker firm founded by Dutch Boyd, a successful poker player.