Texas Hold’em History
(Source: Wikipedia – July 2019)
Although little is known about the invention of Texas hold ’em, the Texas Legislature officially recognizes Robstown, Texas, as the game’s birthplace, dating it to the early 1900s.
After the game spread throughout Texas, hold ’em was introduced to Las Vegas in 1963 at the California Club by Corky McCorquodale. The game became popular and quickly spread to the Golden Nugget, Stardust and Dunes. In 1967, a group of Texan gamblers and card players, including Crandell Addington, Doyle Brunson, and Amarillo Slim were playing in Las Vegas. This is when “ace high” was changed from the original form in which aces were low. Addington said the first time he saw the game was in 1959. “They didn’t call it Texas hold ’em at the time, they just called it hold ’em…. I thought then that if it were to catch on, it would become the game. Draw poker, you bet only twice; hold ’em, you bet four times. That meant you could play strategically. This was more of a thinking man’s game.”
For several years the Golden Nugget Casino in Downtown Las Vegas was the only casino in Las Vegas to offer the game. At that time, the Golden Nugget’s poker room was “truly a ‘sawdust joint,’ with…oiled sawdust covering the floors.” Because of its location and decor, this poker room did not receive many rich drop-in clients, and as a result, professional players sought a more prominent location. In 1969, the Las Vegas professionals were invited to play Texas hold ’em at the entrance of the now-demolished Dunes Casino on the Las Vegas Strip. This prominent location, and the relative inexperience of poker players with Texas hold ’em, resulted in a very remunerative game for professional players.
After a failed attempt to establish a “Gambling Fraternity Convention”, Tom Moore added the first ever poker tournament to the Second Annual Gambling Fraternity Convention held in 1969. This tournament featured several games including Texas hold ’em. In 1970, Benny and Jack Binion acquired the rights to this convention, renamed it the World Series of Poker, and moved it to their casino, Binion’s Horseshoe, in Las Vegas. After its first year, a journalist, Tom Thackrey, suggested that the main event of this tournament should be no-limit Texas hold ’em. The Binions agreed and ever since no-limit Texas hold ’em has been played as the main event. Interest in the main event continued to grow steadily over the next two decades. After receiving only eight entrants in 1972, the numbers grew to over one hundred entrants in 1982, and over two hundred in 1991.
During this time, B & G Publishing Co., Inc. published Doyle Brunson’s revolutionary poker strategy guide, Super/System. Despite being self-published and priced at $100 in 1978, the book revolutionized the way poker was played. It was one of the first books to discuss Texas hold ’em, and is today cited as one of the most important books on this game. In 1983, Al Alvarez published The Biggest Game in Town, a book detailing a 1981 World Series of Poker event. The first book of its kind, it described the world of professional poker players and the World Series of Poker. Alvarez’s book is credited with beginning the genre of poker literature and with bringing Texas hold ’em (and poker generally) to a wider audience. Alvarez’s book was not the first book about poker. The Education of a Poker Player by Herbert O. Yardley, a former U.S. government code breaker, was published in 1957.
Interest in hold ’em outside of Nevada began to grow in the 1980s as well. Although California had legal card rooms offering draw poker, Texas hold ’em was deemed to be prohibited under a statute that made illegal the (now unheard of) game “stud-horse”. But in 1988 Texas hold ’em was declared legally distinct from stud-horse in Tibbetts v. Van De Kamp. Almost immediately card rooms across the state offered Texas hold ’em. (It is often presumed that this decision ruled that hold ’em was a game of skill, but the distinction between skill and chance has never entered into California jurisprudence regarding poker.) After a trip to Las Vegas, bookmakers Terry Rogers and Liam Flood introduced the game to European card players in the early 1980s.
Texas hold ’em is now one of the most popular forms of poker. Texas hold ’em’s popularity surged in the 2000s due to exposure on television, the Internet and popular literature. During this time hold ’em replaced seven-card stud as the most common game in U.S. casinos. The no-limit betting form is used in the widely televised main event of the World Series of Poker (WSOP) and the World Poker Tour (WPT).
Hold ’em’s simplicity and popularity have inspired a wide variety of strategy books which provide recommendations for proper play. Most of these books recommend a strategy that involves playing relatively few hands but betting and raising often with the hands one plays. In the first decade of the twenty-first century, Texas hold ’em experienced a surge in popularity worldwide. Many observers attribute this growth to the synergy of five factors: the invention of online poker, the game’s appearance in film and on television, invention and usage of the “hole card cam” (which allowed viewers to see hole cards played in the hand as a means of determining strategy and decision-making during gameplay), the appearance of television commercials advertising online cardrooms, and the 2003 World Series of Poker championship victory by online qualifier Chris Moneymaker.
Prior to poker becoming widely televised, the movie Rounders (1998), starring Matt Damon and Edward Norton, gave moviegoers a romantic view of the game as a way of life despite the poker portrayed being often criticized by more serious players. Texas hold ’em was the main game played during the movie and the no-limit variety was described, following Doyle Brunson, as the “Cadillac of Poker”. A clip of the classic showdown between Johnny Chan and Erik Seidel from the 1988 World Series of Poker was also incorporated into the film. More recently, a high-stakes Texas hold ’em game was central to the plot of the 2006 James Bond film Casino Royale, in place of baccarat, the casino game central to the novel on which the film was based. In 2008, an acclaimed short film called Shark Out of Water was released on DVD. This film is unique in that it deals with the darker, more addictive elements of the game, and features Phil Hellmuth and Brad Booth.
Hold ’em tournaments had been televised since the late 1970s, but they did not become popular until 1999, when hidden lipstick cameras were first used to show players’ private hole cards on the Late Night Poker TV show in the United Kingdom. Hold ’em exploded in popularity as a spectator sport in the United States and Canada in early 2003, when the World Poker Tour adopted the lipstick cameras idea. A few months later, ESPN’s coverage of the 2003 World Series of Poker featured the unexpected victory of Internet player Chris Moneymaker, an amateur player who gained admission to the tournament by winning a series of online tournaments. Moneymaker’s victory initiated a sudden surge of interest in the series (along with internet poker), based on the egalitarian idea that anyone—even a rank novice—could become a world champion.
In 2003, there were 839 entrants in the WSOP main event, and triple that number in 2004. The crowning of the 2004 WSOP champion, Greg “Fossilman” Raymer, a patent attorney from Connecticut, further fueled the popularity of the event among amateur (and particularly Internet) players. In the 2005 main event, an unprecedented 5,619 entrants vied for a first prize of $7,500,000. The winner, Joe Hachem of Australia, was a semi-professional player. This growth continued in 2006, with 8,773 entrants and a first place prize of $12,000,000 (won by Jamie Gold).
Beyond the series, other television shows—including the long running World Poker Tour—are credited with increasing the popularity of Texas hold ’em. In addition to its presence on network and general audience cable television, poker has now become a regular part of sports networks’ programming in the United States.
The ability to play cheaply and anonymously online has been credited as a cause of the increase in popularity of Texas hold ’em. Online poker sites both allow people to try out games (in some cases the games are entirely free to play and are just for fun social experiences) and also provide an avenue for entry into large tournaments (like the World Series of Poker) via smaller tournaments known as satellites. The 2003 and 2004 winners (Chris Moneymaker and Greg Raymer, respectively) of the World Series no-limit hold ’em main event qualified by playing in these tournaments.
Although online poker grew from its inception in 1998 until 2003, Moneymaker’s win and the appearance of television advertisements in 2003 contributed to a tripling of industry revenues in 2004.