The Dead Man’s Hand to Moneymaker; Texas Holdem Poker
Exactly when poker was first played as a card game isn’t known. It has a long history but it has been hard for game historians to trace its invention to a particular place.
Some theories suggest it came about as an alternative to the Chinese game of dominoes approximately three thousand years ago. Persians also claimed to have invented it around the XVII century, pointing at the game of “as nas” as its predecessor. It has been said that mariners from Persia taught the game to the French colonisers that later occupied what now is New Orleans.
Poker may have started in Europe
“Poque” was a French game of cards that implied some sort of talent for bluffing to win. The German game of “Pochspiel” has been linked to modern poker since the betting system was very similar, including the common trend to hit the table with your hand to check. Also, the German word “Poch” means “to brag as a bluff.” The very first English version of the game was named “Brag”.
When the French brought Poque to America, and after they started using the standard deck we know now, it started gaining popularity and got widely spread through the Mississippi River and railway roads of the United States.
It was in those railroads, ships, and old Wild West saloons that the Stud variation was born around 1860, and later the split-pot poker, around 1900. During the American civil war, the game changed with the introduction of different rules, like the one that establishes that having a five card flush is a winning hand.
Politicians, members of the military, law-enforcement authorities, and even burglars; all of them played poker to solve their differences. They even played poker to negotiate territorial and political terms.
A New Game Last Century that Remains Popular: Texas Hold’em Poker
More recently, at the beginning of the last century, in a small town in Texas called Robstown the game of Texas Hold’em poker was invented, and along with it the beginning of poker history. It had slightly different rules and poker strategy to previous poker games, and they created a new system of betting for Texas Hold’em poker. It gained popularity across Texas over the next 50 years, including having Johnny Moss and Doyle Brunson as major players, which eventually led the game to Las Vegas.
Once it arrived at America’s playground, more and more people started playing it. A renowned group called the Texas Gamblers began playing it at the Golden Nugget Casino. In 1969, having received an invitation from the Dunes Casino to play a Texas hold’em tournament there, the game included a lot of influential people who ended up spreading the word about it.
After that event, and seeing the potential gain in advertising that poker could represent for casinos, Tom Moore and Vic Vickrey -a casino-owner and a gambling visionary- joined efforts to make an exciting twist to the poker championship and the way it was played, and they hit the jackpot. It became popular because it became regarded as the thinking mans game. Ultimately, and put simply, the goal is to end up with the best hand from a total of seven on the table, your own two ‘hole cards’ and the 5 community cards.
The famous Omaha version of the game appeared a few years later in Las Vegas, and became a favourite of many players and tourists. It is now officially included in most of the main championships.
Moneymaker; Poker Goes Big and Advanced Strategies with Online poker
From 7 people playing for the championship in 1969, Texas hold’em poker skyrocketed to over 8 thousand players competing in the biggest tournament in 2017 and the tournament record being 225,000 players. Part of the success of the game has to go back to 2003, when a regular citizen named Chris Moneymaker won the champions bracelet, earning himself $2.5 Million. This is known as the most important thing that happened to Hold’em since its creation because the average pub player worldwide identified with Moneymaker. What he did was to make anybody think they could win. So why wouldn’t you try?
With the introduction of online poker Texas holdem’s popularity spread even more; people with no idea how to play and no desire to go to a casino were able to learn the game in the comfort of their own home and for free. This resulted in a boom in the 90’s through to today.
Online poker also brought about a change in strategy as play became more aggressive. Players could try different strategies over and over in a short time frame and perfect their game. At the end of the day though, nothing inspires the general public as much as a random individual beating the professionals; that is what the accountant from Knoxville, Tennessee, was able to do to become a millionaire in just a couple of weeks. It certainly brought attention to the game and people went crazy about it.
Fun fact: “Moneymaker” is his real last name, not a pseudonym as many people think. His family is from Germany, where they were known by the name “Nurmacher,” which means “those who make coins.”
The Dead Man’s Hand; or How Wild Bill Made it to the Poker Hall of Fame
It’s 1876 in the middle of the Old West. The towns are infested with outlaws, burglars, and gunfighters that roam the streets looking for easy prey and escape routes from the law.
Occasionally, some of them would get into a bar and play cards to forget about the burden of being chased by the authorities. One such disreputable gunfighter and poker player was James Hickok (AKA “Wild Bill Hickock”), little knowing that he was destined to become the towns most famous personality. He had only been there a few weeks, and maybe he should have left town by now, but he didn’t.
In the heat of the late afternoon on the 2nd August when dust swirled through the streets in eddies like mini tornadoes, and the best poker game in town got going, this dangerous character pushed through the squeaky swing doors into the Nuttal & Mann’s Saloon and ordered a whisky.
As was his custom, Wild Bill tried to take a seat at a poker table that faced the door. He always had to be on the look for enemies who wanted to gain fame or take revenge by assassinating him. This time, no such seats were available, and he had to take the last available place at the table, breaking his rule, and sit facing the wall instead of the saloon’s entrance.
Well into the game, and after a bottle of whisky had been downed, Jack McCall pushed the swing doors apart and spurs on his boots clicking, strode into the saloon. He had heard that his brother’s killer had taken a seat at the game there, and was out for revenge. He pulled his gun and yelled, “Damn you! Take that!” shooting Wild Bill in the back of his head. He got his revenge but also then being tried by 12 good men and true, got the rope necklace.
At the time of the shooting, Wild Bill was holding two pairs: A pair of aces and a pair of eights– all black. From then on, it became popular to call that hand, “The Dead Man’s Hand.”
So, next time you’re playing in a garage with your friends, if you have any enemies out there, take the seat with your back to the wall. And if you get A8 and hit two pair on the flop, have a real good look around before you do anything else.